You’re not picturing it, and you’re certainly not dreaming it. At 4 months old, babies go through a sleep regression. However, it’s entirely natural, and most importantly, it’s only going to last for a short while.
When your baby’s sleep patterns change, they wake up frequently during the night, and it’s difficult for them to fall back to sleep. That that means you should be awake, too.
Sleep regression might be a good sign that your kid is growing or that their brain is maturing, depending on the cause.
As your baby adjusts to its new surroundings and learns to learn new skills, its brain is continually growing. Your infant may be hard at work learning how to roll over or sit up at this point.
Baby’s sleep patterns may reflect the stress and frustration they’re experiencing as they adjust to their new environment.
The first sleep regression usually occurs at the age of four months, but there may be more in the future. The 4-month sleep regression is generally the most difficult for parents because it is the first.
Even though sleep regressions are common, not every baby will experience one during this time period (which can range from two to four weeks).
What is 4 month sleep regression?
During the first three to four months, a baby’s sleep habits begin to develop. Instead of sleeping like a newborn, their patterns have evolved to include light sleep and deep sleep periods as well.
How long does the 4-month sleep regression last in babies?
Babies have sleep regressions in varying degrees, and it may take some time for some of them to return to their normal sleeping patterns.
But at some point, things do come to an end. You should expect the 4-month sleep regression to subside in around two weeks or less if you stick to your baby’s bedtime routine and avoid creating any negative habits.
Why do babies have a 4 month sleep regression?
It’s crucial to remember that at this point, sleep alterations aren’t due to a regression but rather to a biological change in how a child sleeps. Instead of regressing, your baby’s increased wakefulness could be due to their growth and development.
Don’t send the pacifer off to college just yet, despite this first significant developmental growth surge. During these cycles, your infant wakes up and needs help settling back to sleep, leading to the so-called “sleep regression”.
Developmental changes at 3-4 months
The production of melatonin, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle, begins around this age. At this age, circadian rhythm (our internal “body clock” that helps manage sleep) begins to play a more prominent role in regulating sleep. Babies’ sleep patterns begin to resemble those of adults when they reach a certain developmental stage.
After each cycle of light and deep sleep, a newborn will wake up for a brief period of time. At first glance, this period of awake may seem like a nuisance, but the body uses it as a way to monitor its surroundings and ensure that everything is alright during the night.
For children who were born prematurely, we use their adjusted sleep development age as a guide. As a result, a premature baby may show signs of sleep regression at a later stage than a full-term infant. This is completely normal.
So, what happens during the 4 month sleep regression?
The 4-month regression might be triggered by those brief moments of arousal, which can create a lot of sleep disturbances.
In most cases, your baby will fall asleep in your arms or a swing/bouncy seat before being transferred to a cot. This leads individuals to completely awaken later when they wake up in between sleep cycles when their environment is different from the one in which they fell asleep (rather than fall back to sleep on their own and shift onto the next sleep cycle).
It’s common for them to ask for assistance in getting back to sleep once they’ve woken up. Especially if they haven’t mastered the art of falling asleep on their own, another snuggle seems far more appealing than closing their eyes and trying. Not only does it interrupt a family’s sleep but it can also be dangerous to a child’s health if this happens frequently.
When you go to sleep, your pillow is there, but when you wake up in the middle of the night, it’s gone. You might not be able to get back to sleep without that pillow. The only way to get back to sleep was to roll over and put your pillow under your head.
Signs your baby is going through the 4-month-sleep regression
A lot of times, sleep regressions are a “you know it when you see it” type of situation. One day, your baby will be sleeping through the night like a regular newborn. She’s suddenly not there.
Most babies are able to sleep through the night for five hours without waking up by the time they are 3 or 4 months old. Some people may even sleep for as long as six to eight hours a day. A normal pattern has likely established in terms of when and how often your child wakes up during the night.
The odd wake-up night or two is probably not a relapse. Babies are no exception to the rule when it comes to having trouble sleeping.
You may be experiencing the 4-month regression if you see these signs:
- If your infant is waking up more frequently than typical, especially if there is no obvious cause, such as travel or illness, you should seek the advice of a doctor.
- You may notice that your baby is working on a new ability, such as rolling over, during the afternoon.
Your infant has developed a keener sense of awareness of her environment.
- For example, she may be more easily distracted when she eats, or she may have a more difficult time falling asleep if she isn’t in her crib.
10 Tips for managing the 4-month sleep regression in your baby
Breathe deeply and keep in mind that sleep regressions are only going to last for a short time. Your infant is probably frustrated by their rapid physical and mental development. They’re paying closer attention to everything around them, including you.
Make sure your infant isn’t unwell before trying any of the options below. Because of a sickness, they may not be able to sleep. If your baby has a fever or is fussier than usual, make an appointment with your doctor right away.
Give your baby time to practice during the day
Trying to learn new abilities at night may keep your baby up, but he or she is working hard to perfect them.
Giving your child uninterrupted time to practice rolling over or sitting up during the day may help you cut down on bedtime skill practice.
Fully feed your baby during the day
You can prevent your baby from waking up in the middle of the night by giving him or her a full feeding throughout the day and right before bed.
A baby’s curiosity about the world around them can cause them to miss out on a feeding before they’ve had enough time to suck it in. Try feeding your baby in an area that is less likely to pique their interest, such as a quiet room.
If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night crying, don’t give them anything to eat until they are used to sleeping through the night. It’s possible that if you give your baby food at night to make them stop crying, they’ll start to expect the same thing every time they wake up.
Introduce ‘drowsy but awake’
Make it easier for your infant to fall asleep. As they close their eyes and go off to sleep, sit by their side and offer them physical and verbal reassurance.
The crying may not stop, so if your coaching is ineffective, you may choose to take them up and hold or rock the child to sleep. Your baby may not yet be able to put themselves to sleep on their own, but that’s just fine.
Keep the room dark
For better sleep for your baby, try to make the room as dark as possible when you put him down for a nap. Darkness can lull a fussy infant back to sleep if they’ve been awake too long.
When it’s time to get out of bed in the morning, make sure the room is well-lit with natural light. The body’s circadian rhythm is regulated by light.
Establish a bedtime routine
At this age, babies require between 10 and 12 hours of sleep per night, as well as a few naps throughout the day, for optimal development. Now is the perfect time to begin establishing a schedule for your baby’s naps and sleep schedule.
Establish a bedtime regimen if you haven’t already and adhere to it. A bath, a change of clothes, a story or a lullaby can all be included in this routine.
As long as you stick to the same strategy, you can do whatever you want. Also, if your kid is sleeping longer than usual in the morning, it’s fine to wake them up at the same time each day.
Adjust your own routine
Schedule your daily activities to coincide with your baby’s nap and sleep times. Adjust your personal routine. It’s important to keep a regular routine for things like mealtimes and playtimes. When planning your day, remember to include your baby’s schedule.
Make it quick
Wait a few minutes before getting up to check on your kid if you hear them waking up in the night. It’s time to reply if they continue to weep.
If you must wake your child up in the middle of the night for feedings or diaper changes, do so quietly and quickly. This necessitates a lack of conversation and dim lighting.
Try to keep your kid from being stimulated by light from mobile devices or computers as well.
A low-key and silent approach will promote the concept that nighttime is for sleeping.
Pay attention to sleep cues and act quickly
The basic indicators of a drowsy baby include yawning, wiping their eyes, fussing, and becoming disinterested. Take your baby to a calm area as soon as you detect them.
The sooner you respond to these symptoms, the better your chances of getting them to sleep rather than trying to soothe an overtired infant.
Stick with the program
Your child is going through a lot of transitions right now, and it’s normal for them to be anxious about it. As your child adjusts, continue to use the same calming strategies you have used in the past.
Nursing or rocking a child to sleep are examples of this. While you’ll eventually have to get them off of these sleep patterns, they’ll provide your kid with a sense of security at this time.
A pacifier and gentle shushes are two other ways to help soothe your infant.
Go with the flow
The swing, the automobile, the stroller, or the bassinet are all good places for your baby to get some shut-eye. However, what works for them now may not work tomorrow, so you should be open to experimenting with various methods of soothing your child.
Offer extra love and affection
Providing your infant with a lot of hugs, kisses, and cuddles will help them feel loved and secure. As kids mature and develop, it will be a significant part of their lives.
Turn to family and friends
You, too, require sleep, just as much as your kid does. Don’t be hesitant to ask your family and friends to watch and play with your child while you get some much-needed shut-eye.
When to call the doctor
It’s rare that a run of restless nights raises alarm bells on their own. However, if your child is getting up frequently at night, you should talk to the pediatrician.
- The amount of food your infant eats during the day is lower than typical.
- There are less than four wet diapers and three bowel movements each day for your child.
- It doesn’t appear that your infant is gaining weight.
The 4-month sleep regression isn’t enjoyable, but it’s a natural aspect of being a new parent. The most important thing is to keep your infant as close to her normal sleep schedule as possible (and maybe sneaking in a nap yourself). A few weeks down the road, you should both be able to get a good night’s sleep once again.
There will be an end to a sleep regression. Even if you do everything you can, your infant may not be able to sleep through the night despite your best efforts. Do everything you can to get a good night’s sleep during this time, and be consistent with your infant.
4 month sleep regression FAQ
Q: Do all babies have a sleep regression at 4 months?
No. At 3 months, some babies have sleep disturbances, while others are completely unaffected.
Q: Does the 4 month sleep regression pass?
Yes! It is common for babies to begin sleeping for extended durations of time at night as soon as they are able to fall asleep for themselves.
Q: Why is my 4 month old baby not sleeping?
Between the ages of three and four months, a baby’s sleep cycle matures, resulting in more night wakings and shorter naps. Particularly true when the child relies on parental assistance to fall asleep and/or is overtired at night.
Q: How can I prepare for the 4 month sleep regression?
If you’re interested in helping your baby learn to fall asleep on his or her own, start by letting him or her explore their sleep space when they’re just about to nod off. When a baby gets adequate sleep during the day and is able to sleep on their own, they are more likely to sleep well during this transitional period of development.
Q: Is the 4 month sleep regression a myth?
We hope so! It’s usual for many newborns to begin sleeping for 5-8 hours a night around 3 months of age, only to be astonished by the 4 month sleep regression later on.
Q: Do all babies experience a sleep regression at 4 months?
They don’t, in fact. The maturation of the circadian rhythm, which leads children to sleep in stages and cycles, occurs in all newborns (similar to an adult). Due to this, not all babies will experience sleep problems.
Q: Does swaddling help with the 4-month-old sleep regression?
As soon as a baby is able to roll on their own, we recommend that they stop being swaddled. We don’t advocate starting to swaddle your baby at this age because teaching your infant how to fall asleep on their own is one of the best methods to overcome sleep problems caused by the 4 month regression.
Q: My 4 month old baby won’t sleep unless held. What should I do?
When a baby wants to sleep, he or she is likely to want to be held. As a result, we sympathize with your exhaustion. At the very least, we recommend that you give your infant a chance to sleep in the crib at least once a day. By doing this, they will get more comfortable resting flat on their back in their own bed. A short nap may ensue, but that’s okay for now; you can hold them for the following nap (so it’s longer) and try again the next day if you like. They’ll be able to sleep for longer amounts of time without being held if they put in the time and effort.