The Dreaded 4 Month Sleep Regression

What’s going on here?  For the first 3 months of your baby’s life, you were able to peacefully rock her to sleep and expect nice long stretches between feeds.  All of a sudden, it’s taking you two hours to rock her to sleep.  On top of that, she’s waking up countless times a night, and she’s cranky and miserable!  You’ve gone to the doctor to rule out an ear infection, so perhaps she’s teething?

What’s really happening?  Your baby’s sleep cycles are maturing!

I prefer to look at this regression as more of a PROgression because it marks a permanent change in your baby’s sleep habits.  When your baby was a newborn, his sleep was much more ‘babyish’- meaning, he slept deeply all the time!  This probably explains why he was able to sleep anytime and anywhere, regardless of noise and distraction.

Once your baby hits that 4 month mark, your baby’s sleep patterns become more ‘adult-like’ where he begins to cycle in and out of deep and light sleep.  Your baby is no longer a newborn!  Yay!  The bad news is that this milestone often causes tons of night wakings and short naps.  This is because your baby now needs help falling BACK asleep at the end of that 45 minute sleep cycle if he doesn’t have independent sleep skills to begin with.

The regression has hit!  Now what? 

With most sleep regressions, life should go back to normal within 1-2 weeks as long as your baby had great sleep habits beforehand.  This regression, on the other hand, is different.  This is not a phase that will magically go away over time.  The changes to your baby’s sleep patterns are permanent so waiting-it-out is not advised here!

Here are some tips to help you survive this regression and get your sleep back:

  1. Make sure the sleep environment for your baby is optimal for good quality sleep. Blackout blinds, a white noise machine and a cool, comfortable room temperature are all a must.
  2. Ensure that your baby is napping frequently during the daytime and that he isn’t awake for longer than 1.5-2 hours between sleeps.
  3. Feed your baby lots during the daytime. If you are nursing, make sure you are feeding your baby on demand, every 2-2.5 hours.  There is often a growth spurt around this time so you want to make sure your baby is well fed!
  4. Do not wean from night feeds. The vast majority of babies this age still need to eat 1-2 times a night.
  5. And last but not least: teach your baby how to fall asleep by himself! It’s essential that your baby learn how to put himself to sleep so that he can figure out how to put himself BACK to sleep when he wakes up at the end of that short sleep cycle. There are many approaches you can use to teach your baby how to do this that range from the most gentle to the most direct.  Pick an approach you’re most comfortable with.

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