How to Implement an Eat Play Sleep Schedule for a 4 Month Old Baby

by | Dec 21, 2023 | Blog, Podcast, Sleep Challenges, Sleep Schedules and Wake Windows | 0 comments

BONUS MATERIAL: Download my FREE sleep chart HERE that has ALL my suggested wake windows, sleep totals, and nap totals for babies ages 0 until age 5You’ll know if your little one is getting enough sleep, as well as what their sleep needs will be next month and next year!

I often get asked about eat play sleep schedules for 4 month old babies from very overwhelmed, exhausted moms.

And I don’t blame them! This age range brings about tons of BIG changes to their sleep patterns. And if you don’t know how to navigate these changes, your little one’s sleep might suffer.

In this blog post, I discuss:

  • the ins and outs of an eat play sleep routine;
  • how to figure out the right schedule for your 4 month-old; and
  • how to maximize your baby’s sleep at this stage.

Firstly, what IS an eat play sleep routine?

An Eat-Play-Sleep routine is a structured daily schedule for babies that revolves around three main activities: eating, playing, and sleeping. This daily routine is designed to

  • promote healthy development;
  • establish predictable sleeping and eating patterns; and
  • help babies learn to self-soothe by separating eating from sleeping.

Here’s a breakdown of each component of the Eat-Play-Sleep routine to follow:

1) Eat

Establish a regular feeding schedule based on your baby’s age and developmental stage. Newborns typically feed every 2-3 hours, both breastfeeding and formula feeding babies. As your baby grows, the time between feeds may extend, and solid foods can be introduced around 4-6 months of age.  

Remember that this feeding schedule should NOT be strict.  Pay attention to your baby’s hunger cues, such as

  • rooting;
  • sucking on fists; and
  • increased alertness.

Allow for responsive feeding, meaning you feed your baby when they show signs of hunger rather than strictly adhering to a predetermined schedule. This is important if you want to limit the number of night feeds your baby needs.

2) Play

This refers to your baby’s wake time after he’s done eating.  Try to engage your baby in interactive playtime after each feeding session. This is an opportunity for sensory stimulation, bonding, and promoting physical and cognitive development. Activities can include tummy time, reading books, playing with age-appropriate toys, and making eye contact.

For sensory stimulation, use toys with different textures, colors, and sounds to engage your baby’s senses, such as this one. This not only entertains them but also aids in their cognitive development.

3) Sleep

Establish a consistent nap routine based on your baby’s age and sleep needs. The goal is to get your baby down for their nap JUST as they begin to get tired, before they’re overtired.  Newborn babies need to sleep frequently throughout the day, with shorter wake windows. As your baby gets older, the number of naps may decrease, and nap lengths may extend.

Make sure you have a calm and relaxing bedtime routine to cue your baby that sleep time is coming. This routine may include activities like a warm bath, gentle lullabies, getting your baby into their sleep sack, turning on the white noise machine, and a short story. Consistency is key to helping your baby understand that bedtime is approaching.

The main goal with an eat-play-sleep routine is to encourage your baby to fall asleep independently by placing them in the crib when they are tired, but still awake. This helps them develop self-soothing skills and learn how to fall back asleep during nighttime awakenings.

Implementing an Eat-Play-Sleep routine ultimately provides structure to your baby’s day while allowing for flexibility to accommodate their individual needs.

I’m definitely a fan!

4 month old sleeping baby

How old can a baby be when implementing an eat play sleep routine?

This daytime routine can technically be implemented from day 1! 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to say that newborns can be placed on a strict schedule. The idea is to introduce healthy sleep habits for your newborn early on so that your little one’s sleep is maximized.  

This means you can: 

By the time your baby reaches the 3 to 4 month mark, this eat play sleep routine will look a bit different. This is because your baby may start to develop more predictable sleep-wake cycles and show signs of increased alertness during their wakeful periods.  

How does an eat play sleep routine look for a 4 month-old baby?

Sample Schedule for a 4 month-old

Here’s a sample schedule for an average 4-month-old baby on an eat play sleep routine:

7am- Wake up.  Feed shortly afterwards.
Try to start your day with a feed, unless your baby JUST ate 1-2 hours earlier.  In that case, hold off on offering their morning feed for 30-60 minutes until you know your baby is hungry.

7:30am-8:15am- Play time.  
This is when you can offer your baby some stimulating activities.  Examples include listening to music, making eye contact, tummy time, and playing on their playmat.

830am- Nap.  
In an ideal world, this nap will be at least 60 minutes.  That being said, at this age, catnapping is VERY normal.

10am- Wake up and feed.
4 month-old babies need to eat frequently, so make sure to offer these feeds regularly.

10:15am-11:45am- Play time.
More interactive playtime. This could include tummy time, reading books, or playing with age-appropriate toys.

11:45am- Nap.
I’d love to see this nap be at least 60 minutes as well.  But don’t fret if it’s another catnap!

1pm- Wake up and feed.
Because it’s been 3 hours since your baby last ate, offer another feed here.

1:15pm-2:45pm- Play time.
Engage in more playtime activities. Feel free to read some books, or simply allow your baby to explore and interact with their environment.

2:45pm- Nap.
If the first two naps of the day were long, this will probably be a short catnap.

3:30pm- Wake and feed shortly after.
Don’t forget about the feeds!

3:45pm- 5:00pm- Play time.
4 month-olds get stimulated very easily- you don’t have to get too creative here.  Promise 🙂

5:00pm- Nap.
The vast majority of 4 month-olds needs a catnap near the end of the day to ensure they’re not overtired by bedtime.

5:45pm- Wake and feed shortly after.

6:00pm-7:15pm- Play time and last daytime feed.
This is when you’ll complete your baby’s bedtime routine and prepare him for sleep time.  This routine should include a feed, even if it’s a top-up.  

7:15pm- Bedtime (lights out).

Important notes about this sample schedule:

  • Please remember that this is a SAMPLE nap schedule and is NOT meant to be a rigid, cookie-cutter recommendation for every 4 month-old to follow. Your baby is a human, not a robot 🙂
  • If all of your baby’s naps are short, he might need a 5th nap to get him through the day.
  • Remember to be flexible and responsive to your baby’s needs.  If your baby is hungry or needs comfort, attend to those needs even if it slightly adjusts the routine.  It’s very normal for the routine to look *slightly* different each day.

What are age-appropriate wake windows for a 4 month old?

While every baby is different, most 4 month-olds need wake windows in the 75 minute-1 hour 45 minute range.  Experiment with your baby’s nap times and pay attention to your baby’s cues to see what works best.

As a result of these shorter wake windows, most 4 month-olds require 4 naps a day on an eat play sleep schedule, sometimes 5!

**If you need extra guidance as you figure out your little one’s sleep needs, grab a copy of my FREE sleep chart that has all my suggested wake windows, nap totals, and night totals for babies ages 0-5!**

Free sleep chart for nap sleep training

Does an eat-play-sleep routine work for breastfed babies?

Absolutely!  Your 4 month-old breastfed baby CAN be placed on an eat-play-sleep routine.  It might look a bit different than if your baby was bottlefed, ONLY because breastfed babies usually need to eat more frequently than bottlefed babies.  

That being said, I always recommend an eat-play-sleep routine for both bottle-fed babies AND breastfed babies.  

What activities should a 4 month-old do during their awake time?

At 4 months old, your baby is becoming more alert and interactive.  This creates an excellent opportunity for engaging in activities that promote sensory, motor, and cognitive development during their awake time. 

Here are some age-appropriate activities for a 4-month-old during their awake time:

  1. Tummy Time:
    • Tummy time is great for strengthening neck and upper body muscles. Place your baby on their tummy on a soft surface, and engage with them by placing colorful toys within reach. Gradually increase tummy time duration as your baby becomes more comfortable.
  2. High-Contrast Toys:
  3. Soft Toys and Textures:
    • Try introducing soft, textured toys for your baby to explore. Soft fabric books, plush toys, and items with different textures can encourage sensory exploration.
  4. Interactive Play Mat:
    • An interactive play mat with hanging toys and mirrors can entertain and engage your baby. This encourages reaching, batting, and visual tracking as they interact with the dangling objects.
  5. Face-to-Face Interaction:
  6. Baby Mirror:
    • Place a baby-safe mirror in front of your baby during playtime. This not only allows them to see their reflection but also promotes self-recognition and visual exploration.
  7. Soft Rattles and Teethers:
    • Soft rattles and teething toys are excellent for promoting hand-eye coordination and providing relief for emerging teeth. Remember to choose toys that are easy for your baby to grasp.
  8. Reading Soft Books:
  9. Gentle Music:
  10. Interactive Games:
    • Engage in simple interactive games like peek-a-boo or gentle tickling. These activities encourage social interaction and stimulate your baby’s sense of humor.

How long can a 4 month-old go without eating overnight?

Generally speaking, most healthy 4 month-old babies can sleep 8 hours of sleep at night without interruption.  However, it’s important to note that some babies in this age range manage to sleep 11-12 hours uninterrupted!  It might not be the norm, but it definitely happens.

And on the flip side, your pediatrician might advise you to feed your 4 month-old more than once a night if he’s struggling with weight gain.

Always seek out professional medical advice before removing night feeds to ensure your baby is ready.

So then why does my 4 month-old STILL wake every 2 hours at night to eat?

Oh man, you must be EXHAUSTED!  If your otherwise healthy 4 month-old is still sleeping like a newborn (or worse than a newborn), I want you to know there’s GOOD reason for this…

And it’s all fixable!

See, the main reason why your little one is waking so frequently at night is likely because he’s going through the famous 4-month sleep regression. By this stage, your baby experiences some BIG neurological changes to their sleep patterns, where they begin to cycle in and out of deep and light sleep.  

And these sleep cycles are only 45 minutes long!    

So if your baby cannot fall asleep on his own and relies on sleep associations to fall asleep, such as feeding or rocking, you will likely experience more wakeups in the middle of the night.

Why? Because he needs you to help him fall BACK asleep.  

How do I teach my 4 month-old to connect her sleep cycles and actually SLEEP?

This is where sleep training comes in, my friend.  Teaching your baby to self-soothe is absolutely CRUCIAL to fix the problem and get yourself a good night’s sleep.  And it’s very doable!

**If you’re feeling ready to learn how to get your little one sleeping through the night (or mostly through the night) so you can feel like a normal, functioning human again, watch my free masterclass!**

Free sleep masterclass for sleep training

Toys and activities for 4 month-olds I love

Check out the following links to the amazing baby toys and activities referenced in this article:

*I may earn a commission from links on this page at no additional cost to you, but I only recommend products I love.

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