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Are you sitting down? I hope so because I’m about to give you a vital piece of tough-love parenting advice you need to hear…
Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out–you don’t. So sorry!
That’s right, folks. No matter how well you stick to a schedule, how many books you read, or how many times you vow not to become “that parent,” chances are your little one is still going to throw you a curveball or two.
After all, despite what we may think or plan for, our children are not perfect, tiny robots synchronized to our mommyhood wants and whims.
Want an example of the many ways your child will eventually screw with your head and send you over the deep end?
As soon as you start to feel cocky about getting them on a good sleep schedule, their brilliant little minds will go into overdrive and toss the whole system out the window.
This, parents of the world, is called the 4 month sleep regression.
Isn’t the 4 Month Sleep Regression a Myth?
Ahh, so you’ve heard whispers of the 4 month sleep regression but assumed it was one of those parenting tall tales that don’t actually exist?
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there is no 4 month sleep regression myth. This delightful period of sleep confusion is as real as it gets.
So, what is it, and why does it happen?
Essentially, the 4 month sleep regression describes a time in your baby’s life when they go from sleeping for several hours at a time, or even through the night, to suddenly waking up every hour or more.
As for the why, sleep regressions typically happen because of developmental changes your little one is going through. In this case, babies are moving into a circadian rhythm of sleep that makes them more prone to lighter sleep cycles and waking up more often.
Separation anxiety in babies can also begin during this time, making it even more of a challenge.
Most older kids and adults go through various stages of deep and light sleep during the night. Newborns, on the other hand, tend to sleep hard the majority of the time.
While your little one adjusts to their new internal clock and sleep rhythms, you’ll have the joy of helping them relearn how to sleep.
Do All Babies Go Through a 4 Month Sleep Regression?
If you’ve grilled your fellow parents for information on this godforsaken period, and they’ve looked at you like you’re a crazy person, it’s probably because they never went through it.
Amazingly, not all babies go through a 4 month sleep regression. For parents who don’t have to experience this, CONGRATULATIONS!
Research shows us that not every baby will have to deal with disruptions to their sleep cycles. In other situations, a little one might have a sleep regression that occurs earlier than 4 months or later.
How Long Does the 4 Month Sleep Regression Last?
You’re not alone if you’re asking yourself, “how long does the 4 month sleep regression last?” In fact, most parents of us who endured this trial have probably had the same thought a time or two.
Thankfully, most sleep disturbances will only last for a few days to a few weeks. Just when you’re starting to get a severe case of “mom overwhelm,” the entire period will suddenly be behind you.
Keep in mind that the best way to guide your baby through their 4 month sleep regression is by creating a consistent sleep routine and help them learn good sleep habits.
How Can You Tell if Your Baby is Experiencing a Sleep Regression?
Are you trying to figure out whether you’ve got a sleep regression on your hands or just a baby who’s having a rough couple of days?
Look for these 4 month sleep regression signs to help you figure out what might be going on:
- Baby was sleeping in longer intervals (usually for several hours at a time at night), and they’re suddenly waking up more often, especially if there’s no other identifiable reason, such as them being sick.
- Your baby is suddenly interested in practicing a new skill during the day, such as rolling over, for instance.
- They are becoming more interested in their surroundings and is easily distracted during everyday activities.
- Your baby finds it harder to nap or sleep in places other than their crib.
- Your baby is fussier after waking up.
4 Month Sleep Regression: Tips for Survival
So, you’ve taken a look at our 4 month sleep regression signs and determined your baby is most definitely in the middle of their own regression.
What’s the next step?
As stated previously, most sleep regressions won’t last long, so the best advice we can give is to grin and bear it. Thankfully, though, toughing it out isn’t the only thing you can do to help your little one get back to sleeping normally.
Many of the moms and dads in our community have used these great 4 month sleep regression tips to get them through:
1. Ramp Up Their Daytime Feedings
If your little one is already struggling to stay asleep at night, the last thing you want is them waking up more because they’re hungry.
Make sure they’re getting enough to eat during the day. Whether that’s adding in an extra bottle or nursing session, increasing your daytime feeds can help them sleep longer at night. Some pediatricians even suggest starting them on solid foods, if they’re ready, around 4 months.
Talk with your doctor about whether your baby is ready to start solids, such as oatmeal cereal.
2. Try Cry-it-Out or Other Sleep Training Techniques
While the cry-it-out sleep training method isn’t for everyone, some pediatricians, such as Dr. Noah Schwartz from the Cleveland Clinic, believe it’s an optimal way to get your baby through their 4 month sleep regression.
Regarding crying-it-out, Dr. Schwartz says:
“I’m a big fan of the cry-it-out method. If you always rock your baby back to sleep when they cry, they’re going to be dependent on you to fall back asleep every time they stir or wake up from a noise.”
He does go on to say, however, that this technique isn’t for everyone. It’s crucial to find a method of sleep training that works for you and your baby.
3. Put Them to Bed While They’re Still Awake
When my girls were still newborns, I always felt like the best option was carefully (VERY carefully!) putting them into their cribs after they were fully asleep.
I was wrong.
Professionals say that putting your baby in their crib while they’re drowsy but not completely asleep teaches them to fall asleep on their own.This way, if they wake up in the middle of the night, they’ll have the skills needed to go back to sleep without you.
4. Create a Relaxing Sleep Space
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and think back to that socially distant baby shower you had in 2020. Remember all those adorable baby toys, night lights, and music boxes you got as gifts?
It’s time to put those away for a little while.
Around 4 months, babies become very interested in their surroundings–it’s all a part of that social child development thing. For this reason, it’s essential to minimize the number of distractions in their sleep spaces.
If you want to create a sleep-inducing nursery, keep the room dark, comfortable, and bust out your white noise machine.
5. Establish a Good Sleep Routine
While the definition of a good sleep routine for babies will change from family to family, the most important thing is to figure out what works best for your schedule, family, and baby. Once you’ve locked down a system, sticking to it is essential during a 4 month sleep regression.
One example of a trusted sleep routine involves the 4 B’s:
Self-Care Tips During Your Little One’s Sleep Transition
Hard truth: your baby’s sleep regression is probably harder on you than it is on them.
That’s where self-care for moms comes in.
It can be easy to lose focus of yourself when you’re trying to assist your baby during this strange developmental time. Unfortunately, forgetting to take care of you is NOT an option.
Try your best to carve out time during the day for yourself, even if it’s only a few minutes. Go for a walk, take a bath, drink a glass of wine, or even sneak in a ten minute nap. Do whatever you can to re-energize yourself.
You’re not going to make it through the 4 month sleep regression if you forget the importance of a mother’s mental health.
And never forget, when you start to have moments of weakness and doubt, our community thinks you’re tough as a mother!
Do You Need to Get a Doctor Involved?
While most 4 month sleep regression signs are relatively harmless, it’s not always easy to figure out when it’s time to get your baby’s doctor involved.
If you start noticing any of the following symptoms throughout your baby’s regression, it’s a good idea to make an appointment:
- Baby is losing weight
- Isn’t eating as much as usual
- Your baby is having less than four wet diapers and three bowel movements each day
The 4 Month Sleep Regression: You’ve Got This!
Sleep is a vital function for every human being on earth; at some point, your little one will figure that out again.
When your baby is having sleep problems, it can feel like there’s no end in sight.
It can also feel like you’re all alone.
You’re not, though! Most of us have been through it during our respective parenting journeys. Just follow our 4 month sleep regression tips and take care of yourself…you’ll be on the other side in no time!
If your little one has already had a 4 month sleep regression, what worked for you?
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.