First, let’s talk about what your life might look like when the 3- to 4-month sleep regression hits.
- Your baby who may have had a 4-6 hour of stretch of sleep at night is now waking up every 3 hours
- Naps that used to be over an hour have shifted to only lasting 45 minutes
Here are 4 tips to help you survive the 4 month sleep regression:
1. Understand why the 4 month sleep regression is happening
It’s a developmental mark. Two words: Object Permanence. Your child now realizes that you exist even though she can’t see you. Where previously she would surface from a 3-hour night time sleep cycle but roll over into the next sleep cycle, now she cries out to see if you will reappear. Be flattered, she likes you:)
2. Keep her well rested
Sleep begets sleep. The more well rested your baby - the easier it will be for your child to fall asleep and keep sleeping. When the 4 month sleep regression hits, she might have more night waking, which can reduce the amount of sleep. Do your best to keep her well rested.
- Don’t keep her up longer than 1 hour and 45 minutes during the day if she’s 4 months of age. She can always nap earlier than that, but don’t keep her up longer.
Never wake her up from a nap at this stage to “preserve a schedule”. Let her catch up during the day if she needs to.
3. Respond and Monitor
This is the time to respond to her cries. Teach her that you always come when called. The term “regression” implies that it will go away, but more than often things don’t ever completely return to the way they were. You’ll have to endure this regression for a couple of weeks and continue responding to confirm that you appear when she calls for you. This helps establish this new developmental leap of object permanence.
4. Have a plan for some sleep training
After a couple of weeks of responding things should be getting a little bit better. If they aren’t, then you might want to start planning to do some sleep training. Plan ahead, don’t just decide one night you’re going to jump into sleep training without knowing what to expect or where you are going. Sleep training involves figuring out why your baby isn’t sleeping well, establishing how much sleep she needs and when, and then choosing a sleep training technique to help her establish self soothing skills so she doesn’t need you to help her go back to sleep every 3 hours through the night.
- One reason she might not be sleeping well include having an external sleep crutch that she needs or wants to fall asleep, such as being rocked, sucking, or being held. To make the 4-month sleep regression easier on you and your baby, have a plan to slowly break these sleep associations, preferably before the 4 month mark.
- The other main reason for not sleeping well is being overtired from fractured night time sleep and not enough sleep overall. In my practice I find that most parents underestimate just how much sleep their child needs and how long they can comfortably stay awake for. Your 4 month old can comfortably stay awake for no more than 1 hour 45 minutes and needs around 15.5 hours of sleep over 24 hours.
- Around the same age, as your baby is becoming more active and alert, she might also be starting to learn to roll over. This is a good time to transition out of the swaddle and into a baby sleep bag. If you’d like to learn more about this transition, check out our article "How to wean your baby from a swaddle and into a sleep sack"
- Your baby’s environment has a big effect on their sleep, especially the room temperature. A Woolino Sleep Bag can help make the 4 month sleep regression a lot easier because it offers extra comfort. Woolino sacks are made with merino wool, which creates a microclimate around baby’s body, keeping them perfectly comfortable year-round; warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.
The 4 Month Sleep Regression is due to a developmental leap where your child wakes up to the world around her. The first 2 weeks are the worst, and then things will calm down a bit, but they often never go back to the way they were.
4 Months is a common time when parents start thinking about sleep training, where they teach their child to fall asleep with less help so they don’t have to go into their room every 3 hours at night to help her go back to sleep.
Wishing you all the best on this crazy parenting journey! Sarah
Hey I’m Sarah! I’m the owner of Helping Babies Sleep. A pediatric sleep consulting company that empowers tired parents to teach their babies and toddlers to sleep by educating parents about their child’s age appropriate sleep needs and sleep training options. I’m the creator of the online course and community Baby Sleep Training Step by Step. I’m a Canadian girl living in Mountain View, California with my husband and kids. Dr. Sarah Mitchell BKin DC