Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Sleep: 4-Month Sleep Regression

Any parent dealing with 4-month sleep regression will tell you it’s no laughing matter. Check out The Bump’s guide for everything you need to know.
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Updated December 21, 2020
mom soothing baby during 4 month wakeful period
Image: Tuan Tran

Your baby is finally sleeping through the night. You have naps down to a science and have once again become besties with your old friend…sleep. You and your bed haven’t been this close in a long time. You’re not drinking a pot of coffee to stay awake. Life is good.

But just as you’re celebrating your baby’s fourth month out of the womb, something strange happens. That sleeping baby you’ve been bragging about all over social media is now awake in the middle of the night…over and over again. You check your calendar to make sure you’re out of the newborn phase. Nope, you’re right. Your baby is 4 months old. So, what’s going on? You may be able to point the finger at 4-month sleep regression.

What Is 4-Month Sleep Regression?

Four-month sleep regression is one of the “fine prints” of parenting. You don’t pay attention to it until it happens to you. Around the four-month mark, babies’ sleep patterns change to a more adult-like pattern, meaning they don’t drift into a deep sleep anymore. Still, 4-month-old sleep regression leaves many parents asking why?

  • It’s a Developmental Thing. If baby is going through a 4-month sleep regression, congratulations! Raise that coffee mug to your baby being right on track. At the four-month mark, a baby’s brain is becoming more alert, meaning s/he needs less “off” time since baby’s brain is “on” more often.
  • Sleep Pattern Changes. As baby’s brain becomes more active, it starts shifting back and forth from light sleep to deep sleep, much like an adult’s sleep pattern. This may cause baby to wake up at 2 a.m., just like you sometimes do!
  • Change in Sleep Needs. Much to your disappointment, four-month sleep regression may be baby’s way of telling you s/he doesn’t need as much sleep as before. That morning nap may even be shorted from two hours to one.

How Long Does 4-Month Sleep Regression Last?

Once baby kicks into 4-month sleep regression mode, the big question is: When is it going to end? While it may feel like an eternity, 4-month sleep regression can last anywhere from two to six weeks. As we know all babies are different. The two- to six-week time period is the time it typically takes a baby to learn how to self-soothe and not wake up in the middle of the night as much. You may find baby takes less time or maybe even more time to get through this phase. Cross your fingers it’s not more, but anything is possible with babies!

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4-Month Sleep Regression Help

Once you realize baby is going through the dreaded 4-month sleep regression your mama bear instincts to solve the problem shift into high gear. Don’t worry, 4-month sleep regression help is closer than you think! For your sanity and baby’s well-being there are things you can do to ease the pain. Check out these 4-month sleep regression solutions:

  • Put Baby to Bed in His or Her Room. Since a big part of 4-month sleep regression is waking in the middle of the night, baby needs to learn how to fall asleep on his or her own. This means putting baby to bed in his or her own.
  • Put Baby to Bed Sleepy But Not Totally Sleeping. If you’re giving baby a bottle and notice s/he’s getting drowsy, it’s best to put baby to bed rather than wait until your infant is totally passed out. Why? Because then baby learns how to self-soothe and getting to sleep without your help. This is often a biggie for parents looking for how to deal with 4-month sleep regression.
  • Make Darkness Your Friend. Get baby to associate darkness with sleep. This means making sure baby’s room is dark when it’s time to go to sleep. If baby wakes up in the middle of the night, s/he’ll realize it’s still dark, so it’s still time to sleep.
  • Set a Sleep Routine. There’s been some debate about whether setting a 4-month-old sleep schedule is a good idea or if it’s too soon. No matter what side of the crib you fall with this issue, no one can argue that a routine helps a baby. Setting a bedtime routine of bath, story, bottle and bed can help baby know what to expect and when.
  • Bump up Bedtime. Those late afternoon naps may be a thing of the past. Forcing baby to continue to take that nap may be messing with his or her sleep rhythms at night, only adding to the 4-month sleep regression problem. Parents who have survived 4-month sleep regression say putting their babies to bed earlier was a big help.
  • Less Conversation, Less Action. When baby wakes in the middle of the night during this frustrating regression time, it’s all about a little less conversation, a little less action. Don’t pick baby up. Don’t talk to baby. Don’t turn on the lights for baby. All of these actions will signal wake-up time which is the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

The good news is that 4-old-month sleep regression doesn’t last forever–eventually it will pass. And while there are more developmental milestones just around the corner waiting to create their own havoc, for now try to sleep tight and don’t let the 4-month sleep regression bug bite!

Plus more from The Bump, Feber Sleep Training chart:

Image: The Bump

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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