How to Get Through the 4 Month Sleep Regression

I spoke to a mom on the phone who perfectly expressed what happens during the 4-month sleep regression. She said: “As a newborn he was sleeping 4-6 hour stretches! I felt like I was getting a handle on things and then BAM a switch flipped and he wouldn’t go to bed, he was up and down every 1-2 hours and cried more than ever! What happened??” The 4 month sleep regression happened and it’s a doozy. She ended up becoming a private sleep coaching client and within 2 weeks we had her baby sleeping 8-10 hours and he was his happy self again. 

There is a lot of talk about sleep regressions but the one that occurs at 4 months is the most significant. 

Why Does the 4-Month Sleep Regression Happen?

Around 12-16 weeks, babies undergo significant developmental changes, both physically and mentally. One of the most crazy changes during this time is the maturation of their sleep cycles. Prior to 4 months, babies sleep in two sleep stages: deep sleep and light sleep (REM sleep). However, around the 4-month mark, their sleep cycles mature with distinct stages of non-REM and REM sleep that they will experience for the rest of their lives. This shift can disrupt their previously established sleep patterns, leading to more the giant mess most parents experience.

How Do Sleep Cycles Change?

Understanding the changes in your baby’s sleep cycles can at least give you the “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING” while the 4-month sleep regression occurs. Before 4 months, babies spend more time in deep sleep, which is why once your newborn finally bites the big one there’s no waking them up. As their sleep cycles mature, they begin to experience lighter stages of sleep, making them more sensitive to light and sound. 

Additionally, babies may start experiencing separation anxiety around this age. They become aware that you exist even if they can’t see you which causes huge upset because hey, if you exist you should probably spend every single moment of every single second with the baby right? 

There are also physical developments at this age when the moro reflex dies down and we transition out of the swaddle, baby learns to roll from back to belly and belly to back, head and trunk control get stronger as well. 

What to Do If It Throws Baby Sleep into a Spin:

  1. Stay Calm: I always tell my private coaching families there is a reason for the saying “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. Our kids feed off of our emotions. No phase in parenting lasts forever. (Trust the woman with 4 children). 
  2. Establish Consistent Bedtime Routines: If you haven’t already established a bedtime routine now is the time to start. I’m sure you have a bedtime routine that tells your body it’s time to go to sleep. Your baby needs those cues as well. Bath, pj’s, feed, story, bed should only take about 30 minutes. 
  3. Encourage Daytime Naps: Although daytime naps may become shorter during the regression, keep trying to get them day sleep. Naps don’t usually get long and consistent until 6 months so grit your teeth and make peace with cat naps.  
  4. Avoid Creating New Sleep Associations: While it may be tempting to introduce new sleep associations (like more rocking, extra feeds) to help your baby just get to sleep, be aware that creating habits may be difficult to break later on. Instead, focus on reinforcing existing sleep routines.
  5. Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician or a sleep consultant if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure how to navigate the regression.

How to Get Back on Track After the 4 Month Sleep Regression:

  1. Be Patient: Remember that sleep regressions typically last a few weeks to a couple of months. But you don’t have to live there forever. If after 3 or so weeks you’re not seeing improvement it may be time to get some help. 
  2. Introduce Self Soothing Skills: During light phases of sleep your baby is going to be frustrated that they can’t sleep. They’re tired. They will want whatever help they got going to sleep to help them stay asleep or get back to sleep. If you have been feeding, rocking, giving a pacifier, or patting to sleep they will need that same help as they transition through sleep cycles. Independent sleep skills give them the ability to sleep well on their own.
  3. Monitor Progress: When you’re in the thick of it it can feel like everything is miserable. I ask all of my clients to keep a sleep log. This can help you really see how often your baby is waking up. It may be different than you think.
  4. Practice Physical Skills:  Learning to roll is frustrating for everyone! But practice practice practice is the way to better sleep. The more comfortable your baby is with rolling during the day the better they will sleep at night.

I work with so many families during the 4 month sleep regression because it is a huge disruption. Your poor baby is going through a lot. If you’ve been sleepless for more than 3 weeks it may be time to reach out for help. Book a free call with me to get my expert advice and customized sleep plan for your little one!

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