The 4-Month Sleep Regression: What Is Really Happening?

Picture this: bub has come home, and you’ve settled into life together, totally smitten with each other. You no longer need three double strength flat whites a day to stay awake, because your little one is the picture of perfection at bedtime and you know your daily nap routine like the back of your hand. Suddenly, four months in, you begin to hear stirring through the baby monitor at midnight, a nap strike has set in and you’re completely exhausted all over again. It may be comforting to know you’re not alone, and what you’re experiencing is completely normal. There’s no doubt the dreaded 4-month sleep regression can feel like nature is playing cruel joke on you, but your little one’s newfound sleep struggles may actually be a reason to celebrate! Let me explain.

The 4 month sleep regression and what is really happening?

Sleep regressions are little bumps you might come to notice in the wild ride that is becoming a parent. They’re the times your baby’s sleep patterns morph and shift for what may seem like no good reason. Some babies seem to cruise through these regressions without so much as a peep while other bubs seem to have forgotten the whole concept of sleep overnight! The 4-month sleep regression is the most noticeable of the sleep regressions. It’s a permanent change due to your little ones sleep maturing. They are now starting to produce their own sleepy hormones, so therefore, their sleep cycles will become very apparent. There can also be a lot of other factors that can be going on at this time, including:
  • Knowledge overload –

    At this time, bub is probably trying hard to master rolling or flipping over and needs practice to hit this milestone. What better time to develop skills than when your parents are trying to catch some z’s?
  • Starting day care and exploring their surroundings –

    Your baby is being exposed to new environments all the time and it can be tough to settle when there’s so much to discover and play with.
  • Shifting sleep needs –

    As they grow, your little one’s brain is becoming more active and they are developing a sleep pattern that closely mimics your own. This means they need less sleep and they’re beginning to go through periods of lighter sleep, just like us!
During this time, you’ll see your baby going from 4-6 hourly sleep cycles to 2-4 hourly overnight. You might also observe bub has taken to catnapping during the day (30-45 min day sleeps).

How long does the 4-month sleep regression last?

You can usually expect the 4-month sleep regression to last anywhere from 2-6 weeks – even if it feels like a lot longer! It’s important to know every child is different and your child will overcome the 4-month sleep regression at their own pace.

What strategies can I use to cope?

Thankfully, there are many different strategies you can employ to save your sanity and get your restful babe back during the 4-month sleep regression. Here are our hot tips:
  1. Consistency!

The more consistent you are with your nap schedules, settling methods and responses to bub’s more wakeful periods, the better! Consistency is key to encouraging bub to unwind before bed and reinforcing that night-time is for sleeping. It is the best way to set yourself up for success and help them resume their normal sleep habits faster. You might be thinking that this is easier said than done, especially if you’re looking at the monitor and thinking your baby should be in dreamland – but I’d encourage you to be patient. Otherwise, you might start to overplay your role and bring in new, unhelpful patterns which weren’t there before, leading us into my next tip!
  1. Encourage independence.

Helping your baby learn the skill of falling asleep by themselves is a great way to ease the burden if things are becoming unsustainable for you and your family. I’d recommend slowly starting to rely less on external tools you use to induce sleep for your baby, like rocking, feeding or using a dummy. Instead, help them learn to self-soothe and get to sleep without your support. You can achieve this by putting them into their own room and having less interaction with them when they wake up during the night. Another way to encourage their independence is putting them to bed before they are fully asleep.
  1. Remember this too shall pass!

While the 4-month sleep regression can be an extra tricky time on your parenthood journey, it also doesn’t last forever. Make sure you remember this is a perfectly normal part of your child’s development and within a few weeks you should be back to a more satisfying sleep!

Are there any other times I should expect bub to experience a sleep regression?

If you were to Google sleep regressions, I’d be willing to bet you’d be hit with results saying there’s one every other month! The good news is sleep regressions don’t occur as often as these sites claim. The bad news is, there’s more in store after you finish surfing the 4-month wave. The most common times your little one’s sleep might be disturbed are:
  • 8-9 months old –

    Your baby is experiencing another developmental leap! They’re learning to master moving about, crawling and pulling up, and they often like to practice during the night. You might also notice separation anxiety creeping in around this time.
  • 12 months old –

    Nap strikes, and hard bedtimes become the usual here as your munchkin graduates to a toddler and is learning to walk. This phase should pass within a couple of weeks.
  • 18 months old –

    Getting used to being awake for longer in the morning is hard work! By now, most children have transitioned to one nap and are beginning to feel the effects of FOMO, so it’s important to remember to be consistent.
  • 24 months old –

    Your child’s imagination will likely start to run away with them around this time, and they might develop a fear of the dark. If your little one is expressing concerns about the dark, you may like to introduce a night light.
So, there you have it! Everything you need to know about the 4-month sleep regression. I can’t stress to you enough how normal this experience is. Now you’ve read all about it, make sure you have a plan in place – it can be the difference between months of unsettled sleep or a few short weeks of riding it out! If you’d like to learn more about how to achieve a better sleep for you and your gorgeous baby, check out our sleep program for any family who has a little one between the age of 4-12 months here.
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