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The 4-Month Sleep Regression: Why It Happens and How to Cope

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The 4-month sleep regression might keep you awake at night – either because your baby is going through it now or you’re anticipating how sleep will change when you get to this milestone. In this piece, I’ll share what we know about the 4-month sleep regression, why it happens, and how to cope!


What is the 4-month sleep regression?

Maybe your baby has been sleeping longer stretches at 6-8 weeks, then suddenly at 12-weeks the longer sleep stretches shorten. By 4-5 months, sleep has gone from bad to worse. Typically during the 4-month sleep regression, night wakings increase, it can be harder to get your baby down, naps turn into 20-40 minute catnaps, or worse, you’re contact sleeping night and day. This is what they call the 4-month sleep regression.


What are the signs of the 4-month sleep regression?

How do you know if your baby is going through the 4-month sleep regression? Here are the telltale signs:

  • Night wakings increase
  • It’s harder to get your baby down for nights and naps
  • Longer naps start to end after 20-40 minutes with your baby waking/crying
  • Your baby starts waking up the minute they touch the crib
  • You find yourself trapped in the nursery doing contact naps
  • Your baby starts fighting the swaddle or breaking out of it during the night


Why is there a 4-month sleep regression?

Here’s the thing about the 4-month sleep regression: it’s a natural, healthy, developmental stage that your baby goes through starting at about 10-12 weeks old. That’s when babies become less sleepy and more aware of their surroundings. A developmental leap begins to happen so your baby may be busting out of the swaddle in an attempt to suck their hands or move around to get comfortable. They want access to their hands because they want to learn to self-soothe. They want out of the swaddle so they can move around and get themselves comfortable.

During the day you might find your baby more alert and aware of their surroundings. Feedings may become more of a challenge because your baby is more distracted by things going on around them. You might notice that if you give them independent time playing on a mat on the floor that they’re kicking more, pulling their knees up, and attempting to roll during tummy time. This is all natural and normal and healthy! But, not so much for sleep.


How to cope with the 4-month sleep regression

The first thing you can do during the 4-month sleep regression is acknowledge that it’s happening, and try to read what your baby is telling you. Breaking out of the swaddle? That’s your baby’s way of telling you that it’s time to phase out of the swaddle and release your baby’s hands. If your baby’s in a Snoo, it’s time to start weaning off of the motion feature and try napping them in their crib. Waking after 20-40 minute naps and fussier than usual? That’s your baby’s way of telling you that they want more sleep, but they don’t know how to get there without your help. That means it’s time for something new, like learning to self-soothe.

The most important thing you can do during the 4-month sleep regression is to teach your baby the lifelong skills of healthy sleep habits through sleep training. By this, I mean teaching your baby to learn to go to sleep without rocking, bouncing, patting, shushing, pacifiers or feeding to sleep. You’ll read a lot about putting your baby down drowsy but awake but beware of this advice. Trying to put your baby down drowsy but awake is the most confusing advice that you’ll find online about baby sleep.


Sleep training during the 4-month sleep regression

Here’s the thing about teaching your baby to fall asleep independently during the 4-month sleep regression. Babies need to be fully awake when you put them down in order for your baby to learn how to sleep without all the crutches they’ve gotten used to as a newborn. If you try to put them down drowsy, many parents mistake that for half-asleep. Like let’s just say for example you’re feeding your baby in the dark and they’re dozing a little bit while feeding but you wake them up a little before you put them down. That’s not awake, that’s mostly asleep. In order to get your baby sleeping independently, they need to learn to self-soothe. Sleep training is easier said than done, but it’s do-able if you’re ready to get your baby sleeping better and for longer stretches. If you want personalized help teaching your baby to sleep independently, reach out to us and let’s make a plan to get you all sleeping!


Do sleep trained babies go through the 4-month sleep regression?

We get asked this question a lot and the answer isn’t so straightforward. If you’ve done TCB or worked with a remote sleep consultant and your baby is still waking up crying in the middle of the night, you’re probably still responding and feeding them back to sleep. This cycle will continue until your baby learns to fall asleep from a wide-awake state, and learns to put themselves back to sleep repeatedly in the middle of the night, every time they wake up. If you’re still assisting your baby for naps or doing contact naps, or you’re trying to do drowsy but awake (and your baby is dozing on your body during your sleep routine), your baby isn’t sleep trained.

If your baby is properly sleep trained, they will be falling asleep like a normal person, night and day. By this I mean you’re doing your sleep routine and feeding with the lights on, saying good night, turning out the lights, pulling the blinds closed, putting your baby down wide awake, and walking out of the room. If your baby is properly sleep trained, your baby will be able to self-soothe, and put themselves to sleep, night and day (and back to sleep in the middle of the night). If that’s the case, and your baby is 12-14 weeks, your baby may sleep straight through the 4-month sleep regression. But then what happens – they learn to roll and you hit a regression because they wake up on their tummies! If that’s the case, and your baby is already sleep trained, this is an annoying phase that will pass in a few weeks when your baby can comfortably get to their tummy and back.

Pro tip: practice rolling during the day to make the learning to roll phase go faster!

If you’re still helping your baby to sleep by rocking, shushing, patting, swaying, pacifier and then putting them down either half-asleep or fully asleep, they are not sleep trained, and will likely go through the 4-month sleep regression when they hit anywhere between 10-weeks to 4-months. When they hit that regression, you have a choice: continue night wakings and short naps indefinitely – or sleep train your baby by teaching independent self-soothing skills.


How to sleep train your baby during the 4-month sleep regression

We at Mommywise know how challenging sleep training can be – especially with all the confusing, conflicting advice you read online. That’s why we exist, to help make sleep training as fast and easy for your baby as possible. If you’re in the middle of the 4-month sleep regression, or know it’s coming soon, we can tailor a plan that works for your baby, and gets you all sleeping in a matter of days. One of our Coaches will come to your home and help you in real time teach your baby the lifelong skills of healthy sleep, and give you the tools and confidence to navigate every sleep regression in the future!


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