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What is 4-month sleep regression (and how to keep it from ruining your life)

Here's what you need to know if you're dealing with 4-month sleep regression

Mother comforting a crying baby
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

A good night’s sleep is hard to get when you have a baby. So, when your little one starts sleeping for longer stretches, and dare we say through the night, it is a cause for concern. Not many parents may have heard of 4-month sleep regression, even though they may be experiencing it. Four-month sleep regression is perfectly normal and happens to some little ones around the 3- to 4-month mark. Of course, when baby isn’t sleeping, neither is anyone else in the house. Here’s everything you need to know about 4-month sleep regression, including when your baby will start going down for the night once again.

A mother watching her baby sleep in their crib.
Trendsetter Images / Shutterstock

A guide to 4-month sleep regression

By the time babies are 2 to 3 months old, they typically sleep for 5 or 6 hours stretches. By 4 months, babies can sleep through the night without being fed. Whether a baby does depends on the child. Most babies will sleep for that heavenly stretch of 7 to 8 hours by the 4-month mark. If your kiddo has been snoozing for a solid 8 hours at night and has suddenly stopped, you could be dealing with 4-month sleep regression.

What is 4-month sleep regression?

When babies around the age of 3 to 4 months start having trouble sleeping through the night again, it could be a sleep regression period. Regression means to revert or go back to a previous pattern. This is what happens with sleep regression. Babies begin to have trouble falling or staying asleep at night and during their usual naptimes, regressing to those short intervals of slumber you thought had gone by the wayside.

When can 4-month sleep regression occur?

Despite the name, 4-month sleep regression can happen at any time. This change in sleep pattern typically happens to babies at around the 3- to 4-month mark.

How long does 4-month sleep regression last?

It may seem like ages, but 4-month sleep regression doesn’t usually hang around for long. Provided parents make an effort to keep baby’s sleep routine consistent, 4-month sleep regression lingers for around two weeks.

What causes 4-month sleep regression?

Since most parents want to avoid any interruption in the much-needed good night’s sleep in the household, it’s important to understand why this sleep regression happens in the first place to babies happily sleeping through the night. As infants, babies don’t have a sleep and a wake cycle. They pretty much sleep when they want and wake when they’re hungry or need a diaper change. When babies reach the 4-month mark, they begin to understand the sleep/wake cycle. They snooze longer at night and take fewer naps during the daytime. It’s this important developmental adjustment that can actually interrupt their newfound sleep pattern.

Another potential cause for 4-month sleep regression is not yet having the ability to go back to sleep on their own. Just like adults, babies wake in the middle of the night. Some can soothe themselves back to sleep, while other babies cannot. Learning to go back to sleep on their own is an important baby milestone little ones are trying to work out during this sleep regression period.

Other factors may also come into play as to why some babies experience this sleep regression and others don’t. These elements play a part as well.

  • Lack of a structured bedtime routine
  • Becoming more alert
  • Having a harder time settling down in the evening

There is, of course, another reason why your baby may be having trouble sleeping and staying asleep. Physical and health issues like teething, a cold, an ear infection, or stomach issues can wreak havoc with a good night’s sleep. So, the first step in figuring out if you’re dealing with 4-month sleep regression is a visit to your pediatrician. Your doctor can rule out any physical or medical reasons for baby’s sudden change in sleep patterns.

Signs of 4-month sleep regression

Everyone, including babies, has a bad night’s sleep once in a while. It becomes a pattern when your baby has multiple nights of sleep issues. Signs your little one is experiencing 4-month sleep regression may include:

  • Poor napping during the day
  • Taking longer than usual to fall asleep at night
  • Waking up multiple times during the night
  • Unable to fall back to sleep on their own
  • Crankiness
Crying baby being soothed by mother / Unsplash

What to do when experiencing 4-month sleep regression

A good night’s sleep makes for a relatively happy day for all. If your little one is going through a 4-month sleep regression period, take heart. It won’t be forever, though it may seem like it. Thankfully, there are ways to manage. First off, make that doctor visit to ensure your baby isn’t teething or has an ear infection brewing. Then, keep these tips in mind to help develop and get baby back on track to a good night’s sleep.

  • Help baby understand the sleep and wake patterns by having the curtains open during the day and closed at night. Babies and kids do well with structure, and daytime should be filled with activity and playtime while the evening winds down with quieter pursuits.
  • Set up a bedtime routine and stick to it as much as possible. A soothing bedtime routine can include bath time, story time, soft music, and cuddling.
  • Make a nighttime bottle part of the nightly bedtime routine.
  • Avoid putting baby to bed when they aren’t sleepy. Read a couple of more stories.

If your baby does wake up in the middle of the night, avoid the temptation to go into the nursery right away. Learning how to soothe themselves back to sleep is an important developmental milestone.

If your baby is dealing with 4-month sleep regression, know that it won’t last. You will eventually get those treasured 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep back. Remember, whenever baby’s sleep patterns are disrupted for multiple nights, consult your pediatrician to rule out any possible medical causes. While you can’t necessarily prevent 4-month sleep regression, you can develop a consistent and comforting bedtime routine early on that will put your little one on the road to lifelong good sleep hygiene habits.

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Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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