If your baby is between 3-5 months old and suddenly hit a major rut with sleep, you’ve likely hit the dreaded 4-month sleep regression. But what is the 4-month sleep regression and, more importantly, how do you survive?
The 4 -month sleep regression is actually a misnomer because although it feels like a huge step backwards in sleep, it is actually a developmental milestone that marks a progression in your baby’s brain development. During this period of sleep disruption, their brains are going from a newborn sleep pattern to an adult-like sleep pattern. This matters significantly because
- Their circadian rhythm is now very much in-play and in rhythm with the sun,
- Biological nap windows become much more important (see page. __ for more info) and
- Their sleep cycles change from 4-6 hours to 2-4 hours.
The last one is probably the most important in terms of the effects on their sleep.
A baby that may have been doing a long 6-hour stretch at 3 months might now be waking up every 2 hours!
Can you prevent the 4-month regression?
No, it’s not possible for the baby to skip this developmental stage, but there are certain steps you can take to help minimize the negative effects on sleep.
Establish healthy hygiene before it hits. This means following age-appropriate wake-times, a consistent nap and bedtime routine, and an optimal sleep environment.
Encourage a healthy schedule. Even during the newborn stage, you can start following a flexible schedule for sleep and feeding, which includes full feeds, age-appropriate wake-times, and as they get older, an earlier bedtime.
Encourage independent sleep. Give your baby opportunities each day to work a little bit on self-settling. This means not responding to them the second they wake-up and fuss if it’s not time for a feed. It can also mean using Shush-Pat to encourage them to fall asleep without being rocked or nursed completely to sleep.
What if the regression has hit and you haven’t done anything to prevent it? Don’t worry! Now is a great time to start implementing the above suggestions. And if your baby is over 4-months, it’s a great time to choose a sleep training method, along with the age-appropriate schedule, to start implementing your sleep plan!
Lindsey is the founder of Little Lamb Childhood Sleep Consultants and a certified baby and toddler sleep, consultant. With bachelor’s and graduate degrees in psychology and pastoral care to women, decades of experience in childcare and education, plus 2 little girls of her own (and another on the way!) who struggled with sleep, she knows first-hand the hardships of extreme sleep deprivation in parenthood. With her personal and professional experience plus a passion for helping women, she’s helped hundreds of families get the rest they need to thrive and enjoy life again!