The Best Way to Handle the 4 Month Sleep Regression

cranky baby in 4 month sleep regressionIf your baby is around 4 months, you may have been warned about the 4 month sleep regression. And if you’ve read enough online, you may be terrified of what’s to come.

The truth is, some babies sleep right through this regression (hee hee) and other babies’ sleep patterns go completely haywire!

If your 4 month-old baby has recently started fighting bedtime with a vengeance, waking more at night or taking short naps- the 4 month sleep regression is probably to blame.

The upside is that it’s a normal phase of development. The downside is that you can’t simply bury your head under a pillow and hope for the best.

It’s totally possible to help your baby sleep well during the 4 month sleep regression. This article tells you how!

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What are the symptoms of the 4 month sleep regression?

In general, sleep regressions are disruptions in sleep for babies who were previously sleeping well. Not all babies will show outward signs of this regression (especially those that weren’t sleeping well previously.)

4 month sleep regression symptoms include:

  • Waking more at night out of the blue
  • Taking short naps
  • Harder to settle for sleep
  • Baby is more restless and fussy in general

What causes the 4 month sleep regression? Is it a myth?

Sleep regressions come at predictable times because they are a by-product of your baby’s development. And during your baby’s 4th month, he goes through several developments which can worsen his sleep.

Here are the 3 big causes of the 4 month sleep regression.

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Cause #1: Your baby’s brain matures

During your baby’s fourth month, his brain goes through a big developmental shift. Part of this shift changes his sleep patterns. Your baby may become harder to settle for sleep or sleep shorter stretches.

Also, your little one is becoming more aware of his world. He wants to interact, play and smile. It can be harder for him to relax and fall asleep in a noisy room, like he did as a newborn.

Because this regression is a result of normal brain development, it’s a good thing! Some parents wonder if the 4 month sleep regression is a myth because not every baby seems to experience it.

It’s important to know that all babies will pass through this brain development, but not all of them will have outward signs of a sleep regression. (If this is you, consider yourself lucky. And go buy a lottery ticket!) 

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Cause #2: Your baby has a growth spurt

Your little one is growing at a tremendous pace during his first year. Growth spurts are par for the course with growing babies. There will be periods of time when you notice that your baby seems hungry all the time. The fourth month is one of those times.

If your 4 month-old is waking up more often at night to feed, he could be going through a growth spurt. Feed him if he’s hungry.

Make sure to prioritize his daytime nutrition too. Offer him a feed every 2 hours during the day. Filling up his tank during the day can help him go longer at night between feeds. Growth spurts are temporary, and usually pass within a few days.

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Cause #3: Your baby wants to drop the 4th nap

This won’t apply to all babies, but it’s worth mentioning. As your infant grows, he’ll be able to stay awake longer during the day. And if some of his naps are long, he may not have time to fit in a fourth nap each day.

Many (but not all) babies will want to transition from 4 to 3 naps around this age. Nap transitions can be tricky and unintentionally lead to long awake times during the day, which can over-tire your baby. Over-tiredness can worsen night sleep, and make baby harder to settle and wake more often. And then we have a vicious cycle…

As long as you watch your 4 month-old’s awake times, and have him nap every 1.5 – 2.5 hours, you’ll be ok. Your baby will naturally drop his 4th nap whenever he’s ready and his night sleep shouldn’t suffer.

Does this regression only happen at 4 months?

You may notice a change in your baby’s sleeping patterns anytime between 3-5 months.

It’s important to consider your baby’s adjusted age. For example, if she was born 3 weeks early then she may experience this regression closer to her fifth month.

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The 4 Month Sleep Regression: Causes, Symptoms & Solutions

How long does the 4 month sleep regression last?

If your baby’s worsening sleep is due to a growth spurt, you should notice his sleep improve after increasing his feeds.

If the 4-to-3 nap transition is the main cause of your baby’s regression, then following 1.5 – 2.5 hour awake times and settling into 3 naps each day should improve his sleep.

For other babies, the main culprit of this regression is brain maturity and evolving sleep patterns. In this case, focusing on creating a consistent and age-appropriate sleep routine will help him learn to sleep better.

My 4 month old baby sleep guide walks you through this.

How can I help my baby through the 4 month regression?

Now is the perfect age to get your baby on a consistent sleep routine. Remember, her sleep patterns have matured. Gone are the days of your newborn easily sleeping in a crowded restaurant or your noisy living room.

Now she needs a predictable daily routine and consistent sleep times. This guide tells you how to get your 4 month old sleeping amazingly well.

Can I start sleep training during the 4 month regression?

I don’t recommend formal sleep training during regressions (like Ferber or Cry It Out.) Remember, your baby is going through a time of increased fussiness and restlessness. He’s harder to settle for sleep. He wakes up more often. He can’t sleep very long. Throwing sleep training on top of this unstable period is like throwing gasoline on a fire!

That being said, there is still plenty you can do now to help your baby settle easier and sleep better. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you create a consistent sleep routine for your baby following my tips below.

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Gentle sleep training tips for the 4 month sleep regression:

  • Make sure baby naps every 1.5-2.5 hours. It’s ok for baby to nap in the swing, stroller, baby carrier or the car. Motion often helps babies nap longer. Just make sure you supervise his naps.
  • Wake your baby after a 2 hour nap and feed him. Eating often during the day helps him sleep longer at night.
  • Settle your baby into a consistent bedtime every night. 7:30 – 9 pm is ideal for this age.
  • Consider transitioning baby to a crib if he currently sleeps in a bassinet, Rock n Play or DockaTot. As your baby becomes mobile and starts to roll, he’ll want a bigger sleep space so he can get himself into comfortable sleep positions. Tight and cosy sleep spaces can be nice for newborns, but growing babies need more room!

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Find more tips on helping your 4 month-old sleep well here.

My 4 month-old won’t nap. What can I do?

Short and unpredictable napping can be common for babies younger than 6 months. That’s the unfortunate truth. As long as your baby naps often, it’s ok if she doesn’t nap longer than 30-40 minutes.

But, if your baby is refusing all naps or seems grumpy between naps, the video below explains how you can help her nap better.

I hope this article gives you hope that you can help your baby sleep well during the 4 month sleep regression. Remember, it’s a normal phase of development. Normal, yet very tiring. But everyone survives it! 😁 Following the tips above will guide your baby to settling easier and sleeping longer. Good luck!

What are YOUR survival tips for the 4 month sleep regression? Tell me in the comments below!