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How to Survive the 4 Month Sleep Regression

Updated: Feb 7



Welcome to your 4th month with your little one!


4 month sleep regression

It’s an exciting time that will include loads of developmental leaps. In the coming weeks, you’ll start to see your little one rolling from back to front and front to back, echoing your babbling, watching your every move, and smiling at the silliest things.


Their little brains and bodies are evolving at warp speed. For better or for worse, all of this development can have a pretty significant impact on their sleep.


I never want to scare parents into these doomsday phrases like the “dreaded 4 month sleep regression” (I know, I know…it’s the title of my blog post but how else would you find it if I called it anything different?)



Instead, what I hope you can gain from this article is a sense of calm and actionable steps to get through a rough patch in sleep.


You can also watch my YouTube video on this very topic right here!





Remember, baby sleep changes ALL OF THE TIME.


Once you’ve figured out your groove with your schedule, your little one will probably throw you a curveball and need a new schedule. Essentially, their sleep develops and evolves and quickly as their tiny brains and bodies. So buckle up, Mom and Dad! Let’s get through the 4 month sleep PROGRESSION together!


That’s Right- the 4 Month Sleep PROGRESSION


Regression is a scary word, and while that exact Google search led you to this page, I want to reframe your view of “sleep regressions.” Your little one is learning and growing constantly, so let’s give them some credit and grace when their sleep needs some modifications instead of assuming these blips are taking us completely backwards.



When sleep is seemingly worse than it was before, this is a sign that your baby’s body is making a change or a progression. Their brain is on overdrive and they are working rapidly to pick up some type of new skill.


This may mean that it is harder for them to take extended naps or they find it difficult to shut their brains off at night. They want to be up practicing this new skill at all times and need extra help, soothing, and comfort to shut their systems down and get the sleep they need.


The tough part for parents is that during the progression, we don’t see the actual skill take shape right away. The baby is doing all of the work behind the scenes to gain this knowledge and will finally show us the fruits of their labor when the crap naps and multiple night wakings resolve.



While it can be very challenging to work through these sleep issues after an already exhausting 4th trimester, think of this stage as a necessary part in their healthy growth. We want them to continue to develop and just need to keep showing up to support them through the leaps.


Why Does the 4th Month Sleep Regression Progression Happen?


At 4 months, our baby’s circadian rhythms have completely developed. This means that they now are functioning on a biological clock similar to that of an adult. This 24 hour clock regulates many functions in our body, most notably sleep.

So if they have an adult body clock, why can’t they sleep like an adult?!


Underdeveloped sleep skills


For one, their brains are still that of a 4 month old and they likely have been given lots of support to fall asleep. Sleep is a skill that is innate, but acquiring independent sleep skills after the newborn phase takes practice. Up to this point, most babies have been rocked, fed, or held to sleep and learning how to fall asleep without these associations is a skill.


Curiosity


Babies at 4 months old are curious and able to stay awake for longer periods of time. Gone are the newborn days of 2 hour naps in the car seat while you walk aimlessly through Target. Most babies this age experience serious FOMO and want to take in EVERYTHING about the world around them, making on the go naps very challenging.


Intelligence



Speaking of your curious baby, they have also become smarter and more inept at fighting sleep. You used to be able to rock your little one for a few minutes and seamlessly transfer them to a crib. Now it takes 45 minutes of yoga-ball-bouncing at precisely a 60 degree angle to get them in a deep sleep only for them to startle themselves awake the second they feel the mattress on their back.


Development


And the cherry on top of the craziness that is the 4 month sleep progression? Rolling, tracking, smiling, babbling, etc. are all new skills they are rapidly acquiring and practicing, making sleep really uninteresting for your previously sleepy baby.


How to Solve the 4th Month Sleep Regression Progression


Implement a Schedule


Whenever a family comes to me in the throes of sleep deprivation at 4 months, the first thing I suggest is getting the baby on a 4 nap schedule, using times on the clock and not wake times.


Sleep is biological and when we offer baby sleep at times when we know their bodies are naturally producing sleepy hormones, we have a better chance at teaching independent sleep habits and encouraging long stretches of sleep both during the day and at night.


Keep in mind that babies are humans and not robots, so this schedule should have some flexibility by about +/- 30 minutes of the suggested times.


Wakeup: 6:00 a.m.

Nap 1: 7:30 a.m.

Nap 2: 10:00 a.m.

Nap 3: 12:30 p.m.

Nap 4: 3:00 p.m.

Bedtime: 6:00/6:30 p.m.



Shift Bedtime Earlier


The most shocking thing to parents when they see this schedule is the bedtime. The most asked question is always “if I put them to sleep at 6:30 p.m., won’t they wake up 3:30 a.m. ready to party?!?”



Absolutely not. Once circadian rhythms are developed, we know that babies produce melatonin and adenosine in larger amounts starting around 6:00 p.m. This early bedtime will allow them to go to sleep more easily and take advantage of more hours of deep, NREM sleep that happens in the beginning of the night. More deep sleep in the beginning helps their bodies to truly rest and reset, allowing for longer stretches in the second half of the night when wakings are more frequent.


Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment



If you haven’t already, now is the time to create a specific sleep environment. This can be your room or their nursery, but should be on a flat surface free and clear of pillows and blankets. The room should be cave-like dark (remember your curious baby will sleep much better if they have nothing to overstimulate their brains). You should use white noise in order to help lull them to sleep and block out household noise.

The goal is to try for at least 2 naps in the designated sleep space and the other 2 naps can be contact or on-the-go. Nighttime sleep should always take place in the sleep space.


Create a Consistent Sleep Routine



A sleep routine is so important to babies, who love to know what comes next. This routine does not have to be long or elaborate, but should include the same elements in the same order so that the baby knows sleep is coming.


At this age, I suggest changing their diaper, putting on the sleep sack, reading a quick book, dimming the lights, turning on the sound machine, singing a song while rocking, then placing the baby in the crib on their back.



Put Them in the Crib AWAKE


Drowsy but awake is so elusive. Everyone talks about it, but your drowsy and my drowsy look totally different. Also, a drowsy baby who is suddenly placed on a mattress is likely going to be groggy and upset when they realize they are no longer in Mom and Dad’s arms.


Instead, I would work on soothing them while they are in the crib, so they begin to learn to put themselves to sleep in the crib from an awake state. This can look like singing, rubbing their cheeks, patting their belly, etc. This is the beginning of practicing independent sleep without using formal sleep training.



Teach Independent Sleep


The 4 month sleep progression is often the baby’s way of telling you that they are ready for independent sleep skills. They can no longer sleep as soundly using the support they were given in the early months and are ready to learn how to do it on their own. You can teach independent sleep in many different ways, from the most gradual to full extinction. Whatever your choice, make sure you read your babies cues and choose your teaching method based on the way they learn most effectively.



You’ve Got This


Raising a baby is a whole lot of work. It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. These little ones fill us with so much joy, despite the lack of sleep we experience while helping them grow and develop. This stage will pass, I promise. Sleep will continue to evolve, but it will get easier as you will learn how to support your baby as they change and grow. If no one told you yet today, you are doing a great job and are a truly amazing parent!!


If the 4 month sleep regression is too overwhelming to tackle on your own and you would like someone to hold your hand through its resolution, feel free to schedule a call with me so I can assess your sleep situation!






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