It’s a familiar tale. Your three-month-old baby has fallen into a beautiful sleep routine, waking up either a single time or not at all during the night and napping like clockwork during the day. And then something happens: suddenly, your previously smooth sleep routine is in chaos. Buckle up your seatbelts; you have just entered the world of the 4-month sleep regression.
What to Look Out For
A general worsening of sleep patterns – such as a baby waking up more often than previously during the night – is the most obvious sign. Specifically, signs of 4-month sleep regression include fussiness, multiple night wakings, less napping during the day, and even a change in appetite.
This stage can really catch parents off guard, often striking just at a point where they think they’ve finally got the sleep routine cracked. As hard as it is, try to keep at the front of your mind that this phase may be difficult but short-lived – usually lasting about two to four weeks.
Why Does the 4-Month Sleep Regression Happen?
Sleep regressions may be frustrating, but they happen for an amazing reason: your child is approaching or going through a developmental milestone. This could be in terms of physical skills or brain development. And this is exactly the case at roughly the four-month mark when your baby is likely to be working hard trying to sit up or master rolling over.
Helping Your Baby Through the 4-Month Sleep Regression
While there’s a fair element of simply waiting it out and re-settling your baby when they wake, there are some things you can do to help manage this stage. It’s vital, though, to check with your doctor if your baby has started behaving differently, struggling to settle, or waking frequently, as these things can all be a sign of illness or discomfort.
Practicing Rolling and Sitting
Simply making sure you give your baby plenty of opportunity to practice attempting to sit up or roll over during the day can make a difference – and mean they’re not so keen to try out these new skills in the middle of the night!
Make Sure Your Baby Has Fed Enough During the Day
At this age, babies are extremely curious and keen to explore the world around them – keeping their full attention on feeding can be difficult. And if they get so distracted that they don’t eat enough during the day, they’re likely to wake up during the night hungry. There are a couple of things you can do to resolve this: try feeding your baby in a space where there are minimal distractions and, if they wake in the night, try not to feed them if possible, so they don’t come to expect and need a feed every time they wake in the future.
Ensure the Room is Dark Enough
Help your baby fall into a natural sleep cycle by making sure the room in which they sleep is kept dark during the night and gets plenty of natural light (if possible) when morning comes. Blackout curtains may be worth a try.
Establish a Great Bedtime Routine
It’s never too early to start a bedtime routine. A routine can help calm your baby and give them the cues that it’s time to go to sleep – it should be started at the same time every night and followed as consistently as possible. A sample bedtime routine for your baby could be a bath, putting on a clean nappy, singing a lullaby or reading a story, and tucking into bed.
Help Your Baby to Self-Settle
If the four-month sleep regression has your little one frequently waking in the night, this can be really tough on everyone. When your baby wakes, unless they’re in obvious distress or your instincts are pinging, it’s worth giving them a few minutes to see if they will settle themselves. Alternatively, you may wish to simply sit beside their cot and comfort them rather than picking them up. However, giving your baby extra attention, love, and rocking during this period is also absolutely fine – go with what feels right for you and your baby.
Taking Care of Yourself
The 4-month sleep regression can be exhausting, and it’s really important to take especially good care of yourself during this time. If disturbed nights are leaving you sleep-deprived, try to sleep during the day when your baby naps – even if this means putting off some of the housework or other chores you’d planned to get done while your baby sleeps. Or consider asking a good friend or family member to sit with your baby for an hour or two during the day so you can rest.
Make sure you’re eating well and getting enough hydration – it’s easy to let things like this go during the upheavals of a sleep regression – and treat yourself when you can, too. A deep bubble bath, a walk, and coffee with friends while your partner watches the baby, or just twenty minutes spent relaxing with a book, can make all the difference to your energy levels and sense of well-being.
The four-month sleep regression can be a challenging phase (especially if your baby was previously sleeping well) but try to remember that it is just that: a phase. Use the guide above to help get through this stage, and sooner than you think, you could be sailing the seas of smooth slumber once more until the next sleep regression occurs, at the eight-month mark, anyway.