I remember this phase like it was yesterday. It was one of the most challenging moments I faced after becoming a new parent. The four-month sleep regression is not a phase, it is permanent. I don’t like to call it a “regression”. I like to see it as more of a “progression”! For the first 3 months of your baby’s life, they spent more time asleep than awake, However, after four months, our babies move from the newborn phases of sleep into more adult-like sleep stages. Your baby’s brain becomes more active and they will experience more time in a lighter, non-REM sleep stage which causes them to wake up more frequently, generally after 45 minutes. This is the “Four Month” Sleep Regression.
If you have previously fed, held, patted or bounced your baby to sleep this is when you may find it is no longer working as well as it was. Simply because your baby is more aware of their surroundings and therefore will wake up more frequently to check his environment. If anything is different ie: you are no longer feeding, patting, bouncing he will let you know about it.
What happens? You have placed your “sleeping” baby in their cot, chances are they will only sleep between 20-45mins and will then wake up quite alarmed. In order for them to go back to sleep, they require the same process as what you did previously (feeding, rocking, bouncing). Sound familiar? It’s kind of like us falling asleep in the lounge and waking up outside.
Image: The Honest Company
What You May Experience:
- Your baby won’t sleep – full stop.
- You spend more time trying to get them to sleep – then they actually sleep
- They suddenly require assistance in going to sleep and staying asleep
- Increased crying, irritability & fussiness during the day
- Not feeding well throughout the day due to being easily distracted – Which then creates multiple night waking, because he’s genuinely hungry.
- Naps have become shorted (normally around 45mins)
How long does it last?? Regressions generally last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. However, the four-month regression is different. If you haven’t taught your baby to sleep on their own without you feeding or rocking them to sleep, then this is a good time to start. This is where you can establish positive sleep associations to replace the current sleep prop – YOU!
Tips For Dealing With This “Progression”:
- Stick to an age-appropriate routine. Children thrive on routine and consistency, it makes them feel secure knowing what comes next. Ensure you pay close attention to your baby’s sleep cues & wake window to avoid overtiredness.
- Incorporate some wind-down time before naps and bedtime to give your child the best chance of relaxing before sleep. Take your baby to a quiet room where you can read a book, sing a song, or offer a cuddle before going to sleep.
- Incorporate a bedtime routine, keep it simple and no longer than 30-45minutes. A warm bath, a massage, a full feed and place in the cot awake.
- Keeping your baby swaddled during this time can really benefit. It will help keep them calm & feel more secure during this time of change.
- This is a great time to introduce a comforter. In my experience, babies with comforters are happier, settle better and more generally more content when sleeping independently.
- Be flexible, if that means naps are in the pram, car or carrier more often than normal, don’t stress and don’t beat yourself up. Having your child sleep in the car or on the go is going to be better than having to deal with an overtired baby.
- Optimize the sleeping environment. Ensure the room is dark and you have white noise on (keep the white noise on for the whole duration of the nap and throughout the night) An ideal room temperature is between 19-22 degrees.
- Ensure your baby is FULL – Maintain adequate feeds during the day. Don’t be afraid to offer more feeds more often. The 4-month regression often coincides with a growth spurt that will make your baby hungry.
- Start to place your baby down, drowsy but awake. You can help your baby soothe by offering either physical or verbal reassurance. This takes time so consistency is key.
- Lastly, Remain calm, and patient to your baby’s needs. Babies feed off our energy … If you’re calm, they’re calm. No matter how bad you think things are, keep in mind everything is fixable!
Image: Irina Murzi
While you’re here, check out our baby sleep expert Chantal Murphy’s guide to why your baby cries.