Nope, you’re not imagining it, and clearly you’re not dreaming it. Sleep regression at 4 months is a real thing. But it’s also completely normal and, most importantly, it’s temporary.
Sleep regression is the time when your baby’s sleep patterns shift, they wake up often during the night, and they have a hard time going back to sleep. And if your baby is awake, so are you.
The good news is that if your baby is experiencing sleep regression, it may mean they’re going through a growth spurt or that their brain is developing.
Your baby’s brain is constantly evolving as it adapts to its new environment and begins to learn new skills. At this time, your baby might be hard at work mastering how to roll over or sit up.
This time of learning can be a bit stressful and frustrating for your new baby, and their sleep patterns might reflect that.
The first sleep regression often happens when your baby is about 4 months old, and others might occur in the future. Since it’s the first, the 4-month sleep regression is often the hardest for parents.
Sleep regressions typically last anywhere from two to four weeks, and, while they are common, not every baby will have a sleep regression at this time.
If your baby was previously sleeping well throughout the night and then all of a sudden, they’re not, it might be a sleep regression. The main sign is a sudden worsening in sleep patterns around 4 months of age.
Other signs of a sleep regression include:
- multiple night wakings
- less napping
- changes in appetite
The good news is that your baby is growing and learning new things. They’re now becoming more engaged with the environment around them.
Take a deep breath, and remember that sleep regressions are temporary. Your baby is likely frustrated with their fast growing body and mind. They’re now more engaged and aware of their surroundings, including you.
Before trying the suggestions below, it’s a good idea to make sure your baby isn’t sick. An illness can also disrupt their sleep. See your doctor if your baby has a fever or is much fussier than normal.
Give your baby time to practice during the day
Your baby is working hard to master newfound skills and may be so eager to learn that they try to practice at night, which may unfortunately keep them up.
Fully feed your baby during the day
Full feedings during the day and just before bed can help prevent your baby from getting hungry in the middle of the night.
At this age, they are incredibly curious about the world around them and might shift their attention away from a feeding before they are full. Try eliminating distractions by feeding your baby in an environment that’s less likely to stimulate their curiosity.
Once your baby starts sleeping through the night, try not to feed them if they do begin to cry at night. If your baby is always fed to make them stop crying at night, they may come to expect this response every time they wake up.
Introduce ‘drowsy but awake’
Help your baby soothe him or herself to sleep. Sit by their side and offer reassurance, both physical and verbal, as they close their eyes and drift off to dreamland.
But if your coaching is not helping, and they’re still crying, you may decide to pick them up and hold them or rock them to sleep. It’s OK if your baby isn’t ready to learn how to put themself to sleep yet, as it takes time.
Keep the room dark
When you put baby down for a nap, keep the room as dark as possible to encourage better sleep. If your baby wakes up too soon, the darkness will help encourage them to fall back asleep.
Likewise, in the morning when it’s time to get up, make sure the room is full of natural sunlight. Light helps signal the brain about the sleep-wake cycle.
Establish a bedtime routine
At this age, babies need roughly 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night and a couple naps during the day. Now is the time to start regulating your baby’s sleep patterns and naps.
If you haven’t done so already, establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. This can include a bath, changing clothes, reading a bedtime story, or singing a lullaby.
You can do whatever you’d like, as long as you are consistent with the approach. Also, it’s okay to wake your baby in the morning if they are sleeping longer than usual, as long as it’s at the same time each day.
Adjust your own routine
Adjust your own daily routine to fit in with your baby’s nap and sleep schedule. Meal times and play times should also happen on a consistent schedule. Factor in your baby’s schedule when you plan your day.
Make it quick
If you hear your baby wake up at night, wait a few minutes before you get up to see them. If they continue to cry, it’s time to respond.
However, try to make these nighttime awakenings for changing and feedings as quick and quiet as possible. That means avoiding any talk or play and keeping the lights low.
Light from mobile devices or computers either can stimulate your baby, so try to keep screens off as well.
When you take a low-key, quiet approach, you’ll reinforce the idea that nighttime is for sleeping.
Pay attention to sleep cues and act quickly
Yawning, rubbing their eyes, fussing, and disinterest … these are all classic signs of a sleepy baby. When you notice them, try and get your baby to a quiet space to rest.
Your response time to these signs can mean the difference between getting them to sleep and trying to console and overtired baby who is resisting sleep.
Stick with the program
Your child is going through a lot of changes that may feel uncomfortable. In the short term, continue using your same soothing practices as your little one adjusts.
This could mean nursing to sleep or rocking them to slumber. While you’ll have to wean them off of these sleep patterns later on, they will bring comfort to your baby right now.
Some other soothing techniques include shushing your baby gently and giving them a pacifier to suck on.
Go with the flow
Your baby may catch their Zzz’s anywhere during the day: the swing, the car, the stroller, or bassinet. But what helps them today may not work tomorrow, so be prepared to try different things to soothe your infant.
Offer extra love and affection
Lots of hugs, cuddles, and kisses will comfort your baby and make them feel loved. It will also mean a lot to them as they grow and develop.
Turn to family and friends
As much as your baby needs sleep, you do, too. Don’t be afraid to turn to your loved ones to watch and play with your little one while you take an hour (or two or three!) to sleep.
A sleep regression won’t last forever. You can do the best you can, but it still might not make your baby sleep through the night. Try to get as much sleep as possible during this time and be as consistent as possible with your baby.
It’ll all pay off in the end. Of course, seek advice from a doctor if you have any concerns.