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Surviving the 4-Month Sleep Regression: Tips from a Sleep Coach

Does your baby seem to be going through the dreaded 4-month sleep regression? Get expert tips on how to navigate this challenging stage from a pediatric sleep coach.

The 4-month sleep regression can be a real challenge for many new parents. While this can be a frustrating period, with the right strategies, you can help your little one get the rest they need.

Understand the 4-Month Sleep Regression.

The 4-month sleep regression is a developmental milestone in which babies who previously slept relatively well begin frequently waking throughout the night and have difficulty falling asleep. They may wake up multiple times during the night, resist bedtime routines, or seem more difficult to soothe. It’s important to understand that this is a natural phase. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing something wrong as a parent. Learning to navigate the regressions can help both you and your baby feel better rested.

What causes the 4-month “regression?”

While the exact cause of the 4-month sleep regression is not fully understood, there are several factors that may contribute to it:

  • Changes in sleep patterns: At around 4 months of age, a baby’s sleep patterns change, and they spend less time in deep sleep and more time in light sleep. This can make it harder for them to connect sleep cycles. 

  • Developmental milestones. At around 4 months of age, babies start to develop new skills, such as rolling over and sitting up. These new skills can make it harder for them to sleep soundly. They want to practice these new skills as much as possible. 

  • Separation anxiety. At around 4 months of age, babies may start to experience separation anxiety, which can make it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep without a caregiver nearby.

  • Teething. For some babies, teething can start around 4 months of age and cause discomfort, which can make it harder for babies to sleep.

  • Sleep associations. The disruption in sleep patterns can result in parents resorting to methods like rocking, feeding, or holding to sleep. At this point, your baby can begin to associate these things with sleep. 

Changes in Sleep Patterns

While I know it’s wreaking havoc on your household right now, the 4-month regression actually marks an exciting developmental progression for your baby.

Before now, your baby only had two stages of sleep: REM and non-REM sleep. They moved between these two cycles easily, and they were able to sleep pretty much anywhere through pretty much anything. The four-month regression occurs anytime between 3-5 months. During this time, their sleep cycles change permanently so that they are their sleep patterns are now similar to ours.

You may not realize it, but you wake up throughout the night multiple times. And now, so does your baby (every 45 minutes-2 hours to be exact.) The difference is that when we wake up, we’re able to fall back asleep quickly. In fact, most of the time we don’t even remember it.

Your baby on the other hand is now becoming much more awake between sleep cycles, and it’s confusing for them.

In addition, they may only know how to fall back asleep using whatever sleep association they have become accustomed to. They come out of a sleep cycle and then cry out for whatever thing helped them fall asleep in the first place.

Depending on how well your little one was sleeping before, they may or may not get this transition without some support. Most babies require some assistance through this big change in their sleep.

How you can help them get through it.

Here are some tips to help you and your baby get through this phase:

Get Ahead of the Curve with a Bedtime Routine.

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine helps to signal to your baby that it’s time to go to sleep. This can include activities such as a bath, reading a book, singing a lullaby, and having a goodnight phrase that you say every night at bedtime.

Creating a consistent and predictable bedtime routine can help your baby adjust to sleep regressions more easily. It’s important that the routine be soothing and calming so the message is communicated to them that it’s time to relax and go to sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine that is easy to follow and can be repeated each night will also help explain to your baby when it’s appropriate for them to sleep, making them more prepared for the change in their sleeping patterns during this stage.

Create an Ideal Sleep Environment for your Little One.

To help your baby adjust to the sleep regression, it is important to create the ideal sleeping environment for them. Make sure the room is dark and quiet, with no sources of light or sound that may disturb their sleep. Keep the room temperature comfortable and maintain a consistent temperature all night long. If necessary, you can use a white noise machine to block out outside noise and promote relaxation.

Practice the Soothing Ladder.

The Soothing Ladder is a series of steps you can take when your baby wakes during the night. Go through each step and allow anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes before moving on to the next step. If your baby continues to cry by the time you reach the last step, then offer a feed. 

  • Turn up the white noise.

  • Place your hand on your baby’s chest.

  • Jiggle or rock their body or bassinet.

  • Offer the pacifier.

  • Pick them up and snuggle. Offer a feed.

Seek help if necessary.

If your baby’s sleep regression is particularly difficult or lasts more than 2-3 weeks, don’t hesitate to seek help from a sleep consultant.

Be patient. Remember that this is a phase that will eventually pass. Try to stay patient and consistent with your approach. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your baby if things don’t go smoothly right away.

By following these tips, you can help your baby get through the 4-month sleep regression and establish healthy sleep habits for the future.

When can I start sleep training?

I actually recommend sleep training at some point around this time for a few reasons. First, your baby is actually asking for your help to figure this thing out. Sleep training is helping them learn to fall asleep independently.

Also, between the ages of 4-5 months, babies are very adaptable to this type of change. The older they get, it (typically) becomes a little more difficult to introduce a new way of falling asleep.

If you’re going through this regression right now, and want some support in getting your baby to learn independent sleep skills, my proven 3-step system can help you reach your goals.


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