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Sleep regression Series: 4-month sleep regression

Updated: Jan 13

The most common sleep regression happen at 4 months, 8 months, 18 months and 2 years old.

Right around 4-months old, a switch will flip and your sleepy newborn may appear to fight sleep at every corner. Your sleepy newborn isn't a newborn anymore. Their capacity to stay awake and take in the world trumps the previous need to always sleep.

This is the most popular age when parents reach out to me. It also lines up with parents heading back to work making sleep more of a necessity. It really is one of the most common remarks that I hear.. "My baby used to sleep MUCH longer stretches, now they are awake every 90 minutes overnight".

This may sound familiar. You had a good groove going and then all of a sudden it’s not working anymore.

4-month sleep regression signs:

  • Baby doesn't sleep long stretches anymore

  • Baby is fussier than normal and is hard to settle

  • Baby fights naps and wants to be held more

Because of that, you might find yourself rocking and feeding more, and that’s okay.

But, why does the regression happen?

1️⃣ Your baby is now developmentally sleeping through MORE sleep cycles, and at the end of each of those cycles, baby will wake up. They will complete all the sleep cycles same as adults.

3 NREM cycles

1REM cycle

In short, this just means more cycles causes more arousals and wakings.

2️⃣ Before, newborns spent about 50% of their time in REM sleep, whereas after 4-months of age, it decreases to 20-25%… Goodbye long stretches! 👋🏻

3️⃣ As your baby fully awakens, they will check their surroundings and comfort level. If something is not the same as it was when they fell asleep at the beginning of the night, they will likely signal to you (cry)

What can you do about the 4-month sleep regression?

1. If you were down to 1-2 night feedings, think about soothing back to sleep in other ways before introducing new calories at night. Doing this will ensure your baby is taking full feeds during the day which encourages longer sleep stretches at night. If your baby is not waking up hungry first thing in the morning, this is a sign they are eating too much overnight.

2️. This is the optimal time to achieve drowsy but awake at bedtime with the intention to move to WIDE awake. Gradually move your babies last feeding further away from “into crib” time and work on keeping your baby’s eyes open when placing them in bed. Then, when they rouse after a sleep cycle, wait a few minutes before soothing your baby. If that doesn’t work, use loud shushing and gentle pats to help them return to sleep while still in their bed.

3. Drop the swaddle. Baby is ready to explore their body control and AAP says swaddling arms in MUST be discontinued by this time.

4. Implement a bedtime routine. Watch wake windows to determine your child's optimal bedtime (lights out). Use the same sequence of events each night to cue to your child that sleep is coming.

  • Feed

  • Bath

  • Book

  • Song

  • Kiss/Hug

  • Into bed with white noise

This is an exciting, but also stressful time.

For some, both parents and baby, this can be a tremendous change. Here's what you need to do if you are experiencing the 4-month sleep regression.

  1. Formulate a plan

  2. Regulate yourself

  3. Lean on someone close to you

  4. Remind yourself that you are a good Mother/Father

This is the perfect age to introduce routines and environment changes. I’d be honored to help you do that. Click the Link in my BIO to setup your evaluation call 💛

If you haven't yet, download my night waking guide, you can do that here!

Lindsay Loring is a Mom to twins and a certified sleep consultant. She lives near St. Louis MO. She virtually helps parents through the struggle of no sleep at home after baby(s) arrives. Join her community here.

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