How to Support Your Baby Through The 4 Month Sleep Regression

How to Support Your Baby Through The 4 Month Sleep Regression

I’m sure you have heard about the dreaded 4 month sleep regression. A lot is happening in your little one during this phase and it may interrupt their sleep but overall, it means your little one is developing, which is a “progression.”

So what’s happening in your little one during this phase?

At around 4 months, babies undergo significant changes in their sleep patterns. Prior to this age, infants primarily experience two sleep stages: active sleep (REM) and quiet sleep (non-REM). However, around 4 months, they start experiencing sleep cycles more similar to adults, with distinct stages of light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. These changes can affect their ability to transition between sleep cycles smoothly and therefore can shorten their naps and cause frequent night wakings.

At around 3-4 months, your little one is also going through several developmental milestones and changes. This can include the following:

  • Rolling
  • Reaching out to grab objects
  • Cooing
  • Teething
  • Holding their heads up
  • Track moving objects with their eyes
  • Start to smile more intentionally
  • Exploration using their hands, fingers & toes, bringing them to their mouths

These milestones can impact their sleep as they may practice their new skills in their cot or become more active and alert during awake times.

Increased awareness & growth spurts

At 4 months, babies become more aware of their surroundings. They become interested in the world, develop object permanence (understanding that objects exist even when not visible), and may become more sensitive to stimuli. This heightened awareness can make it difficult for them to settle down and fall asleep.

At this age many babies also go through a period of rapid growth known as a growth spurt. Growth spurts are temporary phases during which babies experience a significant increase in their physical and developmental progress.

People often think that growth spurts cause babies to sleep poorly for months, but that's not true. Growth spurts actually make babies sleep and eat more for about 3-7 days. Your baby may need extra calories from more nursing or larger bottles, but they don't have to eat every hour or two all night long. And remember, growth spurts only last up to a week, not for months!

What are the common signs of a sleep regression?

  • Frequent night wakings:  Your baby, who previously slept for longer stretches, may start waking up more frequently during the night.
  • Difficulty falling asleep: It might take longer for your baby to settle down and fall asleep, whether for naps or bedtime.
  • Short naps: Your baby’s sleep patterns may become irregular, with shorter sleep cycles and more time spent in light sleep.
  • Increased fussiness/clinginess: Babies experiencing the 4 month sleep regression may be fussier during the day and have a harder time self settling.

It is important to note that not all babies experience the same level of disruption in their sleep patterns during this period. Babies are individuals, and their sleep patterns and responses to developmental milestones can vary widely. Some babies may go through the 4-month sleep regression with minimal disruption to their sleep. They might experience only mild changes in their sleep patterns, such as slightly more frequent night awakenings or shorter naps, and quickly adapt to these changes.

On the other hand, some babies may experience more pronounced disruptions in their sleep during the 4-month regression. They might have difficulty falling asleep, wake up frequently during the night, or experience longer periods of nighttime wakefulness.

The impact of the 4-month sleep regression can depend on various factors, including a baby's temperament, existing sleep habits, and how well they adapt to developmental changes. A sleep regression can last for 2-6 weeks, depending on the individual child. 

How can you support your child through the 4 month sleep regression?

  1. Create a calm and conducive sleep environment: dark, white noise machine, comfortable temperature (20-22 °C), sleeping bag etc.
  2. Be consistent with your settling techniques, meeting them where they are developmentally and offering reassurance.
  3. Continue to keep their calories up to support their growing bodies and provide the nutrition for their developmental needs.
  4. Practise their new skills during awake times so they don’t find them as exciting when it is time for sleep. 
  5. Be patient and flexible. This phase can get tricky and exhausting, but remember that your bub is going through some big changes. You might need to adjust their routine throughout the day, especially if they are taking short naps. 
  6. Practise falling asleep independently. Research shows that babies who can fall asleep independently are often better at reestablishing sleep during night wakings. This means they might have an easier time navigating the disruptions associated with sleep regressions.

Remember when it gets really rough that this is only a phase. Your baby will get there. They just need your love and support during this phase. Stay consistent with your approach and follow your little one’s lead. Implementing the above tips can help them get through it well. However, if it has been months and your bub’s sleep hasn’t improved, know that there is help available. I have a 3-4 Months Sleep Guide. In this guide I will take you through everything you need to know to support your little one during the 4 month sleep regression and meet them where they are at developmentally using age-appropriate methods that are truly gentle & responsive. 

If you’re wanting 1:1 support, I also have packages available for you. Individual babies have unique sleep patterns and needs, and what works for one may not work for another. My 1:1 support will help you in choosing a responsive method that sits comfortably with you and best suits your bub and their temperament. These packages are for 5 months to 4 years old. To find out more about what it might look like to work together in achieving better nights, book a free 15 minute discovery call now. 

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