Just when you thought you had bedtime beat: your baby is fussy and wakeful. Not to worry; after helping hundreds of new parents navigate the dreaded 4-month sleep regression, I’ve got 10 tips you need to get things back on track.
Meet our expert
Certified Sleep Sense™ Consultant, Owner, Hello Sleep
At 4 months, even good sleepers suddenly experience a 2-3 week sleep regression, when they won’t sleep and wake frequently at night.
The good news? It’s not actually a regression at all—it’s more like a progression: a sign your baby’s sleep cycle is maturing. She’ll be on this new cycle for the rest of her life.
The challenge? At this age, your baby’s also learning to roll over, absorbing language, recognizing faces, becoming more active—all milestones that can contribute to sleep regression.
Is it normal?
Very normal—although it can be trying for mom and dad. Newborns only experience two sleep cycles a night. But at 4 months, your baby starts cycling through 4 stages of sleep, like adults.
Suddenly, she’ll spend more time in a lighter, non-REM sleep stage, causing more frequent wake-ups. And it may take her a little time to adjust.
What can I do about it?
Knowing it won’t last forever can be a comfort—but here’s what you can do in the meantime.
1. Slowly break sleep associations
Learning to sleep independently can be hard for babies—and negative sleep associations can make sleep regression even more challenging.
2. Use lightly weighted sleepwear
During the 4-month sleep regression, a little extra comfort can go a long way. A lightly weighted swaddle (if baby isn’t rolling over yet) or sleeping bag will help keep her calm and cozy.
How to do it: Start with some extra cuddles as part of your bedtime routine, then dress baby in gently weighted Zen Sleepwear™ to help them self-soothe through the night.
3. Feed as much as needed
It’s not uncommon for babies to experience an increase in appetite during a sleep regression. The 4 month sleep regression often coincides with a growth spurt that will make baby extra hungry.
How to do it: Don’t be afraid to give them what they ask for. An extra long feed or a dream feed before you head to bed might help your baby sleep a little longer.
4. Black out the nursery
Newborns aren’t afraid of the dark, but they do respond to light; it tells their brains that it’s time for activity. So at bedtime, the darker the better—especially during a sleep regression.
How to do it: Keep the nursery dark by putting black-out curtains on any windows letting natural light in and avoid turning on the lights for any middle of the night feeds or diaper changes.
5. Put baby down drowsy, but awake
Getting baby in the crib before they’re totally asleep helps teach them how to fall asleep independently—it’s also going to help you break those sleep associations.
How to do it: Once you get baby calm and they appear drowsy, put them in the crib or bassinet right then instead of waiting until they are fully asleep. This can also help with sleep training.
6. Keep it quiet
Any extra noise is going to distract baby from sleep, especially now that they’re spending more time in lighter sleep stages.
7. Stick to your routine
The 4-month sleep regression might make it difficult to stay on your normal schedule but skimping on your routine will make it that much harder to get to it once the regression is over.
How to do it: Consistency is key. The timing may change but keep your sleep routine activities the same. Don’t have a routine yet? Now’s a great time to start one.
8. Adjust baby’s bedtime
To compensate for shorter naps during the day, try moving bedtime ahead. Not getting enough will make baby overtired, only adding to the fussiness of the four-month sleep regression.
How to do it: Depending on their daytime sleep schedule, move bedtime up by an hour or more so they can get some extra Zzz’s. This might require dropping their last nap of the day.
9. Give them time to practice
The 4-month sleep regression usually coincides with babies learning to roll over. Your baby is trying to master this new skill and might think bedtime means practice time.
How to do it: Incorporate plenty of tummy time into playtimes during the day so your baby won’t be distracted when you’re trying to get them to sleep.
10. Don’t do it alone
The 4 month sleep regression, while only temporary, can be utterly exhausting. Be sure to take care of yourself: Your own overtiredness can actually rub off on your baby.
How to do it: If your partner, family, or friends want to help, let them. Switch off with a partner on night shifts or have a friend over during the day to squeeze in a nap for yourself.
Get through the sleep regression with this pre-sleep checklist, helpful mom hacks, and a wakeup-tracker.
New mom sleep hacks
“I wish I would have found and tried the Zen Sack sooner! I decided to try it after dealing with sleep regression for the last few weeks. The first night I put this on my 4 month old son was an immediate improvement. He started sleeping through the night again! It’s safe to say I love this product.”
– Amazon Customer, 11/18/2016
Common questions from tired parents
Does every baby go through the 4-month sleep regression?
While the 4-month sleep regression is most common, not all babies experience it. You may luck out and have no trouble at the 4-month mark. However, sleep regressions also commonly occur at 8 months, 10 month, 12 months, and 18 months. Your baby might experience all sleep regressions, or none of them!
Can the 4-month sleep regression happen before or after 4 months old?
The 4-month sleep regression could begin as early as 3-months-old or as late as 5-months-old. It’s more about when your baby’s sleep cycle starts changing—for most, it’s right around the 4-month mark, but it could be a little earlier or a little later. Every baby is different!
How is the 4-month sleep regression different than other sleep regressions?
The sleep regression is the most common of all the sleep regressions and is most directly linked to a permanent change in your baby’s sleep cycle. Although a regression is defined as ‘reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level,’ this one’s actually a ‘progression.’. Once you’re through the 4-month sleep regression, your baby will have officially moved into the sleep cycle that they’ll essentially follow for the rest of their life!