Just when you hit a good routine with your newborn, the 4-month sleep regression comes from out of nowhere and takes your nights by storm.
Maybe you aren’t even aware that your baby is going through a sleep regression. Maybe you’re all of a sudden wondering:
Why is my baby waking up 40 minutes after bedtime?
What’s up with my 4 month old taking short naps?!
My friend, you’ve likely entered the territory of a sleep regression.
My son’s sleep was awful from the day he was born, but, if you can even believe it, it got worse. I noticed a shift in his sleep, and I knew I couldn’t continue on, hoping that he would grow out of his sleep habits.
Taking the time to tackle his sleep regression has made such a positive impact on his overall sleep, and it’s saved me so much of my sanity. Now, at 26 months old, he’s an amazing sleeper. And if he’s gone through any other sleep regressions aside from the one at 4-months, his sleep hasn’t been impacted.
That’s the power of setting a strong sleep foundation and staying consistent.
The great news?
If you find yourself in the thick of the 4-month sleep regression now (or any sleep regression, really), you aren’t destined to stay there forever. With a little bit of work, your child can also be an amazing sleeper.
Let me show you how!
What is a Sleep Regression?
A sleep regression is a disruption in your child’s sleep. You’ll recognize it when your baby, who had been sleeping through the night and who had pretty solid sleep patterns, all of a sudden starts waking more during the night or having inconsistent short naps.
Or maybe, like my son, your child has never been a great sleeper. If their sleep patterns seem to change – more wakes or shorter stretches of sleep – then you’ll know a sleep regression has hit your household.
While your child may experience multiple sleep regressions throughout their life, the 4-month sleep regression is the only one that’s due to a permanent shift in your child’s sleep cycles. Around 4 months old, babies’ sleep cycles change from 2 to 4 – similar to that of an adult.
Because of this change, sleep can be impacted.
Regardless of the sleep regression your child is currently in, it’s possible to help them through the regression so that they develop better sleep habits to last them for years.
While the following tips can apply to any sleep regression, I’m mainly going to focus on the 4-month regression, as that’s usually the one that has the most impact on children, especially if they aren’t quite an independent sleeper yet.
Tips to Overcome a Sleep Regression
When you’ve found yourself in the throes of a sleep regression, you may wonder what you should do. Should you buy new sleep products? Take your child to the pediatrician? Change your child’s schedule, routines, and sleep environment?
Helping your child get through the sleep regression and onto smoother nights doesn’t require anything fancy – in fact, there are only four things I’d recommend you focus on.
Help your child become an independent sleeper
When you notice your child is dealing with the 4-month regression, it’s time to help them sleep independently, without relying on other sleep associations to go to sleep. For instance, if your child is usually rocked or nursed to sleep, we want to teach them new skills so that they don’t need you in order to go to sleep.
The benefits of having an independent sleeper are countless, but I listed a few below:
Not only will doing this help your baby through the regression, but it will help your child overcome future sleep regressions, making it easier on your child and you.
Establish a solid bedtime routine
If your child doesn’t yet have a solid bedtime routine, during the 4-month sleep regression is as good a time as any to begin one. When you consistently do the same activities each and every day, your body begins to anticipate what’s to come.
So, for instance, if every night before bed your child bathes, dresses in their pajamas, gets one last feeding session, and reads two books with you, in time, their body will begin to understand that sleep is approaching.
And when their body knows sleep is coming, it can release the appropriate hormones at the right time, ensuring your little one is ready for the night.
When I work 1:1 with families, building a bedtime routine is something I encourage them to do. While the routine doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, finding activities that you can do each evening will help promote sleep with your child.
Implement a sleep training method aligned with your values
The next tip to help your child overcome their sleep regression is to implement a sleep training method aligned with your family values.
Sleep training, at its core, is helping your child fall asleep on their own – including anytime they wake overnight. There are many misconceptions with the term sleep training, so if you’d like an overview of what it is and what it isn’t, along with how to choose a sleep training method that fits your family, you can check out this blog post.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, you want to stay consistent during the 4-month sleep regression.
I know it’s hard when it’s 2 a.m. and your child has already woken up three times. But don’t go back to old sleep crutches like bed sharing or nursing to sleep if you’ve already worked hard to end those habits.
You want to continue your child’s same routine, the same sleep schedule, and follow the same sleep training schedule as before. If you can stay consistent through the regression, it’ll help your child become a better sleeper for years to come.
Now, I’m not saying you need to be cold to your child and not cuddle them or check in on them if they’re struggling with sleep. But I don’t want you to find yourself back at square one, having to retrain your child, which can be mentally exhausting for both you and your baby.
What About Future Sleep Regressions
Once you get out of the 4-month sleep regression, your child may still experience regressions from time to time. The future sleep regressions may last a week or two, but once that developmental milestone or growth spurt passes, you’ll likely notice your child’s previous sleep habits return as things go back to normal.
In some cases, you might not even notice the sleep regression. Maybe you’ll notice an increase in hunger for a short time, but if you have a solid sleeper, a sleep regression can pass without much fanfare.
I know that sleep regressions, especially the 4-month regression, can be a pain. But I want you to remember that it’s temporary. So stay consistent and keep doing what you’ve been doing since the last sleep regression.
In time, your little one will be back to sleeping peacefully again.
If the thought of getting through a sleep regression on your own is overwhelming, I’d encourage you to consider hiring a sleep consultant who can walk with you and guide you through. There are many benefits to hiring a sleep consultant, and having someone to answer all of your questions and support you is one of the biggest blessings.
In fact, if you’d like to get started on that today, we can set up a free mini sleep assessment call and see what’s going on with your little one.
Together, we’ll overcome the 4-month sleep regression and set your child up for years of restful sleep!