Just when you think everyone is falling into a routine in your household, 4 month sleep regression can hit. What it is and what can you do about it?

What many people don’t realize is that newborn baby sleep is very different from the sleep we experience as fully formed adults. Newborns don’t experience the sleep cycles that we do from light to deep sleep. They nod off and they’re out like a light, allowing their brain to develop normally. But sleep regression begins to happen around 4 months and many new parents are surprised by this change.

Knowing that baby sleep regression is completely normal doesn’t always help ease the mind, but it can be useful to know more about the phenomenon and what’s happening. Let’s take a closer look.

 

What Four Months Sleep Regression Looks Like

No matter how hard you try, almost every baby will experience the 4 month sleep regression. It will apparently happen out of nowhere, especially when you’re experience sleep deprivation again after thinking that phase is over.

A sleep regression is when your baby, who may have been sleeping through the night, starts to wake up frequently. They may also refuse naps or even fight sleeping when naptime comes around. But what many parent’s don’t understand is that this is a phenomenon that can be measured and it’s very common around 4 months and at a few more times as your baby continues to grow, such as at 9 months and 18 months. This also appears to coincide with the routine changes you’re making. You may be reducing their daily naps to help them sleep at night, but it appears to backfire initially.

But, keep in mind that this is normal and, as with all things, this too shall pass.

 

Sleep Regression Caused by Changes in the Brain

Your newborn’s brain is still developing. It is growing the neural pathways that will help inform their cognitive behavior as they transition from newborn to infant developmental stages. Before, their sleep was deep and full from the time they close their eyes until they open it.

But we know that’s not how sleep works for humans throughout their lifetime. You experience the stages of sleep, from light sleep to deep and REM sleep, and your baby will start experiencing this as well. And this starts to occur at right around 4 months.

This is completely natural, but it can be frustrating when all you want is to sleep through the night.

 

How Can You Allow You and Your Baby to Sleep Easier

This first sleep regression is somewhat different than the others they will experience as they grow. This is a permanent change in their sleeping patterns. But that doesn’t mean they won’t learn to sleep again. The best thing you can do is to maintain the proper sleep routine to encourage them to get past this.

While you will eventually need to stop nursing, cuddling, or rocking your baby to sleep, now is not the time. Keep up with these habits to promote good sleep at bedtime, which will hopefully make the fussy awakenings happen less often.

Use pacifiers or swaddling to help bring comfort to your baby. And use tools available to you to encourage naps, such as a swing, so they may sleep in their crib for longer periods of time at night.

These techniques aren’t a permanent fix, but they will hopefully help you sleep as well so you can work on changing your baby’s sleep schedule gradually.

Once you’ve established that this is a baby sleep regression, you can work on creating better habits that will help your baby learn to sleep through the night or sooth themselves to sleep when they awaken. You do this with a process known as sleep training.

  • Identify your baby’s sleep associations: Is it feeding or rocking that helps sooth them to sleep? Do they like it when your sing to them or rub their backs?
  • Create a plan to ween them of these behaviors. As much as you want to keep doing it just to keep the peace, now is the time to ween them. Slowly reduce the time and amount of these actions.
  • Encourage your baby to fall asleep on their own. The best way to do this is to put your baby to bed while they’re still awake but drowsy. This will encourage them to learn to put themselves to sleep.

Don’t worry, the four months sleep regression is normal, no matter how frustrating it can be. Knowing there will eventually be relief on the other side will help both you and your baby develop good sleep habits as they grow.

Laura Lavoie

Laura M. LaVoie is a freelance writer from Asheville, NC where she enjoys the craft beer scene, the Tiny House movement, general geekry, and making sure she gets a full 8 hours of sleep every night.

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