The Four Month Sleep Regression… Surviving it, and Why it Happens
Your adorable bundle has been around for about 3.5-4 months now. Isn’t it crazy how fast the time flies?!?! My oldest son is about to turn 11 and I am seriously appalled at how fast it went. The boy wears my same size shoes now… but enough about me!
This age is so incredibly sweet!
Lots of intentional smiles (the absolute best, right?!), lots of belly laughs, lots of drool, lots of rolling, or perhaps signs that rolling is close, and lot of sleep… wait a second.. nope!
If your baby who once slept for a decent stretch at night, maybe 4-6 hours, has now stopped doing that wonderful sleep thing, you are not ALONE… Phew, I bet that’s good to hear.
First, why, just why do babies this age start to regress with sleep. They are growing so you’d think that the sleep would only improve right?
Remember, baby sleep is counterintuitive. That’s why Im here!
There is a lot going on at this age, so here is the lowdown.
When your baby was first born they only had 2 sleep cycles: one cycle is very light sleep and the other cycle a very deep sleep.
When your little one was in a light (or active) sleep cycle, they likely looked restless. Kicking around, grimacing, and probably making a lot of noise. You probably wondered if they were in fact asleep.
Then there was that other stage of sleep where they were lights out, and you were probably getting down close to their face to be sure they were still breathing. Believe me, I’ve been there.
WELL… now that your little one is about 4 months old their sleep cycles have matured and reorganized. They now go through 4 sleep cycles, just like you.
The good news is that your baby is growing and progressing.
The bad news it that there are many more opportunities for your baby to wake during the night.
If your baby doesn’t know how to fall asleep independently, then you will likely hear from them as they transition between sleep cycles. Letting you know that they need help getting back to sleep… AGAIN.
Another piece that can make this already difficult stage more challenging is your baby rolling.
Yay! This is the first sign of your baby becoming mobile. It is so exciting to see your little one’s determination to learn a new skill and then to watch them master it. You can really see how proud they are once they are doing it!
I get teary eyed thinking back to when my boys all started rolling, but again I digress oops 🙂
Why does this add to sleep regression?
Your little one’s brain is incredibly active when going through a physical development. That level of brain activity on its own can cause your baby to wake up. And remember, if they don’t know how to fall sleep independently cue “Mom! I need your help!”
Also, your baby’s little body has an instinct to practice this new skill constantly until mastery. So at the slightest waking overnight which is now happening more frequently, you can guess what they’re doing… Rolling! (or practicing)
To better understand, imagine you are taking up a new skill, let’s say crocheting. Well now imagine waking in the middle of the night and trying to crochet. You probably wouldn’t be very good at it, right? And you’d probably get frustrated right?
Well, this accurately depicts your baby waking in the middle of the night and trying to roll.
They’re not as good at it as they are during the day, and probably frustrated about it. That’s putting it gently, they’re probably pretty heated about it, and they may even get stuck in an uncomfortable position. It’s so easy for that bottom arm to get stuck isn’t it?
What else comes with the emergence of rolling?
You probably already know what I’m about to say… that swaddle that keeps your baby cozy all night and helps them sleep soundly.. Well, it’s time to get rid of it.
I’m sorry, I know the idea of taking away the swaddle is daunting, but your baby is growing and wanting to roll and a swaddle just isn’t safe anymore.
What can you do?
Get ready, I got a lot of tips!
- Give your baby plenty of floor time during the day. The more time your baby gets to exercise this new skill the quicker they will stop trying to do it at night. Or perhaps once they are fluidly rolling from their back to their belly and then to their back again they decide they are most comfortable sleeping on their belly. At this point that is 100% safe!
- Create sleep associations and be sure the sleep environment is set for great sleep.
- Start the bedtime routine with a sleep sack. That is a great sleep association.
- The room should be dark, like you can’t see your hand in front of your face-dark.
- Use white noise. You probably already have this in place, but be sure it is a white noise machine that runs all night long. If it turns off after a designated time, you will hear from your baby at that time. It’s nuts!
3. Be Sure your baby is getting the proper amount of daytime sleep which is 4 hours of sleep.
At this age they are likely transitioning from 4-3 naps. Try these wake window:
2 hours – nap#1 – 2.25 hours – nap#2 – 2.25 hours – nap #3 – 2.5hours – bed. Try this schedule for at least 4 days.
If this doesn’t work try this schedule:
2 hours nap#1 – 2.25hours nap#2 – 2.5 hours nap#3 – 2.5 hours – bed. Try this or something similar for at least 4 days. If you need to tweak, adjust only one wake window at a time and stick with it for another 4 days before making other changes.
4. Implement an Activity Eat Activity Sleep schedule. The reason this type of schedule is helpful is because it helps avoid a feed to sleep association as well as a wake to feed association.
5. Early Bedtime – If you had a bad nap day, go ahead and bump bedtime a little (6:30 bedtime routine, 7pm in crib)
6. If you would like 1:1 support reach out! This is such a difficult age, and I’d love to help!
Hang in there Mama! This is such an exhausting time, but I promise, it won’t be forever.
You (and your baby) got this!
Your Sleep Bestie,
AM Smiles is a highly effective baby sleep coaching service designed for busy families.
I help you harness the power of sleep training to improve the spirits and lives of you and your family through proper rest. I’d love to talk to you about your little one and help you get back to living life well rested! ❤️