It never fails - just when you think you've got this parenting thing down, your baby turns 4 months and suddenly up is down and right is left and nothing makes sense anymore! The first few weeks of a baby's life can be a difficult adjustment, but most parents find a good groove by month two. Then, the dreaded 4-month sleep regression hits, and it's like you have a newborn all over again! But what is the 4-month sleep regression, exactly? How can you tell if your baby is smack in the middle of it? And how on earth can you manage it?
What Is The 4-Month Sleep Regression?
The first three months of your baby's life are officially considered the newborn stage. In that first stage, they're likely sleeping more than they're awake and not completely aware or interested in the world around them. But by month four, your baby is making some major changes! They're staying awake longer, learning new skills (like rolling over, smiling, and grasping), and are going through some pretty major developmental milestones. All of this is awesome, but can lead to some significant disruption to your routine and their schedule.
The 4-month sleep regression is tied to a permanent change in your baby's sleep patterns. They're awake for longer periods of time now, and they're spending more time in the lighter, non-REM sleep stage. This means that they are more prone to frequent waking, and have a harder time getting into deeper REM sleep. During the 4-month sleep regressions, you may notice your baby is fussier at night, wakes up frequently (sometimes every 1-2 hours), and it's harder to get them settled and back to sleep. This can happen at night, and even during naps.
What Are the Signs of The 4-Month Sleep Regression?
If your baby was sleeping well through the night and are suddenly not, there's a good chance they're into the 4-month sleep regressions. Other signs include fussiness at night and when they wake up, frequent waking at night, shorter or fewer naps during the day, and even changes to their appetite. All of this means that your baby is growing and developing, so it's good! But it can be very difficult to get through, we know.
Managing The 4-Month Sleep Regression
First, the bad news: the 4-month sleep regression is inevitable, and can last anywhere between 2-6 weeks. It's a hard stage, for sure, but you'll get through it! One thing that helps is establishing a routine. Up until now, your baby just ate and slept, and that happened whenever and wherever. Now that they're developing their permanent sleep habits, it's important to get on a schedule ASAP. This can help you regulate your baby's sleep patterns, so come up with a bedtime and nap time routine and stick to it.
Put your baby down for naps and nighttime sleep drowsy, but still awake. This will help them learn to fall asleep on their own. Also, keep the room where they're sleeping dark during sleep hours, and light during wake hours, so their brains start to develop a sleep-wake schedule.
Make sure they're getting plenty of time during the day to practice any new skills they're working on, like rolling over or grasping. Additionally, keep them nice and full and fed during the day - the 4-month sleep regression typically coincides with a growth spurt, so they're going to be hungry!
The 4-month sleep regression is hard on everyone, but it won't last forever. Make as many adjustments as needed to your baby's schedule (and your own), and do what you can to get through it.