What's the Deal With the 4-Month Regression?
Updated: Mar 11, 2020
At around 4 months your baby’s sleep changes permanently and usually it’s a turn for the worst!
This is what is called the “4-month regression”.
Most of you have probably seen the effects of it, are going through them right now, or know that it’s about to come so I’ll help you understand why this happens.
When your baby is a newborn (0-3 months), they sleep like a “baby” for the most part, as long as they are warm, dry, cozy, fed, and have no tummy aches or other health problems. You may be lucky to get some good, long stretches at night, and some good naps during the day. Then 4 months comes and they sleep like an “adult”. Your baby now has sleep cycles and goes between light sleep and deep sleep all throughout the night. Every time your baby “wakes up” during the night, they are going from one cycle to the next. If something happens to be different (perhaps maybe they fell asleep in your arms and now they are in their crib, or they no longer have a soother in their mouth, etc.) when they are at the end of a sleep cycle, then they call out for you. Wondering what is going on? Where is my mommy or daddy? Where am I?
You now have a baby that sleeps maybe 30-45 mins (length of a sleep cycle) at a time, if you’re lucky maybe a little longer. And every time they wake up, you have to go back in and put them back to sleep. Your baby now has a “sleep prop”.
If your baby was sleeping long stretches (maybe 5 hours) and all of a sudden starts doing less hours at night, you can pretty much guarantee that your baby has hit the 4-month regression. This goes for the day time as well. Cat naps can be totally normal up until 6 months, so don’t expect long naps, but if your baby is waking up every time you try to lay them down, chances are it’s because they are looking for their sleep prop.
Some parents think their baby has started to go through a growth spurt and are needing to eat more, but here’s the thing, if your baby hasn’t increased her daytime feeds then it’s most likely not a growth spurt. So be careful not to increase their night time feedings when this starts to happen unless you’ve been told by your doctor that your baby needs those extra calories, or your baby is showing you the signs that she is hungry.
So, what do you do about the 4-month regression? Now is the perfect time to start sleep training. Your baby is just starting to realize what is going on and isn’t so set in her ways, so it takes way less time. I have a gentle method that works great for this age and is much easier on mom and dad. There aren’t very many tears, sometimes none at all.
Can the 4-month regression be prevented? Your baby’s sleep will change no matter what but you can prevent your baby from becoming sleep prop dependent right from day 1 which will lessen the effects of the regression and you may not even notice when your baby’s sleep patterns change. This is one of the reasons why I have started offering the package "Newborn Sleep Foundations" package. I help parents teach their babies healthy and safe sleep habits right from the beginning so they don’t have to deal with the exhaustion that comes with the 4-month regression.
If you’re going through the 4-month regression right now, you’re probably thinking I can’t wait until this ends!! I can’t wait to have my better sleeper back! Well here’s the thing…it’s not going to change, unless your baby starts learning to fall asleep on their own.
Now you may also be thinking I’m not ready to stop rocking my baby to sleep, which is totally ok. If you’re happy with how things are and you aren’t ready to quit rocking your baby to sleep, then now is not the time to start sleep training. In order for you to have complete success, you need to be ready for it! If you'd like to learn more about how you can set up your newborn to sleep better before reaching this 4 month regression, grab your copy of my FREE "6 Secrets to Help Your Newborn Sleep Longer Stretches at Night".