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The 4 Month Sleep Regression

The 4 Month Sleep Regression

Personally, I believe that regression is a term that links to stages of development that can affect sleep temporarily. This regression physically matches when the brain goes through some development in terms of its sleep science. There is always a reason for a regression and they don’t always happen to every child. If you have a good routine set up from early on and that you are consistent with your sleep habits, most of them won’t see those regressions. With my two boys, we didn’t see the 8, 12 or 18 month sleep regressions which I believe is down to being consistent with their routine and guiding them through their developmental stages.

What is actually going on at the 4 month sleep regression?

At 4 months, what happens is your baby’s sleep cycles become prominent. Whereas before their sleep cycles won’t have been that defined, somewhere between 3 and 5 months of age, what happens there is a permanent change in their development. They become much more aware of their 45 minute sleep cycle so you might notice their day sleep goes from 45-50 minute naps; their day sleep becomes much more defined. The same will happen to their night time, too: where they might have been doing nice long stretches and now they start to wake more frequently. Once they’re more aware of their sleep cycles, they’re more likely to become more aware of their environment and cry out for support to link into their next cycle.

Actually this is a progression, as they’re developing, not a regression!

Signs that they might be going through this regression:

  • shorter daytime naps
  • being overtired from shorter naps
  • slightly grumpier
  • takes them longer to settle
  • they may come more distracted during feeding
  • evenings are more difficult and fractious
  • overtired
  • not feeding as well, generally
  • more night time waking
  • a lot more early morning waking

One of the main questions I get asked, often via email as clients think about booking my 1-1 package, is “should I wait this out before I get your help?” There is no one set period of time that the regression will last as it is a constant period of change. They’re going to be much more aware of their sleep cycle patterns so, if they can’t fall asleep on their own, there’s no guarantee that in 6 months time this period will naturally pass. Often, babies will need help to self-settle and need to stop relying on outside help to get them to sleep. Do always ask for support; you absolutely can work on sleep at this age period and, in all honesty, I think 4 or 5 months is one of the best times to work on sleep.

I see clients with a 7, 8, 9 or 10 months and, when I do a full history in my 1-1 packages, I often hear “when we hit 4 months…. we’ve never got back on track…” so you can see that the 4 month regression really can impact future sleep for babies. If you’d like some support, do check out my 1-1 support packages here.

What can you do to help your little one out of the regression?

Here you really want to look at helping your little one with that self-settling tool that they can learn now and use for the rest of their lifetime. One of the biggest factors in a baby’s ability to settle themselves to sleep is going to do with if they are overtired. For a 4 month old, you’re looking at a 1 hour 45 minutes awake window. By 5 months, they might be able to go up to 2 hours. If they go over this awake window they are far more less likely to be able to self-settle themselves to sleep.

Overtiredness and the awake window is really important in their ability to link sleep cycles.

Around about 4 months if your baby is already able to self-settle and you think you’re following the correct awake windows, you might want to consider if they are hungry and if they need a little bit more food to get through their sleep. This can sometimes mean starting solids for some children. I really try to look at sleep holistically and feeding does go hand in hand with sleep so I’d really recommend considering their feeding pattern during this time.

Around 4-6 months some babies will be ready for solids – I’m not suggesting you start weaning purely because they’re going through a sleep regression – but if you’ve ticked all of the other boxes then this could be something to consider.

Consider their sleep environment

This is a topic of controversy across the generations, I know, but I am a firm believer in creating an ideal sleep environment for a baby. Try to make their environment as dark as possible to reduce distractions and add some white noise, too. The white noise is not going to magically make your baby sleep but it will drown out any other sounds that could distract them and cause them to wake up, especially those babies who are light sleepers.

The biggest hurdle for moving through the 4 month sleep regression

The biggest hurdle for the 4 month sleep regression is your baby’s ability to fall asleep on their own. If you are providing support for your baby to fall asleep and they’re waking a lot at night then your next step is to allow your baby to settle to sleep without a sleep aide. This isn’t something that everyone wants to teach their baby at 4 months and I know a lot of parents simply ride it out but, for most of my clients, they want to sleep more at this point and they need their family to receive more sleep. You don’t have to choose to never sleep again!

I want to emphasise that teaching your baby to self-settle does not mean leaving your baby to cry. At 4 months you can use gentle, soft and soothing approaches, and I have helped hundreds of parents help their baby to do this.

My approach is to take a really holistic approach to your baby’s sleep when helping them to self-settle, which is why I really would urge you to seek support if you are feeling like you would like to work on your baby’s sleep from 4 months. If you can get their sleep sorted from this age, you’re more unlikely to hit hurdles as they grow older.

If you would like to read more about my 1-1 Sleep Packages, please click here.

 

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