Mom Talk: Setting Up Realistic Expectations for 4-Month-Old Baby Sleep

You might expect that your four-month-old sleep schedule would be different and that you will get a lot more sleep. For some lucky parents, that might be true, but for the most part, the belief that a four-month-old will sleep through the night is just wishful thinking. 

Did I just crush all of your hopes? ?

I’m sorry, but it’s essential to set realistic expectations for your baby. A study showed that 58% of babies don’t sleep through the night when they’re one year old. So, expecting a 4-month-old to do so is unrealistic for most babies.

The last thing you want to do is set yourself up with expectations that might not happen. Then, you’ll be disappointed. My goal is to show you what to expect from a four-month-old baby’s sleep schedule. I’ve had four kids, so I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to baby sleep.

How Much Sleep Does a Four-Month-Old Really Need?

Most babies at this age will sleep 11 to 12 hours at night and three to four hours during the day. Those naps might just be 30 minutes long, which is still considered normal. They have yet to reach the age when they’ll consolidate and have longer naps. 

You don’t want to keep your baby up any longer than two hours at a time. Now is not the time to start the overtired cycle, which can be hard to break for babies. 

Should My Four-Month-Old Sleep Through the Night?

At one time, pediatricians believed that babies should be capable of sleeping through the night by the time they were four months old. If you stick this belief and then your baby doesn’t, you might find yourself disappointed in yourself or your baby.

You might find yourself wondering if you did something wrong.

No, you did nothing wrong. I have a few things to tell you that will hopefully help you realize that sleeping through the night is not the holy grail of four-month-old sleep.

  • He needs to eat throughout the night, especially breastfed babies. 
  • I know no one who has had a baby this young sleep through the night. 
  • A recent study completed in 2018 by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that 57% of one-year-olds do not sleep 8 hours straight. 27% don’t sleep six hours straight at one-year-old either. 

How Often Does He Need to Eat?

Newborn breastfeeding

It’s best to expect your 4-month-old to wake up and eat at night. Most need to wake up one to three times each night to eat, and many will continue to breastfeed until one year old and above. It’s common for babies to develop a sleep association with breastfeeding. Still, if it is working for you and your baby, you can successfully and gently transition your baby away from nursing to sleep. 

It’s important to say that I am, and many pediatricians are in the camp that nutrition in the form of breastmilk or infant formula needs to come first. Solid foods are secondary, and unless your pediatrician says so otherwise, you need to wait to introduce solid foods until six months old. 

So how much should your baby eat?

  • Your breastfed baby should feed five to six times throughout the day plus two to four times throughout the night.
  • Your formula-fed baby should eat 2.5 ounces of formula for each pound of weight throughout the day. That generally is 20 to 30 ounces of formula.

What Is the Four Month Sleep Regression? 

Has your four-month-old baby started to sleep worse than ever before? Do you feel as if you have a newborn baby all over again? 

One of the biggest challenges parents face at this age is the four-month sleep regression. 

During this time, your baby’s sleep cycle is adjusting, and now he is sleeping more like an adult. So, when your baby falls asleep, he doesn’t enter a deep sleep immediately. So, if you try to put your baby down before he is in a deep sleep, she’ll wake up again. Then, you have to start the process over again. 

At first, your baby enters a deep sleep quickly, within 30 minutes. Everyone cycles in and out of light and deep sleep, and your baby’s sleep cycle takes between 45 and 50 minutes. So, expect your baby to wake up 45 to 50 minutes after she fell asleep.

Note that:

The beginning of the deep sleep is at the start of the night, and after the first five hours, he will cycle between light and deep sleep. The deep sleep won’t be as deep as it was at the start of the night.

This is when sleep associations do come into play in the wrong way. If your baby needs your help to go to sleep, he will need your help every one or two sleep cycles, which can be every hour or two. 

The Signs of The Four Month Sleep Regression

If you’re wondering whether your baby is in the middle of a sleep regression, here are some signs.

  • Changes in appetite. Your baby might eat more or less than usual.
  • Frequent night wakings
  • Increased crying and fussiness
  • Missed naps or shorter naps 

When Does the Four Month Sleep Regression End?

The regression doesn’t end in the strict sense of the word because your baby has made a permanent change in his sleeping patterns.

Instead, what will end is the frequent night wakings and the difficulties you’re facing to get your baby to sleep. Some babies will go back to sleeping well, just like they did two to three weeks previously. Other babies might need to have their sleep habits actively changed to help your baby sleep well.

5 Tips to Survive the Four Month Sleep Regression

Are you struggling? Here are a few tips to help you and your baby to get more sleep during this time. 

Continue Helping Your Baby Fall Asleep The Same Way as Before

Right now, while you’re trying to survive, it is not the time to make any changes. If you always rocked your baby to sleep, continue to do so. If you typically laid your baby down to sleep awake, continue to do this.

The ultimate goal is that within three weeks, your baby will go back to sleeping normally. It’s best not to start trying all kinds of things. Stick to what worked before. 

Use a Pacifier

If your baby loves the pacifier, continue to offer it. Now is not the time to decide you need to wean your baby off of a pacifier. Keep it going!

Try Dream Feeding

This technique doesn’t always work, but if it can get you a few hours of uninterrupted sleep when you first go to bed, it’s worth it.

A dream feed is easy. Before you go to sleep, go to your baby and gently pick him up, waking him up slightly. Offer your breast or a bottle. This is dream feeding or a fill-up feed. Ideally, you’ll do this right before you go to sleep. When your baby is done eating, you’ll put him back down to sleep and go to bed yourself. 

Keep The Bedroom Dark

If you haven’t already done so, make sure your baby’s bedroom as dark as possible. Blackout curtains are an excellent investment to help you keep the room as dark as possible. 

Use White Noise

Something else that you can introduce is white noise. There are white noise machines that you can buy that play a variety of sounds. See if one of the sounds help your baby fall into a deeper slumber. 

A Four-Month-Old Sleep Schedule

At this age, it’s not a good idea to put your baby on a strict schedule, and it can be hard to do so because babies still take several short naps. Your baby’s brain is still maturing, but he cannot stay up very long before it’s time for the next naptime.

At this age, we stop thinking about formula-fed vs. breastfed schedules. We will show one sample schedule.

Wake Up and Feed6:30 AM
Nap Time7:45 AM
Feed8:30 AM
Nap10:00 AM
Feed11:00 AM
Nap12:00 PM
Feed1:30 PM
Nap2:00 PM
Feed3:30 PM
Nap4:30 PM
Start Bedtime Routine5:30 PM
Feed6:00 PM
Bedtime6:30 PM
1-3 Nighttime Feedings

Be Persistent with Sleep

To be honest, dealing with four-month-old baby sleep can be frustrating. The four-month sleep regression is one of the hardest, but remember to stay the course. It’s best to continue the same schedule and routines as before. Hopefully, your baby will move out of this regression, giving you more sleep within three weeks. If not, it might be time to try some new sleeping tips.

Be persistent! Your baby can and will sleep well! 

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