The first few weeks of baby’s life were a blur, huh? And then suddenly, it seemed things were balancing out. You and your spouse probably rejoiced a bit too, didn’t you? “Aw, look, honey! She’s such a good sleeper!”
Then you take those adorable photos with the 4-month sticker. And suddenly, that good sleeper is like that thing from The Exorcist. Did you do something wrong?
No, don’t worry. You didn’t do anything wrong whatsoever. In fact, 4-month sleep regression is a very familiar thing. It happens for all babies and is a milestone, so it surely is something to embrace.
But as my lovely friend Crystal put it, “Just when you think you’ve got this mom-thing covered pretty well, they move into the next phase, and it’s a whole ‘nother round of whack-a-mole.”
With my eldest, I desperately needed 4 month sleep regression help. Thankfully, Vivien, my breastfeeding coach, was around to give me some pointers. We still struggled with this, but we learned through trial and error, like everything else.
And when we had our youngest, we were SO ready when she went through that 4-month sleep regression. It wasn’t completely smooth, but because we’d been through it with our eldest, we knew more of what was going on and how to find solutions.
That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?
If you’re looking for a 4-month sleep regression solution, you are in the right place. Before I go ahead and explain everything and answer all your burning questions, I want to stress one more time that THIS. IS. NOT. YOUR. FAULT. You’re a good mama, and you have done nothing wrong, not even in any possible past life, to deserve the drama of the 4-month sleep regression mess.
Now, let’s delve into this topic more with 4 month sleep regression tips you can use!
What is this 4 month sleep regression you speak of?
The definition of sleep regression is simply when your baby’s sleep patterns change. That’s a little vague, but allow me to explain.
Your baby will suddenly wake up a LOT in the night. Like A LOT. And then, they’ll be challenging to get back to sleep. As you have probably guessed (or perhaps started to experience), it is exhausting, and you will need much more coffee than you can ever imagine.
But that’s not all bad. I mean, the not sleeping thing sucks, but this is a milestone in disguise. No one wants to brag about their baby keeping them up all night, but this usually indicates a growth spurt and/or brain development.
The baby’s brain is always growing and changes based on the surroundings. As such, you’ve probably noticed your baby can either partially rollover or fully do so. It won’t be long now before she’s sitting up on her own either.
Do you get a sense that I’m foreshadowing? I am. I won’t beat around the bush here…just like most parents will endure the 4-month sleep regression, you are likely to have another at 8 months. Be ready!
Why is this happening?!?
The frustrated mom shriek heard round the world! I know this is so frustrating. I’m long past those days, and while most nights I get good sleep (finallyyyyy!!!), it was several years before I enjoyed this luxury. And even then, I’m not free and clear. If my daughters have a nightmare or they think they saw a bug or my personal favorite, “I think I heard the tooth fairy flying by,” guess who gets woken up? Me!
Anyway, this happens because babies, our adorable little ticking time bombs of cuteness, get stressed and frustrated. I mean, it is HARD WORK being a baby! Seriously though, it is. They’re probably thinking, “Why is this happening to ME? I just want to roll over. I know! I’ll practice while I’m sleeping. Yessss!”
I do have good news for you though…while this will change the way for sleep in your home, this regression lasts about 2 to 4 weeks. And you may get lucky and not go through it. Or it could be short, and you get through it, and it’s done. Every baby is different, and you’ll soon see your baby’s personality coming through. That has a LOT to do with how they deal with their frustrations over this sleep regression.
4 month sleep regression signs to watch for
When I look back, I realize that there were signs I’d missed leading up to any sleep regressions drama we had in our household. Here’s what you should be keeping an eye on to get ready for this.
I know, I know. Babies can be so fussy, but if you notice yours is more high-strung than usual, especially at bedtime, you’d better get ready.
4 month sleep regression naps are either more frequent or longer. Sometimes more napping can occur even outside of regression because of growth spurts. But if it’s a matter of growing, they’re still sleeping at night. So watch how they’re napping. 4 month sleep regression naps are very telling.
Wakes up LOTS at night
My eldest would often wake at night before she hit her four-month sleep regression. But this was different. She would wake after I’d changed her and fed her. She just seemed grouchy and was very difficult to put back down.
Appetite for destruction
With my eldest, the only time she refused to eat was when she had a cold. Once we helped clear her little nose by sitting in the steamed-up bathroom, she was a little piglet once again. But for many of my other friends during this sleep regression, their babies went on a hunger strike. Mine just nursed even more. She did this during growth spurts too.
Babies cry, you know? That’s what they do. But by 4 months, you have those cries down pat. You know that’s the hungry cry vs. the I-pooped-myself-and-feel-squishy-and-gross cry. But when they’re in the four-month sleep regression, they can really throw down with the drama. Even with all your attention, she might continue to wail.
Once you finally get her to sleep, you may notice she’s restless while in her crib. She’s entering this new phase, and while she will sleep again (and quite well), she is prepping for rolling over fully and taking on new tasks. New sleeping positions will come into play as well.
4 Month Sleep Regression Tips that Every Mama Needs
Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time for a little 4-month sleep regression help. Here I come to your rescue with 9 tips that will get you through it a little more smoothly.
- First check for fever
Always rule out that your baby is sick first when you note behavior changes. Just because she’s at 4 months isn’t always a guarantee that it’s a sleep regression. Pull out the thermometer and check things out.
- Keep baby busy during the day
My favorite tip for you and one that really seems to work wonders, is to make that baby so busy during the day that she’s wiped out come bedtime. You know those new skills I was talking about? Well, at night, they keep thinking about them and wanting to accomplish rolling over or sitting up.
It’s just like when you lie awake in bed ruminating over what you have to do tomorrow and what you’re going to cook for Thanksgiving and did you polish the silver and so on. When this happens to me, I just get up, write it down, and fall asleep.
Babies don’t have that capability yet, so they keep pushing themselves at night. So let her practice to her heart’s content during the day. This will help tire her out and make things a lot easier at bedtime.
- Make sure she’s full
Babies do tend to eat more quickly at 4 months. But learn to recognize when she’s full and when she’s distracted. The world is full of new and exciting things. To a baby, everything is interesting. The fan on the ceiling is entertainment. Learn to think like a baby and keep distractions minimized when you breast or bottle-feed. This way, she eats herself fully and is less likely to wake in the night.
- Get a bedtime routine going
If you haven’t yet already, you should get a bedtime routine in place. I set up ours early on, starting when both girls were newborns. Of course, a newborn can’t follow a routine, but when you follow the same stuff as much as possible, it starts to click with them, and they feel comforted by the whole thing.
The key is dimming the lights in the evening. Soothing sounds, no loud music, baths, story time. All these things help set the stage, and at 4 months, it should really click when setting those sleep and nap patterns. Getting them into a routine for sleep and wake will minimize the 4-month sleep regression drama.
- See if she’ll soothe herself to sleep
Now, this is one that did not work for me, but it has worked for many of my friends. My girls had me as their boob slave for when they wanted to nurse. It was too difficult to break this pattern in just four months. But for others of you, if you sit nearby, pat their little backs, and offer a soothing song or words, they may drift off to sleep on their own.
If it works for you, that’s awesome. But if not, don’t get discouraged. It is totally normal if your baby isn’t ready to put herself to sleep just yet.
- Be flexible
Things are going to change when it comes to your schedule all the time with your baby, and the 4-month sleep regression is just one example of that. Try to keep consistent with meal times and playtimes and work around that the rest of the day.
- Watch for sleep cues
As the baby moves into this phase, keep an eye on how she acts. If she yawns, rubs her eyes, or starts fussing, you’ve got a sleepy baby on your hands. Get them to a quiet place to sleep quickly. You don’t want her to get overtired, which will result in her being even more challenging to put to sleep.
- Give lots of love
This one is easy. It’s something we all do daily as moms. But babies can’t possibly be spoiled with more hugs, kisses, love, and cuddles. Hold your baby if that’s the only thing that stops her wailing. Put her in your carrier and move around the house. Talk to her and narrate, put on music and sing, and just do whatever works for you to get her to chill out.
I often found when I’d get either of my daughters to sleep by doing one thing one day, that trick wouldn’t work the next day, so get creative and just go with it. My youngest fell asleep in her stroller at Disneyland for 2 whole hours despite all the hullabaloo around us, so take what you can get.
- Get 4-month sleep regression help from loved ones
My final tip for you in all of this is not to forget about yourself. You need to sleep too. If you and your husband can alternate a bit at night, that’s great, but if not, don’t be shy to ask friends and relatives for help. My mother-in-law helped with this for my eldest and I was so exhausted, I fell asleep for 3 hours while she took her for a walk and showed her off to the neighbors.
So there you have it. 4-month sleep regression won’t last forever, but it will bring with it new changes and new developments. Get ready for more exciting things to come from your baby and get your camera ready to record those extra-precious moments!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.