While your infant is going through some big changes during the first few months of life, you might notice a big shift in their sleeping habits. One day you’re happily enjoying your little one’s milestones, and the other you find them up at night all grumpy!
Unpredictable as we might call it, these unusual wake-ups and big changes in your child’s sleep schedule might be an indication that it’s time for the 4-month sleep regression to kick in.
Most babies tend to experience the 4-month sleep regressions typically during the first few weeks as early as 13 weeks. Not all babies experience sleep regressions and it’s completely fine if your baby is going through one. During this tough phase, you might notice a shift in your baby’s sleeping patterns, staying up at night, fighting sleep and having trouble falling asleep once they are up.
You might be wondering what the 4-month sleep regression is, and how to make it easier for your little one, do not worry we’ve got you covered! Here is all that you need to know about the 4-month sleep regressions and ways to manage it.
What Is The 4-Month Sleep Regression?
Sleep regressions are temporary changes in sleeping patterns that occur in children during infancy or the first few years of life. Most babies do not experience sleep regressions but for some, it’s quite common and completely normal.
Even though in literal terms, regression refers to relapse to an earlier mental status, most regressions are just temporary, and they do not mean that all previous progression or your infant in sleeping habits is lost.
These changes in sleeping habits might stem from the biological development these little ones are going through. As they grow, their sleeping patterns mature from one sleep cycle to adult sleep cycles with deep and light stages.
This growth spurt is not a cue for you to assume that it’s time for your kid to have sleeping patterns aligned with yours, but rather a hint that your little one is growing and adapting. Though your child is slowly learning to stay up in wake windows, they still require your help to fall asleep.
What Are Some Signs Of Sleep Regression In A 4-Month-Old?
Now that you have an idea of what exactly a sleep regression is, you might be concerned if your little one is going through one or not.
If you’ve noticed a big shift in sleeping patterns and a fussy attitude throughout the day, your child might be going through a 4-month sleep regression.
Your child might have trouble falling asleep and night wakings are quite common. Moreover, crankiness especially on awakening, eventually decreased sleep time.
Some babies wake up every 2 hours at night even if they were previously sleeping well. Short naps are common and might last for less than 30-45 minutes. You might notice your child having a hard time falling asleep on their own once they are up and want you to pick them up. Here are some signs that are common in the 4-month sleep regression.
Waking Up At Night
Many babies get up at night every hour or so with no obvious reason at play. These babies have a hard time staying asleep at night and seem distracted.
Difficulty Falling Asleep
Once your baby wakes up, they might have a hard time falling back to sleep. They might want you to pick them up and rock them to sleep.
As your baby’s sleep schedule shifts, they start staying awake between naps and might even take shorter naps throughout the day. This reduces their daytime sleep adding up to their fussy mood.
Fussiness And Crankiness
With reduced sleeping time comes a fussy baby. You might notice that your infant has trouble getting up and cries on awakening.
Need Help Falling Asleep
Once these babies are up at night, they might have trouble falling asleep on their own. Rocking them to sleep might help you put them to sleep every time they wake up.
What Causes The 4-Month Sleep Regression?
Sleep regressions in your little one might occur due to multiple reasons. The 4-month sleep regression is mostly associated with maturing sleep cycles, that is your little one is starting to develop deeper stages of sleeping that include deep sleep and light sleep.
Other causes of this inevitable sleep regression include teething, hunger, and developmental progressions.
Maturing Sleep Cycles
As your baby’s sleep cycle matures, you might experience progression in sleeping habits and setbacks in the form of sleep regressions. Unlike the newborn stage, during infancy, baby’s sleep habits mature as they experience 4 sleep patterns such as ourselves.
This might cause your little one to spend more time in the non-REM sleep cycle, resulting in frequent night wakings.
Most babies can hold their head and might be able to roll over on their own and starting to recognize faces. Such developments in your little one open up opportunities for them to explore the world from their perspective.
With so much exploration pending, they always have something on their mind and no time to sleep! Let them practice their skills during the day so that they are not as excited to practice them at night.
Moreover, by the age of 4 months, babies start producing melatonin on their own, which helps them regulate their sleep cycles. Babies who are breastfed might also receive this chemical through breast milk.
Teething might cause sleep regression mostly in older babies. Teeth eruption is not as soothing for babies and tends to interfere with their sleep.
How Long Does 4-Month Sleep Regression Last?
Most sleep regressions last no more than 2-4 weeks, and for some babies, they might last for more than a month, which is completely normal. Parents have to be patient as babies take time to adjust their new sleeping patterns.
In case your child has other symptoms such as not gaining weight, less than three bowel movements a day, or decreased appetite, consulting a doctor as soon as possible should be the way to go.
For most babies, this shift in sleeping patterns might accompany brain development as they achieve age-appropriate milestones, such as learning to roll over and being more physically active.
These milestones, though a positive sign that your child is growing up, end up stimulating them especially when it’s bedtime.
For most 4-month-olds, these sleep regressions might start as early as 13 weeks, commonly 3-4 months of age. This is coupled with the maturation of your infant’s sleeping cycles.
The constant shift between light and deep sleep might lead to night waking and short naps. You might even find your little one up at early morning hours.
Once your baby is able to link sleep cycles, they might end up sleeping better. You might want to help your child learn independent sleeping as it may help them fight this setback.
How Do I Know If My Baby Of 4 Months Is Having A Sleep Regression?
If you are concerned whether your little one has the 4-month sleep regression, consult your pediatrician. In case of no other symptom other than sleep disruptions, here are some signs to look out for if you are suspecting the 4-month sleep regression.
Reduced Sleeping Hours
Most 4-month-olds require 14-16 hours of sleep per day. This includes 3 to 5 hours of daytime sleep and 9-10 hours of nighttime sleep.
If your child is having trouble sleeping and has reduced sleep overall, they might be going through the 4-month sleep regression. Moreover, your child might not stay asleep during nighttime, eventually adding into the sleep regression.
Infants spend more time in lighter sleep during the matured sleep cycle, which might result in more incidents of disrupted sleep throughout the night. If your 4-month-old infant wakes up every 2 hours at night, they might be going through a sleep regression.
Trouble Falling Asleep
After waking up, your child might be fussy and have trouble falling back asleep. Rocking them or singing a lullaby might help them fall asleep.
Waking Up Cranky And Fussy Throughout The Day
A fussy mood throughout the day might be an indication that your little munchkin is not getting enough sleep, which could be due to late night waking or shorter naps.
Is 4-Month Sleep Regression Normal?
Even though this phase might be exhausting for you and tough for your little one, it is completely normal and won’t last long!
But keep in mind, one person’s baby might have issues falling asleep while the other one has issues staying asleep. Some children might take longer to get back on track, but that too is completely normal.
How Can I Help My 4-Month-Old With Sleep Regression?
With all that backstory out of the way, the next question is, what to do now? Your child is acting up in the middle of the night and being a menace to handle during the day and you’re worried about how to handle this phase, well we’ve got you covered!
Managing 4-Month Sleep Regressions
To help your little one transition through this phase, you can try the following to make sleep regressions easier.
Break Sleep Associations
Your little one by this time might be used to your nursing while sleeping, but this negative association might end up causing issues later on. Try to teach your infant independent sleeping.
Set A Bedtime Routine
Setting a soothing bedtime routine and being consistent with it is a recipe for a good night’s sleep! Make sure you stick to a consistent bedtime routine so that your child knows what to expect at sleep times.
A dark room and comfortable sleepwear might make the environment favorable for your little one to fall asleep. White noise might also help create a pro-sleeping atmosphere.
Plan Sleep Windows
For most 4-month-olds 3 daytime naps plus bedtime is the perfect recipe and might help you deal with this sleep regression.
Try to put your infant down for bedtime anywhere between 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Just as a bedtime routine, set pre-nap routines to give your child sleep cues to let them know it’s time to sleep.
Set An Earlier Bedtime
As we all are way too familiar with the fact that an overtired kid is a fussy kid so try to set an earlier bedtime.
Put To Bed When Drowsy
When put to bed, drowsy kids end up sleeping easily. A late bedtime might end up affecting the quality of your little baby’s sleep and result in early rising or night waking.
Sleep Training And Practice Falling Asleep
Sleep training is a good option if your little one is older than 4 months. Try to avoid the cry-it-out method as your baby is too young for this and requires assistance to sleep at this age.
Swaddle Your Baby
Wrap your little munchkin up but make sure to do it only if they have not learned how to roll over. Swaddling a baby that can roll over might be a bad decision, as they might struggle to roll back to a safe position.
Instill Healthy Sleep Habits
Though sleeping training at this age is not recommended, try to cut back on rocking if your little one is up at night crying. Comfort them for a few minutes whenever they cry but avoid nursing them to sleep on a regular basis. A negative sleep association might result in separation anxiety later on. You can also try sleep training if your child is older than 4 months so that your baby starts sleeping on their own quickly.
With a major growth spurt and sleepless nights, your little one is surely going through a lot and requires as much energy to deal with it. Feed them for as long as they want, even if it’s an extra-long feed just before bed.
Offering a dream feed just before you put your little one to sleep might help the fall asleep quickly and for a longer time. Formula feeding is a good option for exhausted mothers.
Let Them Self Soothe
If your child is older than 3 months, they might be able to self-settle. This learned skill might help your little one fall asleep on their own without you settling them. This promotes independent sleeping in children.
Should I Feed My Baby During 4-Month Sleep Regressions?
Fully feeding your baby throughout the day is essential, as your little one is using a lot of energy to achieve their new milestones and explore the world beyond their crib. An extra feed just before your child goes to sleep might help them stay asleep longer.
Final Thoughts On 4-Month Sleep Regressions
Sleep regressions are temporary disruptions in sleep that might appear as extreme fussiness and tiredness during the day. This is not common overall, but it is normal for your infant to go through this phase as they grow older.
Your kid might fight sleep at night and night waking is very common. 4-month-sleep regressions might occur secondary to hunger, developmental leaps, or biological changes. These sleep regressions last for no more than two to four weeks.
Little ones at this age start adopting the sleeping cycles of an adult, which include light sleep and deep sleep. Your child might have trouble falling asleep and cry when they wake up. Try sleep training if your child is older than 3 months. Parents also make their children learn self-settling at this stage to help them sleep independently. Dream feeding, a consistent bedtime routine, and good sleep habits might help you fight this sleep regression with your little one.
Consult a doctor if your baby is not gaining weight or passes stool less than 3 times per day as this could be a sign of an underlying illness.