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The 4 month regression

The 4-month sleep regression is definitely one of the most famous sleep disruptions for new parents. It’s a milestone in your baby’s development that often catches caregivers off guard.
This regression is significant for several reasons, but how you manage it can impact your baby’s sleep patterns and overall sleep needs.

When does it start?

You will see this regression happening anywhere between 3 months and 5 months or 13 weeks to 20 weeks. If you follow the Wonder Weeks App, the 4 month regression is a part of the famous Leap 4. (surprised by the length? yep I was too!)

How to know this is the 4 month regression?

In most cases, after 9weeks your baby sleeps longer stretches at night. They probably wake up once or twice for a feed. Sometimes, naps are nice and long with less struggles. But it’s also normal to still have short naps and contact naps. In general, you start to feel like you finally know what you’re doing and you feel like you are out of the newborn phase with the stability you missed in the early weeks.

When the 4 month regression hits, you will suddenly see a difference in your baby’s behavior and sleep and you may feel like you are back to the early newborn stage. You will start seeing frequent night wake ups – usually about every 90min. Short naps of 30min will be constant and your baby will mostly need contact naps. You can also see an increase of fussiness with little soothing possible from you. Feeds can be increased or decreased depending on the baby. This is really disturbing for parents but know that it is completely normal for your baby to go through this. You are doing nothing wrong!

The 4 month regression is a fantastic milestone your baby is going through. Even though you may feel like this is just a terrible moment, you will be rewarded at the end!

Milestones happening during the 4 month regression

The Transition from Newborn to Adult Sleep

At birth, newborns have short sleep cycles, usually ranging from 30 to 45 minutes. These brief cycles are divided into two distinct phases: active (REM) and quiet (non-REM) sleep. However, around the 4-month mark, a significant shift occurs in your child’s sleep pattern. Their sleep begins to mature, moving away from the newborn pattern and transitioning into something more like adult sleep.

This transition involves the development of additional sleep cycles, which enable your baby to sleep for longer stretches and experience deeper sleep. While this is a positive evolution, it’s also a turning point in your baby’s sleep habits that requires your attention.

Developing New Skills: The Art of Rolling Over

Around 4 months, many babies start developing new physical skills. One of the most common is the ability to roll from tummy to back and eventually back to tummy. This newfound skill is a significant achievement, but it can also cause some disturbance in your baby’s sleep.

To ensure your baby’s safety, it’s crucial to stop swaddling them and allowing their arms to move freely in case they roll over during sleep. Swaddling in such circumstances can pose risks of suffocation. But don’t worry, you can introduce your baby to a sleep sack instead, which many babies adjust to quite easily. Some may need a couple of nights to get used to it, but it’s a safer option as they explore their newfound mobility. Don’t be scared of transitioning your baby out of the swaddle. If you let your baby get used to being arms free, they will learn to control their movements and will feel comfortable with them.

Becoming More Aware of the World

The 4-month mark brings about a substantial leap in your baby’s cognitive and sensory development. They become more attuned to their surroundings, demonstrating curiosity about everything and everyone. They are beginning to explore the world, paying closer attention to their environment. However, this heightened awareness can also lead to overstimulation, which can prevent them from falling asleep peacefully.

Be sure to keep the room as dark as it can be. If they are able to see their environment, they will be too interested in it than in sleeping. Just a little shadow can be enough to distract them. A good way to know if the room is dark enough is to put you hand in front of your face, wait 5 sec. if you can see the outline of your hand, it is not dark enough.

How to Manage the 4-Month Sleep Regression

As a parent, you’re likely looking for ways to help your baby through this transition and manage the 4-month sleep regression effectively. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Limit screen time: It’s tempting to use baby shows to entertain your little one, but it’s essential to remember that their developing brains may not be ready for the visual and auditory stimulation of screens. In fact, these fast-moving shapes and colors can overstimulate your baby and disrupt their sleep. Also, the blue light emitted by screens is known to interfere with sleep patterns and hormones production.
  • Encourage tummy time: To help your baby practice their new skills and expend some of their boundless energy, provide plenty of tummy time during their awake hours. This will allow them to practice as much as they need but also ensures they are tired and ready to nap when the time comes.
  • Implement a simple routine: now that your baby is more aware and awake for longer stretches, they can benefit from a predictable routine. Keep it simple and short, as babies have a short wake window. For example, a nighttime routine could involve a gentle bath, applying lotion, dressing in pajamas, feeding, slipping into a cozy sleep sack, and then bedtime.

The Duration of the Regression

The 4-month sleep regression can feel like a daunting challenge for parents, primarily because it’s the first major sleep regression they encounter. This regression typically lasts between 2 to 6 weeks and can seem like an eternity. The good news is that it typically resolves itself, returning your baby to a more predictable sleep pattern. However, if after several weeks, you find that things aren’t improving, this regression might morph into poor sleep habits. Some parents resort to rocking their baby to sleep, relying on strollers or bouncing balls, or nursing them to sleep. If this sounds familiar and you’re feeling lost or stressed by the changes, it might be time to seek professional guidance.

The 4-month sleep regression is a pivotal moment in your baby’s development and a significant adjustment for parents. While it can be challenging, it’s also an opportunity to learn and grow together. Understanding the changes in your baby’s sleep patterns and managing their new skills are crucial steps toward establishing healthy sleep habits. If you find yourself navigating the complexities of the 4-month sleep regression and wish to add more effective strategies, I’m here to help. With my 1:1 coaching, I will give you all the tools you need to manage your baby’s sleep and create healthy sleep habits that will last.

It’s time to embrace this journey to better sleep, and you don’t have to do it alone. Contact me today to discuss how to work together. I will create a personalized sleep plan tailored to your family’s unique needs. Let’s turn those sleepless nights into restful dreams and provide your baby with the best sleep they deserve. Reach out to me and take the first step toward a well-rested and happy family.

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