baby sleep regression

This story was produced in partnership with Dream Baby Sleep®, a group of certified experts who are successfully teaching families how to create and maintain healthy sleep.

Just last week you were gushing to friends about how your baby was finally sleeping through the night… and then it all stops.

Suddenly it feels like you’ve taken a huge step backwards. Your little one is crying and waking up frequently during the night, taking shorter naps, getting you up at the crack of dawn, and you’ve got no idea why.

You’ve hit the 4-month baby sleep regression and you’ve got the bags under your eyes to prove it.

If you’re up googling “baby sleep regression“ at 2 o’clock in the morning, it’s probably because you’re desperate.

We get it. It doesn’t make any kind of sense. Why would your baby suddenly just stop sleeping?

 

When my baby hit his first sleep regression I was at my wit’s end, thank god for my mom friends who helped me through it. Seriously, talk to someone or join a self-soothing Facebook support group. – Sharon P.

 

You’re probably really tired and a little bit scared about the future. Scared because you’re envisioning never getting a full night’s sleep again, ever.

But don’t worry, we promise that you’re not crazy. Baby sleep regression is real – and it’s normal. And like a lot of other developmental phases your baby will go through, “this too shall pass”.  

But even though the sleep issues you’re currently experiencing are normal, there are steps you can take to help both you and your baby get some much-needed rest.

4-month sleep regression isn’t something you just have to endure; it’s an opportunity to establish healthy sleep habits that will benefit your family for a lifetime.

In this article, we’ll give you the low-down on everything you need to know about baby sleep regression. Plus we’ll share tips to help get you through this stage and put your baby on the path to healthy sleep.

 

What Is Baby Sleep Regression?

All babies experience numerous sleep setbacks their first few years, but the 4-month mark sleep regression can feel particularly harsh.

You’re already sleep deprived from caring for a newborn and just when you think things are improving, that’s when it goes sideways and the regression hits.

 

“Koa went from sleeping four hour stretches to waking up every 45 minutes, I thought I was going crazy.” – Faye N.

 

A baby sleep regression is a period of time when a baby who was previously sleeping well goes through a temporary setback in their sleep pattern.

Signs of a 4-month baby sleep regression include:

  • Baby used to sleep soundly but is now waking up frequently during the night.
  • It’s become harder to calm or settle your baby before bed.
  • Your baby is taking much shorter naps, or is fighting nap time altogether.
  • Baby is suddenly waking up early in the morning.

The most common time frame for sleep regression to occur is at the 4-month mark, but children can also experience sleep regressions at 9 months, 18 months, and even into toddlerhood.

 

What Causes Sleep Regression?

While you might feel like you’re doing something “wrong”, what’s happening at this stage is actually very right. Your baby’s brain is becoming more mature.

Due to some major cognitive developmental leaps that happen around the 4-month mark, your baby is becoming more aware of the world around them.

In other words, your baby will now jolt awake to sounds he used to be able to sleep through.

That’s because when newborns fall asleep they almost immediately enter a deep stage of sleep. But at around the 4-month mark a baby’s brain starts cycling between light (REM) and deep sleep stages, like adults do. So it takes more time for them to fall and stay asleep.

Other factors that can influence baby sleep regression are teething pain, learning to roll over, and attempting to crawl.

The silver lining here is that your baby is making great developmental strides! They’re just waking themselves (and you) up a lot during the process.

While there’s no way to avoid 4-month sleep regression, there are ways you can prepare for and manage this phase to make the experience a little easier on everyone.

 

Baby sleep regression
Getty Images

 

8 Tips For Surviving Baby Sleep Regression

Sleep regression isn’t fun for anyone. It’s a confusing time for your baby, and a frustrating and exhausting time for you.

Here are 8 tips to help tired parents survive the sleep regression phase and get their little one on the path to healthy sleep.

 

1. Create A Calming Routine And Environment:

Try adding a soothing massage, bath, or swaddling to your nighttime routine to keep your baby relaxed.

Also make sure their sleep environment is soothing. The room should be dark (consider blackout shades) and cool. You can also try adding a white noise machine to help ease them into sleep.

 

2. Make Bedtime Earlier:

It sounds counterintuitive, but overtired babies have a harder time falling asleep.

Why? Because a chemical reaction occurs in their body that converts the sleep hormone melatonin into the stress hormone cortisol.

Put baby to bed early to avoid the overtiredness that can trigger night waking and early rising.

 

3. Help Baby Learn To Self-Soothe:

Put your baby to bed drowsy, but awake. Give them a few minutes to work on falling asleep independently so that they can start to develop self-soothing skills.

These might include sucking hands or fingers, rubbing their head back and forth on the mattress, rubbing their feet together, and more. These techniques will become the tools your baby uses when they wake during a nap or at night to return to sleep instead of relying on you.

 

4. Establish A Consistent Bedtime Routine:

Baby sleep regression can wreak havoc on your schedule. But try to remain consistent with your soothing nap and bedtime routines.

It may not happen at the same exact time each day, but keeping the routine the same helps babies settle down for sleep.

 

5. Teach Baby To Sleep Independently:

And no, sleeping independently doesn’t mean you have to stand back and let them “cry it out”.

There are several different sleep training methods available, depending on your cry tolerance, temperament, and family dynamic. Find the one that works for you.

 

6. Get Expert Advice:

Look to a certified baby sleep consultant for expert tips and advice. Dream Baby Sleep® offers a free video training series that teaches parents the most popular sleep training methods and basic techniques to improve baby’s sleep.

 

“If there is ever a gentle sleep training process, this is it. I never felt as if I wasn’t doing something my baby needed and instead, I helped her find real sleep! My husband and I would recommend Dream Baby Sleep® to anyone looking to help babies sleep better.” – Megan B.

 

Also check out their free download: 4 Month Sleep Regression Survival guide

 

7. Lean On Other Moms For Help And Guidance:

Remember, you are not alone! Talk to other moms who are dealing with baby sleep regression or have dealt with it in the past and come through the other side.

Reach out to your mom circle or join Dream Baby Sleep’s self-soothing Facebook group to get the support and guidance of other parents.

 

8. Avoid Creating Bad Habits:

Finally, what you DON’T want to do is create a sleep association in your baby that relies on you to get them to sleep every night.

Rocking, holding, feeding, walking, or bouncing back to sleep can become habits that are difficult to break, and they can prevent your baby from learning to fall back asleep independently

 

As challenging as the 4-month sleep regression can be, keep in mind that your baby is making tremendous strides during this time!  

Once they transition out of this phase, you’ll notice your baby is more alert and engaged in the world around them. They’ll be exploring more, giggling, starting to roll and crawl…in other words, there’s a whole lot of fun ahead.

Baby sleep regression struggles are real, but following the survival tips above can help get you through it and onto the next exciting phase of your baby’s development.

 

About Dream Baby Sleep:

Dream Baby Sleep® is a loving group of certified experts who are successfully teaching families how to create and maintain healthy sleep. Our diverse education and team dynamic empower us to customize a plan catered to your family’s personal needs. By studying the temperament of your baby, parenting style and family dynamic we’re able to draw from all sleep training methods available to create success for your family.

 

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