To The Mama in the Middle of The 4 Month Sleep Regression

It’s been 5 years since we went through it for the first time, but we still remember how it felt, so today, we want to talk to you mama, because the 4 month sleep progression can be completely overwhelming. 

We remember how things shifted. By 3 months we felt like we were starting to gain our bearings as parents. Feeding was getting easier, our babies were sleeping (slightly) longer stretches of sleep and settling to sleep pretty easily, we could read their cues and they seemed generally happy throughout the day. We really felt like we got a hold of this whole mom thing. Then everything changed. 

Our babies started waking up more at night, a lot more at night. They became difficult to feed because they were so distracted so it felt like we had to relearn how to feed them again. Then the little time they had where they weren’t eating or sleeping, they seemed so much fussier than they were before. We remember feeling so lost and confused, and the feelings of doubt we felt as parents that we must be getting this all wrong for them. 

Then we looked for support because it felt unbearable and everything we read confirmed our doubts. We were the ones doing it wrong. We needed to make a change or things would never get better. This was a permanent change to our babies’ sleep and sleep training was the only option or you would be waking up every 1-2 hours for the rest of your life. We remember the feelings of hopelessness and the unimaginable choice between sleep training (which didn’t feel instinctively right for our family) and sleep deprivation and the impact it had on our families during the day. We remember the anxiety that would kick in as the sun would set with the uncertainty of what that night would bring and the feeling that this would never end. 

Today we want to tell you that those things you read telling you you’re doing it all wrong are not correct. You did not do anything wrong for your baby to be doing this. The truth is that all 4-6 month olds go through this phase, and it’s just that, a phase. It will pass. 

There is a permanent change to the way your baby is sleeping now versus how they slept as a newborn, but they just need time to adjust. They don’t need to be trained to sleep, they already know how to sleep. 

They won’t always be this fussy, they’re just fussy because their brains are developing so rapidly right now, and that can be overwhelming for anyone. That same brain development is what is waking them up so often throughout the night. 

We know that knowing it’s not forever is half the battle, but that it also helps to know what you can do to support your baby through this time so here are our seven top recommendations to surviving the 4 month sleep progression. 

  1. Involve your village. The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” is so incredibly applicable during this time. Your baby still has an indiscriminate attachment at 4 months so if you don’t already have your village established, now is the perfect time to do so. Babies only need one secure attachment but as parents, we need the support. Call your friends and family and ask for help. So often they’re just waiting to be told how to best support you, so be specific. Ask for a meal, or for them to come hold baby for one of their naps so you can have a moment to take a shower, take a nap on your own, or even just have a little bit of time to yourself. If you feel like you don’t have a village yet, reach out to local mom groups or find a mama to go on a walk with in your local Facebook group. 
  2. Make self-care a non-negotiable. Have you ever noticed that the times we desperately need to take care of ourselves are the exact times we let self-care slip? We’re guilty of it too, but if we can encourage you at all today, it would be to make sure that basic self-care doesn’t fall off your list. Eat foods that nourish your body (nuts and smoothies are a great one handed option in case the other hand is full), meet your basic hygiene needs, and ask for 30 minutes a day to rest without baby if you have a partner or support to allow you the time to do so. 
  3. Offer frequent feeds during the day. There’s a lot of information out there that says a 4 month old baby should be able to go 4 hours without a feed and that is more often than not untrue. Babies are especially distracted during this time, so offering frequent feeds during the day can help to get those calories in when everything else seems like more fun. We recommend offering a feed every 2-3 hours if breastfeeding, or offering smaller bottles more often if bottle feeding (if you’re noticing they’re not finishing what they used to). It can also be helpful to feed your baby in a quieter room with fewer distractions to try to get those feeds in. 
  4. Make time for your baby to practice their skills during the day. Remember all that development we talked about? Babies are working on so many skills during the day. Be sure to give them time and space to practice freely and explore their world. They don’t need much, just a mat on the floor should be more than enough! 
  5. Spend time outside. There’s no cure for a fussy baby quite like being outside. Everyone’s moods are instantly lifted just by being outside for 10-20 minutes so put on weather appropriate clothes and get outside! If you go for a walk it will feel especially good for you too! 
  6. Offer more closeness and connection. At this stage, your baby’s world is changing so fast that they need reassurance and contact with you to help them to down-regulate. Offer this as much as you can during the day by being generous with cuddles or keep them close in a carrier. Doing so will help them to stay calmer and help them through those especially fussy times of the day! 
  7. Build a menu of sleep associations. This is the perfect time to add more sleep associations to your way of soothing your baby back to sleep, especially if they just ate and are up again an hour later. Offer different ways of soothing to sleep when your baby isn’t hungry and involve your partner if you have one and they’re available to support you at night. When you have a menu of sleep associations, your baby should settle back to sleeping longer stretches once this developmental phase ends. 

We know this can be an incredibly stressful time to be a new parent, but we want to reassure you that this too will pass. You’re doing an incredible job of showing up for your baby and we just want to gently remind you to show up for yourself too. If you need more information on the 4 month (and future) sleep progressions, grab our free progressions guide here

Categories: : Normal Infant & Toddler Sleep, Regressions, Self-Care, Sleep Associations, Sleep Support, Sleep Without Sleep Training