4-month sleep regression: what you need to know (2024)

If your 4-month-old baby's suddenly waking more often at night, struggling to get to sleep, or fighting daytime naps, you might be wondering: could this be 4-month sleep regression?

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Here's everything you need to know about this stage of your baby's development, including how long it usually lasts, the signs to look out for, and what to do to help your baby (and yourself) get more sleep.

What is the 4-month sleep regression?

All babies go through times when their sleep patterns change, leading to periods of disturbed nights (NHS 2021a). Many parents report that this often happens for the first time at about the age of 4 months (Healthline 2023, MNT 2021). But rather than labelling it as sleep regression and a setback, it can feel more positive to think of it as a natural change in your baby’s sleep-wake pattern (circadian rhythm).

Even if your baby previously slept well, you may find that they suddenly start struggling to get enough sleep at around this age. Lots of parents refer to this as 4-month sleep regression (Healthline 2023, MNT 2021).

There's no strong evidence that all babies experience troubled sleep at exactly 4 months old, though (CC 2022, MNT 2021). You may find your little one's sleep changes at 3 months, 5 months; or at another time altogether.

However, many parents do find their baby struggles with sleep at around this age. It's thought to happen around now because as your baby's brain develops, their sleep patterns start to become a little bit less like a newborn’s and more like the sleep patterns of an older child or adult (MNT 2021).

When very young babies fall asleep, they go straight into active sleep or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Starting from about 3 months onwards, the REM sleep phase begins to move to later in the night (LLLI 2018, SF 2022), so your little one may wake more often as they move through different stages of sleep.

At around 4-5 months, your baby is probably also just beginning to learn the basics of some new skills, such as rolling over or sitting up. Sleep regressions often coincide with major milestones like these, as your baby's brain works overtime to learn and develop (CH nd, Healthline 2023, MNT 2021).

What are the signs of 4-month sleep regression?

The most common signs of 4-month sleep regression to look out for are:

  • waking more often at night
  • having fewer or shorter naps
  • taking longer to get to sleep
    (CC 2022, Healthline 2023, MNT 2021)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you may find that this also makes your baby more fussy and irritable than usual (CC 2022, Healthline 2023, MNT 2021). Some parents also report that their babies' appetite changes during a sleep regression (Healthline 2023).

How long does 4-month sleep regression last?

The good news is that these disturbed nights will not last forever. Experts suggest that 4-month sleep regression usually lasts for around two to four weeks; sometimes a little less or a little more (CC 2022, CH nd, Healthline 2023, MNT 2021).

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After that, your baby's sleep should start to settle down into a different but more regular pattern, so hang in there.

How can I deal with the 4-month sleep regression?

There's no denying it: periods of sleep regression can be tough. Your baby might need a little extra help to fall asleep, or to get back to sleep when they wake in the night. The most important thing is to be kind to yourself, and remember the classic parenting mantra: this too shall pass!

That said, there are certainly some things you can do to help yourself and your baby during their 4-month sleep regression:

  • Keep your baby's bedtime routine consistent (CH nd, Healthline 2023, NHS 2021a). Although it may be tempting to try new techniques to help your baby sleep, keeping things as consistent as possible will help your baby know when it's time for sleep. For example, you could give them a warm bath, read a story together and have a cuddle at around the same time each night.
  • Make sure your baby’s comfortable. Check the temperature of the room and add or take off layers of bedding as needed. Many parents also swear by white noise machines to help their little ones drift off (CC 2022).
  • Help your baby tell the difference between night and day. When you’re settling them down for the night – or getting up when they cry – ensure lights are dim, avoid talking as much as possible and keep things quiet and calm (CC 2022, CH nd, Healthline 2023, NHS 2021a).
  • Check your baby's getting enough feeds. As your baby grows, they’ll probably want more of their regular milk during the day (NHS 2019). So make sure they’re getting enough milk before bed, so they don’t wake up more often from hunger (CC 2022). Try to put them down after a feed rather than during one though, so they don't wake up confused about where the milk has gone (CH nd).
  • Avoid screens at bedtime. The light from phones, tablets and TVs can disrupt your baby's sleep rhythms and make it harder for them to drop off (CC 2022, CH nd, Healthline 2023).
  • Play with your baby during the day. This will help to teach them that daytime is for being active, while nighttime is for sleep, and may help them to sleep better at night (AAP 2022).

If you haven't already started sleep training your baby, you could consider trying gentle methods to help them drift off (CC 2022). There are lots of options to try – it doesn’t just involve letting your baby "cry it out" or waiting it out. Gentle options are often more effective too. Read more about different gentle sleep training techniques. But only do what works for you and your baby, and bear in mind that they might need a bit more comfort from you during a sleep regression (Healthline 2023).

Be sure to look after yourself too. Where possible, try to share the load with loved ones to give yourself the chance to catch up on your own sleep (NHS 2021a). Grab naps where you can until this challenging phase is over.

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When should I worry about my baby's sleep?

While all babies are different, most 4-month-olds need about 14 hours of sleep in each 24-hour period, with more at night than during the day (CH nd, Nemours 2022).

If your baby's sleep problems persist and you think they're not getting enough sleep, or you just have any concerns or want advice, speak to your health visitor (NHS 2021a).

They can help to make sure there's not any other underlying reason for your baby's sleep problems, and give you plenty of personalised advice to help your little one (and you!) sleep better (Healthline 2023).

FAQs about the 4-month sleep regression

Is the 4-month sleep regression just a myth?

It's true that there's no hard-and-fast evidence to suggest that all babies go through a period of disturbed sleep at exactly 4 months (CC 2022, MNT 2021). However, all babies do naturally go through sleep changes as they grow and develop (NHS 2021a), and many parents report it happening at about this age (CC2022, Healthline 2023, MNT 2021).

Rather than labelling it as a sleep regression, you may prefer to think of it as just a natural stage in your baby's development; one that can happen at any time.

How should I manage night feeding during 4-month sleep regression?

All babies have different needs and routines at this stage, so there isn’t one-size-fits-all guidance. Some babies can sleep for up to 8 hours at a stretch, while others may need feeding more often (NHS 2021a).

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But a good way to help your baby during this period is to make sure they get plenty of milk during the day (CC 2022, Healthline 2023). Put them down to sleep shortly after a feed when they are naturally drowsy (CC 2022, NHS 2021a).

If your baby wakes and wants a cuddle or a breastfeed when previously they would have slept for longer, try not to worry about this becoming a habit. They need comfort from you now while they are adjusting to the changes they're going through (Healthline 2023). Over time, your baby will get back to longer stretches of sleep without needing to be rocked or fed so frequently (CC 2022, Healthline 2023).

Don't be tempted to start giving your baby solid foods at 4 months just because they're waking more often at night (NHS 2022a). Most babies’ bodies aren't ready for solid foods until they're about 6 months old (NHS 2022a). Learn more about the signs that your baby's ready for weaning.

How can I manage naps during a sleep regression?

From about 3 months onwards, babies tend to start to sleep more during the night and less during the day, so it's possible your baby doesn't need quite as much nap time as they did before (NHS 2021a). By 4 months, many babies sleep twice as much at night as they do during the day (NHS 2021a).

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That said, your baby will almost certainly still need some daytime naps, and it may be tricky to get them down during a sleep regression. Most of the tips above apply to naps just as much as to nighttime sleep. So put them down in a calm, dark place, keep to a consistent routine, avoid screentime just before naps, and make sure they're not too hungry (Healthline 2023).

Could poor sleep at 4 months be due to teething?

It's possible. Although most babies start teething at around 6 months old, some can begin before 4 months (NHS 2022b). If your baby's gums are red and sore, they’re drooling more than usual, or you notice them chewing on things a lot, it could be that teething is disturbing your baby's sleep (NHS 2022b). Learn more about the signs of teething and what you can do to help.

Should I co-sleep during the 4-month sleep regression?

The NHS says that the safest sleeping position for your baby is on their back with their feet at the end of the cot or Moses basket (NHS 2021b). If you do choose to co-sleep to help your baby through a period of sleep regression, be sure to follow safe co-sleeping guidelines, and never co-sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair, after drinking alcohol, taking drugs or certain medications, or if you smoke (NHS 2022b).

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Also bear in mind that your baby may get used to co-sleeping, and it may be difficult to break the habit afterwards. Learn more about safe co-sleeping.

What's the next sleep regression after 4 months?

Although periods of disturbed sleep can happen at any time, many parents report them happening particularly at:

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  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 8 months
  • 12 months
  • 18 months
  • 2 years
    (MNT 2021)

Learn more about sleep regression here.

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4-month sleep regression: what you need to know (2024)

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