The first few months with a baby are unpredictable and, more or less, sleepless. But there is a light at the end of the dark, sleep-deprived tunnel. A few months in, babies can snooze for longer stretches and will settle into a more predictable routine. Until, without warning, they're waking frequently again. This phase is commonly known as a sleep regression and can occur multiple times throughout a baby and toddler’s life, the first at 4 months old. But do all babies go through a 4-month sleep regression, and will it be as horrible as you're expecting it to be?
Your baby’s sleep pattern will likely go through a shift when your child is about 4 months old, but what they’re going through is technically not a regression. “Right around 4 months babies go through a huge developmental leap, which in turn can often cause a lot of disruption in sleep, leading it to be commonly known as a regression. However, they are actually moving forward and not regressing back,” certified pediatric sleep consultant Chloe Fries of La Lune Consulting tells Romper. What they are doing is transitioning from two stages of sleep, deep and light, to five stages of sleep per cycle.
Dr. Anne Vestergaard, M.D., a pediatrician at Broadway Medical Clinic, tells Romper that while there is not necessarily what she’d call a regression at 4 months, there are some other reasons why sleep can change at this age. “It can be hard for parents to find the right time for bedtime resulting in babies being too tired. Developmental milestones, such as rolling, can also sometimes be disruptive,” she says. “And then there are babies who, even when parents are doing all the right things still see disruption.
Dr. Vestergaard’s sleep advice for parents of infants is to figure out what’s best for both the infant and the family long-term. “Learning to initiate one’s own sleep is very important. Developing a sleep routine can help with this,” she says. Fries agrees. “By now babies should have a solid bedtime routine every night that they can learn to associate with sleep.” She suggests bath time, PJs, reading a book, singing a song, and then down to bed, for example.
The fact is, if your 4-month old isn’t sleeping for more than an hour or two at a time, neither are you — and mama needs her rest. You can try to help both of you get some rest by working on that routine. “Independent sleep is a taught skill,” says Fries. “Learning how to achieve it, in combination with a consistent bedtime routine and schedule, is the key to successful nights and naps.”
Chloe Fries, certified pediatric sleep consultant of La Lune Consulting
Dr. Anne Vestergaard, M.D., a pediatrician at Broadway Medical Clinic
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