The four month sleep re­gres­sion ex­plained

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JUST WHEN YOU think you have your baby’s sleep pat­terns all fig­ured out, sud­denly you hit four months and ev­ery­thing changes again. Your baby starts cut­ting his naps short, wakes ev­ery 45 min­utes through­out the day, be­comes more and more dif­fi­cult to get to sleep in the first place and of­ten wakes more fre­quently overnight, some­times as fre­quently as ev­ery two hours. What’s go­ing on?

This is what sleep con­sul­tants re­fer to as the four-month sleep re­gres­sion. It is ac­tu­ally more a pro­gres­sion in terms of your baby’s sleep ma­tu­rity, but it is a re­gres­sion in terms of how well they are sleep­ing.


It’s per­fectly nor­mal for your baby to start wak­ing af­ter 45 min­utes. This is a full sleep cy­cle for a baby; they take 15-20 min­utes to drift from a light sleep to a deeper sleep, and this deep sleep lasts about 25 min­utes. If your baby is nap­ping for more than 45 min­utes, they are com­plet­ing more than one of th­ese sleep cy­cles.

Dur­ing the first three months your baby may sleep for four to six hours at a time overnight, but once the four-month sleep re­gres­sion hits your baby may be­gin wak­ing ev­ery two to four hours. This is due to the change in length of their sleep cy­cle, as well as over­tired­ness from shorter day­time naps. We only ex­pect a par­tial wake-up ev­ery two hours, so a well-rested baby will stir and drift into a light sleep phase, then into a deeper sleep for a fur­ther two hours be­fore fully wak­ing up. But an over­tired baby will wake fully when they reach that light sleep phase, and of­ten cry out for com­fort, set­tling or a feed.


As the four-month sleep re­gres­sion is not re­ally a re­gres­sion but a pro­gres­sion in your baby’s sleep ma­tu­rity, it’s not some­thing your baby will “come through”, as such. Their sleep will im­prove with time and a lit­tle help from you! Your baby needs to ad­just to the changes he or she is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, and you can help by tweak­ing bed­time rou­tines and en­cour­ag­ing self-set­tling skills.

1 En­sure their sleep en­vi­ron­ment is con­ducive to good sleep – a dark sleep­ing space will pro­mote mela­tonin pro­duc­tion and be less dis­tract­ing when your baby wakes af­ter 45 min­utes.

2 Keep an eye on how long your baby is

If your baby re­lies on you to be rocked or held to sleep, you’ll need to help your baby learn to fall asleep with­out you do­ing th­ese things, and this can take time

awake be­tween sleeps. We gen­er­ally aim for around two hours’ awake time by four months old.

3 Some pos­i­tive sleep as­so­ci­a­tions, such as white noise, swad­dles and sleep­ing bags, will also be use­ful.

Once your ba­sics are in place, you can look at whether your baby is able to self-set­tle. If your baby re­lies on you to be rocked or held to sleep, you’ll need to help your baby learn to fall asleep with­out you do­ing th­ese things, and this can take time.

Some­times, when your baby is tak­ing short naps and wak­ing fre­quently overnight, the sleep debt can ac­cu­mu­late and this build up of sleep debt can re­sult in even shorter naps, of­ten 30 min­utes long, and more and more cry­ing from your baby through­out the day. They are mis­er­able. This is of­ten when we re­ceive a des­per­ate phone call from par­ents.

At this stage I would rec­om­mend you try as­sisted naps for a few days to get on top of that sleep debt. This means go­ing for a walk for your baby’s naps, or baby wear­ing, any­thing that will help your baby to nod off and en­sure your baby gets some longer, more restora­tive naps. You might also want to peg back those awake win­dows for a few days to help re­duce those stress hor­mones as­so­ci­ated with this kind of sleep debt.

The sec­ond ac­tion point is to move to a much ear­lier bed­time, of­ten as early as 6pm, to al­low your baby to catch up on some much-needed sleep – this can pre­vent the night from com­pletely fall­ing apart.

Fi­nally, we rec­om­mend work­ing on gen­tly teach­ing those self-set­tling strate­gies, once the day naps start go­ing bet­ter. This is key to get­ting those longer stretches of sleep at night.

Hang in there and re­mem­ber, you are not alone! This is one of the most com­mon is­sues we deal with at Baby Sleep Con­sul­tant. Con­cen­trat­ing on im­prov­ing your baby’s night sleep will help both of you to feel less over­tired, and as a re­sult you’ll both have more pa­tience to deal with the short naps once you are ready.


“My daugh­ter went through it be­tween three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half months and it was a month of hell. She went from sleep­ing through the night with a dream feed to wak­ing mul­ti­ple times and cry­ing, and she was just un­able to be set­tled. Her 45-minute naps dropped to just 20 min­utes! It was worse than when she was a new­born. I ended up con­tact­ing Baby Sleep Con­sul­tant as I was ex­hausted phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally. Emma sorted her day sleeps and her night sleeps.”


“The one big thing that helped me was re­search, so by the time I had my fourth child I learnt about won­der weeks and how ba­bies have a big leap at four months. I was pre­pared; I had a baby car­rier so my son could be car­ried at all times, and I made sure I was eat­ing prop­erly as I was breast­feed­ing, and this seemed to help.”


“I have four kids and can hon­estly say if the four-month sleep re­gres­sion hit, I didn’t no­tice it! Luck­ily for me.”


“My lit­tle one seems to have started re­gress­ing at 13 weeks. We went from great day sleeps and sleep­ing all night, to wak­ing ev­ery one­and-a-half to three hours, worse than a new­born! I had some ad­vice from a Baby Sleep Con­sul­tant to en­sure good day naps. I baby wore for the first few days, and it re­ally helped. We are back to one to two feeds max a night.” 

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