5 tips to slay the 4-month sleep regression

When it comes to babies, a sleep routine can come and go; sometimes they sleep well, and sometimes they don’t. The 4-month sleep regression can be a tiring and frustrating time for any parent so we asked sleep consultant Hadley Seward* to share her tips to combatting this tiresome period.

If you’re a new parent, then you’ve probably heard of the dreaded 4-month sleep regression; the time when your adorable little one turns into a howling demon who refuses to sleep. To make matters worse, it often hits just as you’ve finally found a sleep rhythm that works for you and baby. Hadley helps you to level the playing field so you can sail through the 4-month regression relatively unscathed. 

The first thing to note is that unlike other sleep issues, you can’t ignore the changes to your baby’s habits and hope they’ll go away, they won’t. Around 16 weeks, your baby’s circadian rhythm fully matures and the anatomy of their sleep permanently changes. The result? If your little one isn’t on an age-appropriate sleep schedule and doesn’t yet know how to self-soothe, then you’re likely to see shorter naps and lots of overnight wakings - destined to drive even the most even-keeled parents insane.

So how should you adapt? Let me explain

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1. get serious about when they sleep

Right now, your baby likely naps for as little or as much time as they need - whether that be 30 minutes or 3 hours. The random, unpredictable schedule will need to change. After 16 weeks, most babies do best on a 3-nap schedule (morning, mid-day, and later afternoon catnap) with bedtime approximately 1.5-2 hours after the last nap.

2. focus on where they fall asleep

The good news is that your baby is becoming more alert to their surroundings. The bad news is that this will make it more difficult for them to fall asleep when there are more interesting things to see and do. Even if they do manage to drift off easily, keep in mind that on-the-go sleep for babies isn’t nearly as restorative as sleep in their cots. (It’s like an adult sleeping on an airplane: it might technically be sleep, but who feels rested afterward!?). This is the time to prioritize naps at home, in the cot - at least most of the time. 

3. wean your baby from any sleep associations

A lot of new mums rock/nurse/bounce their babies to sleep and then transfer them to their cot - there’s no shame in that! But as your little one gets older, they’ll fall into a much lighter sleep than before, making it nearly impossible to transfer them. Begin to slowly introduce your baby to the idea of falling asleep in their cot, even if that means leaving them to happily spend some time awake there. 

4. establish a sleep-time routine

Babies thrive on consistency, so it’s best to create a routine that will come before naps and bedtime. (Aim for 5-10 minutes for naps and 15-20 minutes for bedtime.) It doesn’t have to be intricate; your aim is a series of events that tell your baby’s brain it’s time to wind down. For example, changing their nappy, putting them in a baby sleeping bag, and reading a book together.

5. create the perfect sleeping environment

Babies sleep best in a dark and quiet environment. Invest in high-quality blackout curtains and an inexpensive white noise machine to create a peaceful sleep space for your little one. If you’ve been using a musical mobile, it’s time to turn off the noise once the lights are out. 

I understand it can feel overwhelming to overhaul your baby’s sleep schedule, especially if it means changing habits and routines that have become familiar. Keep in mind that this regression won’t last forever - and having your little one on a more consistent schedule will allow you to plan your life better. Good luck!

*Hadley is a certified sleep consultant, working to help families get a better night’s sleep. She focuses her time on gently guiding babies to sleep whilst offering solutions for parents to get a better night’s sleep too. Find out more about Hadley and her work at Bonne Nuit Baby.

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