If you’ve ever experienced the 4-month sleep regression, you know it can be a real beast! You finally escape the sleepless newborn hellscape and start to get a little rest at night. . .
Then BAM! Suddenly your baby is waking constantly, sometimes even more than when you first brought them home.
If your baby is between 12 and 20 weeks, you may be experiencing the dreaded 4-month sleep regression.
What is the 4-month sleep regression?
This term loosely describes the time period around 4 months of age when baby sleep cycles shift. Your baby may have been sleeping fairly well and then, suddenly, it seems like they can’t sleep more than an hour or two without waking.
It may become more difficult to get your child to sleep in the first place. Even naps can become a temporary struggle.
Is the 4-month sleep regression temporary?
For most people, yes, the 4-month sleep regression, while painful, is temporary.
(Of course, in my household, three of my babies slept pretty well for the first 3.5 months. Then, they hardly slept again for the remainder of the first year. And it all started with the 4-month sleep regression.)
Fortunately, my experience isn’t typical. Most babies move through the 4-month sleep regression period after a few weeks and go back to their typical sleeping habits.
Things to do to ensure this sleep regression is only temporary
It turns out, there are things you can do that increase the chances the 4-month sleep regression is only temporary and not the beginning of a sleepless year.
First, stick to your bedtime routines. If you’ve always done a bath and stories before bedtime, keep doing that. If you’ve always used pacifiers, keep ’em coming.
Second, and most importantly, don’t start anything you don’t want to continue. If you’ve not brought Baby into your room in the past, keep them in their crib. If you’ve not nursed your baby to sleep in the past, don’t start now.
While you may view these as temporary crutches to get you through the 4-month sleep regression, your baby will begin to expect them. When the sleep regression is over, you’ll either have to make these changes permanent or go through the process of breaking them, which is a headache you don’t need.
(Of course, this is a bit of a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do for me. We started co-sleeping again during the sleep regression for several of my kids. That’s probably why the regression never ended. You live and you learn!)
Tips for managing your own exhaustion
Sleep where you can, when you can.
Your baby may be a little overtired from poor sleep at night, but you? You’ll be downright exhausted. If this is your first baby and you’re not at work, definitely do your best to nap when baby naps.
If that means your house turns into an unkempt mess, so be it. This is survival mode!
Things are a lot tougher if you have multiple children. To whatever extent possible, try to get all the kids napping at the same time. If any kids have aged out of napping, make them have quiet time in their rooms so you can try to rest.
Even if you can’t sleep, lying down in peace can at least be somewhat restorative.
If you’re working, well, that’s probably the toughest thing about dealing with sleep regressions at any age. I know with one of my sons, the 4-month sleep regression lined up with my return to work and the exhaustion was absolutely next-level.
Ask for help!
If that’s you, recruit any and all help you can find. Help with household maintenance, meals, child care — accept all of it!
If you have involved family members, this might be a good time to ask them to come visit so they can give you a little relief. If Grandma stays over on Wednesday nights, at least that means you only have to tackle half the workweek on garbage sleep.
Of course, for many parents, there’s no backup you can call. In that case, claim your rest wherever you can. Put off anything nonessential until you’re getting better sleep. Down whatever caffeine is necessary to get through your day.
(Unless you’re breastfeeding — in that case, follow your doctor’s advice for caffeine consumption. Just remember that, in a cruel, cruel twist of fate, caffeine may potentially worsen your baby’s sleep. So unfair!)
Hang in there!
Ultimately, try to find comfort in the fact that this sleepless nightmare will end. The 4-month sleep regression can certainly be tough, but parents are tougher!