4 Month Old Sleep Schedule
If you have a baby, odds are good you’re short on sleep. First a newborn who needs to eat so frequently around the clock, and eventually, a four month old going through an infant sleep regression. You’ll be happy to hear there are a few things you can do to establish a 4 month old sleep schedule that will go a long way toward helping your whole family sleep better.
(Because if baby is sleeping better, parents are sleeping better, too.)
Audrey Marshall is a coffee-loving mother of two who resides in Utah. She currently blogs at Mommy Enlightened while attending school full-time and taking care of her family. In her free time she likes knitting and spending time with her two daughters, six animals, and one husband.
Audrey shares her experiences dealing with an infant sleep regression, and outlines how to establish a four month old sleep schedule to help both your baby and you through it.
The Four Month Infant Sleep Regression
First off, if you are going through this right now, know that I’ve been there and it’s HARD! It’s especially tricky if your baby previously was a fantastic sleeper who slept through the night without any issue.
My first baby was easy-peasy (although as a toddler she is quite the diva) and so I didn’t really understand the four month sleep regression problems that everyone referred to. I remember our first baby’s pediatrician warning us about it at our two month appointment, but we didn’t give it another thought because it wasn’t ever an issue for us.
Cue Moppet, our second little love. She’s always been incredibly sweet.
As a young baby, she was rarely fussy and spent most of her time smiling at anyone who would glance her way. She started sleeping for 10-12 hours at night when she was two months old, and it appeared to us that we had gotten lucky with another easy baby.
Fast-forward a couple of months, when at night my adorable little munchkin was wailing at the top of her lungs every couple of hours.
It started with her waking up once or twice a night, but it morphed into something else. We would spend hours trying to get her to sleep, and once she was there, she was usually up again within a couple of hours.
My poor baby was miserable, and so were we. I decided it was worth looking deeper into the whole infant sleep regression thing since I was pretty sure my current state of exhaustion was going to cause me to set the house on fire while cooking breakfast.
Deep and Active Sleep
Your baby will go through a multitude of sleep regressions. The four month sleep regression is unique because it is a permanent change to the way your baby sleeps, although I promise the struggle will not last forever. Eventually you’ll be changing tactics and looking for a great morning routine and tips to diffuse toddler temper tantrums.
Before four months, your sweet baby was either going through active or deep sleep.
At four months, your baby begins to go through regular sleep cycles; similar to an adult sleep cycle. Because of this, once their body moves out of deep sleep and into light sleep, they wake up. They don’t know how to get back to sleep which is part of the struggle.
Although this sleep regression is painful, you should take solace in the fact that it’s normal, and actually a sign that your baby is on the right track developmentally.
Your baby’s brain is maturing, which means they need less sleep than before. The typical baby usually becomes more mobile and starts to roll right around this time, which puts rest on the backburner in your baby’s eyes because they want to explore their new ability.
Be aware that once your baby starts to roll, use of a swaddle is no longer safe. Something like The Royal Baby SleepSuit is a good alternative if you can’t use a swaddle and you don’t feel your baby is ready for a sleep sack. The Royal Baby SleepSuit can help muffle the startle reflex, and it helps your baby still feel cozy and secure the same way a swaddle will.
It Won’t Last Forever
It feels like it lasts forever, especially in the moment. Unfortunately, how long the sleep regression lasts is that it really depends on the baby.
Again, this is a permanent sleep change that your baby is going through, and it can be a long transition for some.
There are some things you can do to help make the process more smooth, but keep in mind that you may have a trial and error period before figuring out what works for your baby.
Setting Up A Successful 4 Month Old Sleep Schedule
Here are some tips to help you set up a successful 4 month old sleep schedule to make it through the infant sleep regression period.
1. Sleep Routine
If you don’t already have an established bedtime routine, this is the time to start.
A bedtime routine can help signal your baby’s body that it is almost time for sleep. Become less animated, move slower, and dim the lights.
For my family, we do pajamas, bedtime stories, and a couple of nursery rhymes. Make sure you do something that’s manageable, and something you can do everywhere. Initially, we tried to make bath time part of our routine. Not only did we not have time for baths every night, but we also spend a couple of nights a month away from home where a bathtub was not readily available.
2. Let Them Fuss – But Just a Little
At the beginning of Moppet’s four-month infant sleep regression, I rushed in every time she made a noise, and she always woke up. I ended up having to do the entire bedtime routine again, and she and I both got less sleep because of it.
A week into this, there was a night when she started grumbling, and I let her be for a minute. She wasn’t full-on crying mind you, but I still had a hard time letting her complain.
Within a couple of minutes, she had quieted down again. When I checked on her with my video baby monitor, she was asleep.
Imagine my relief!
It turns out, at four months the beginnings of your baby’s ability to self-sooth may start to develop. If you rush in every single time your baby squeaks, you are not giving them a chance to find their mouth with their thumb again, or roll themselves over if they are uncomfortable.
I highly recommend picking up a video camera if you can spare the extra cash. It is really handy to be able to check on your baby without risking waking them up. It will continue to be useful through the toddler years, as you can keep an eye on them when they are let loose into a toddler bed.
I do want to say, if your baby is crying and doesn’t seem to be slowing down, you can undoubtedly intercede. I never let my baby cry for longer than a couple of minutes, and this is what worked for my family. This is also the age where you can begin sleep training, but we never ended up needing to use that method.
3. Put Them In Their Own Room
This advice could be a little controversial.
According to the most recent safe sleep recommendations from 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that your baby stays in your room for at least the first six months of life, and ideally for one full year in order to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by up to 50%. I’ve written a post about the safe sleep guidelines from the AAP that might interest you.
The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published a study in 2002 indicating that infants who sleep in their own room self-sooth earlier than those who share a room with parents.
Our pediatrician recommended moving our baby into her own room at four months to help the entire family get some sleep.
You need to weigh the benefits and risks of the options.
If your entire family is walking around like the dead because the baby isn’t sleeping, something needs to change. Sometimes your baby needs to be completely undisturbed to have a good night’s sleep (another good reason to pick up a video monitor).
4. Put Them To Bed Earlier
Have you considered you may be keeping your littles up too late?
Ideally, a four month old sleep schedule should be from 7pm to 7am. A little bit of wiggle room is okay, but your baby’s body is going to try to rise early naturally.
To make things more complicated, this is also the age when your baby is going to go from having four to three naps a day. Because of this, you need to make sure that the last nap doesn’t go past 4:30 or 5pm. If your little one naps much later than this, you will struggle to get them to bed even though you will still have a bright and sunny baby at seven in the morning.
Despite what would make sense, your baby will not necessarily sleep later if you put them to bed later.
5. Put Baby To Sleep Sleepy, But Not Asleep
Many sleep experts say that putting your baby down while they are still awake is one of the best things you can do to help your baby learn to self-soothe. I know this can be easier said than done.
The problem is, if you get your baby to sleep by rocking or with a bottle, they will create a sleep association with this routine that will be tough to change later on.
Personally, our second daughter was one of these. We ended up buying her a nighttime projector, and it worked wonders. We were able to turn it on, put her down, and she eventually figured out how to self-soothe and get to sleep.
Keep in mind, sometimes you will need to make concessions. If your little one isn’t feeling good, or you are entirely drained, then rock your baby! Just try to avoid making it a habit.
6. Use White Noise
Sleep associations can be a very good or a very bad thing when setting up a 4 month old sleep schedule. White noise is one of the right kinds of sleep associations. Not only will your baby sleep more soundly because they will not be startled by sudden noises, but it’s also an easy sleep association to keep using through childhood if you want.
We have a couple of white noise machines in our house, and I love them for my own sleep as well as for the kids. My two-year-old gets excited to choose which white noise sound she is going to listen to every night.
7. Cribs Are For Sleep
Don’t use your baby’s sleep space as a play space.
We want to create the association that the crib (or whatever you are using) is just for sleep. This is another one of those nifty things you can do to help your baby create a positive sleep association and that will result in being able to implement a successful 4 month old sleep schedule.
8. Avoid Stimulation
Unfortunately, late night diaper changes will work against you and maintaining the 4 month old sleep schedule will be a challenge.
Stimulating your little one will jerk them out of their sleepy state, and so unless you want a four in the morning playtime, I suggest waiting until morning.
If you can’t wait (I never did when my littles pooped in the middle of the night), make sure you keep the lights low and avoid talking to them.
9. Watch For Cues
Watch your baby carefully for signs of sleepiness if you want your 4 month old sleep schedule to work.
There’s a small window of time that is perfect for getting your little one to sleep, and if you miss this, you risk them becoming overtired. An overtired baby is a LOT more difficult to get to sleep.
Your baby doesn’t understand what tired means – all they know is they are utterly miserable. Watch for things like rubbing eyes, yawning, and fluttering eyelids from your baby. My second baby gets a little more irritable when she’s tired, and so it’s very easy to tell when we need to get her to her crib and run.
10. Ask For Help
An infant sleep regression is a really tough thing to deal with as a parent, and you don’t have to do it alone.
Utilize family or friends you trust and ask them to jump in and give you a break. You need to sleep to take care of a new baby, so don’t push yourself too far.
Taking care of yourself can also go a long way toward managing the sleep deprivation when you just can’t get enough sleep. Take a shower while your baby naps, or do a workout with your little one.
Remember, This Too Shall Pass
I get it. It’s really hard in the moment.
With a mixture of the right tools, time, routine, and luck, your baby will learn to sleep through the night.
It will take some time to get through the infant sleep regression, but implementing a 4 month old sleep schedule will help get your baby sleeping soundly sooner, which means you’ll be sleeping soundly sooner, too.
Have you experienced the four month sleep regression yet? Share your experience below in the comments. I’d love to see a pic of your sleeping babe – save an image on Pinterest and comment with your photo so I can admire all those adorable babies. (Check out these tips for taking amazing photos of your kids with your smartphone.)