Surviving 4 Month Sleep Regression

Sleep regression is a bitch. At five and a bit months old, we’ve spent the last month trying to do what we can to not throw our otherwise perfect baby girl out of the bedroom window. But we survived, just. I don’t know how, but we did.

When I sat down to write this post, I thought about all of the different ways that I could try to show the sudden switch in behaviour that four month sleep regression brings about in your little one. After careful consideration and many re-writes, I thought the best way would be to demonstrate it using the genius that is Harry Enfield.

Obviously the context is different, but the message is just the same. Once your sprog hits a certain age, they just change. There is no warning. There is nothing you can do. You just have to deal with it. Have a watch of the video then we’ll pick up from there…

Everything was going well with Baby L in terms of going to sleep when she was approaching four months of age. We’d managed to get into some sort of routine in which she would go to sleep around 7.30pm in her Moses basket downstairs with us after a bit of screaming. The sprog would then often stay asleep until we went to bed around midnight when our clumsy handling and nappy change would wake her from her slumber. She was then fed by the missus’ boob juice, either directly from the boob or by me giving her a bottle, then she’d fall back to sleep quite easily in her Moses basket next to us.

On a good night, she’d wake around 5am for a feed, before going back to sleep and waking again around 8am. An average night would see her wake an additional time in the early hours, so something a bit more like 3am, 6am and 9am. Each time, a short feed would pretty much knock her out until she next chose to open those pretty little eyes of hers.

We were pretty chuffed with this routine. It wasn’t the best thing in the world, but it was manageable. That was until she reached four months old…

Just like Kevin the teenager in the Harry Enfield sketch, her usual sleeping behaviour literally changed overnight. During the same timeframe of 7.30pm to midnight, it became common place for her to wake three or four times – a considerable and annoying increase on her previous behaviour. During the night, she would wake at least every two hours, with every hour not an uncommon occurrence.

We were demoralised. We thought that we’d cracked this parenting malarky, but all of a sudden we were lost again. No matter what we tried – larger feeds, white noise, dark room etc – she would continue to wake after a shorter than usual amount of time. As the missus was breastfeeding, this took a bigger toll on her than it did on me as she was being forced to wake up more frequently during the night. The little angel had become a little shit. It was very cute to see the little one laughing and finding her voice, but not necessarily at 3am!

Baby Awake in Snuzpod four month sleep regression

A pretty common photo of Baby L wide awake at 3am during four month sleep regression!

That was when we discovered that this was totally normal and sleep regression around the four month mark is actually a thing. This helped us to realise we hadn’t turned into failures overnight and it was just something that most babies go through. We were sent an extremely useful article on four month sleep regression written by Wee Bee Dreaming which helped us to understand things a bit more and change what we did to accommodate the little one.

I strongly recommend having a read of the above article, but to summarise, we learnt that sleep regression hits babies around three/four months, nine months, and 18 months, so we have another two of these regressions to look forward to! We also learnt that babies go through a lot changes at four months old which can all contribute to a regression, for instance:

  1. Sleep becomes more like an adult’s. The baby enters a lighter sleep stage of non-REM before the non-REM deep sleep stage meaning they are more likely to wake.
  2. Babies are often unswaddled at this age (because they learn to roll and it is unsafe to keep them swaddled), but they still have the startle reflex which can wake them up.
  3. A babies sleep pattern matures and nightsleep is consolidated, so babies are likely to start waking earlier, i.e. from 7am – 8am to 6am.
  4. Regressions occur around the same time as nap transitions, i.e. when a baby goes from four naps during the day down to three.

We also thought that Baby L was experiencing a growth spurt and had started teething, so throw all of these things into the mix and you end up with an unsettled baby and weary parents! One of the key points we learnt from our research was that a baby’s bedtime should be brought forward in order to help combat some of the changes occurring. To quote from Wee Bee Dreaming:

“It is a very common misconception that putting your baby to bed later will help them to sleep in – it is the exact opposite that is true. Putting your baby to bed later in hopes that they will start to sleep in will only backfire and lead to an overtired baby who will in turn wake up even earlier. This early to bed, early to rise pattern is here to stay and trying to fight it is going against baby’s natural sleep rhythms.”

So, at a wits end, we thought we’d change things around a bit to see if we could improve the situation. Rather than her going to sleep around 7.30pm, we brought forward her bedtime to 6.00pm, as well as started putting her to bed upstairs and away from us for the first time. This was a pretty massive change and pretty scary, but has been much better (note: invest in a baby monitor with camera and sensor pad, it gives you loads of reassurance!). She still wakes up during the evening and early hours, but things seem to have settled down a bit now that she’s reached five months old. Our bedtime routine now consists of:

  • Not allowing the little one to sleep later than 4.30pm – if she sleeps later than this, it could mean she doesn’t go to sleep later.
  • Similarly, we try not to feed her after 4.00pm so that she is ready to fill her stomach before bedtime.
  • Bath around 5.30pm – sometimes we bring it forward depending on how grumpy she is (tiredness or hungry) as a bath usually distracts her.
  • Change her, put her into a sleep bag, prepare a bottle of expressed milk (around 4 oz) and feed her just before 6pm.
  • Put her down in her SnuzPod upstairs and she usually goes to sleep straight away.
  • Depending on her mood, she then sleeps for around three hours before waking for a few minute feed, before going back to sleep.
  • She then wakes two / three times in the night, again for a few minute feed before going back to sleep.
  • She’s normally awake around 7am, but we sneakily put her into the bed with us so we can get another hour or so of sleep.

Her sleep pattern and length of time asleep still isn’t as good as it was before she reached four months, but it is better than it was during the regression. Although, having said that, she’s just had her third set of injections and appears to be teething again, so the past few nights have been a ballache.

Ultimately, I think you’ve just got to take each day as it comes and try not to get down about things. Just because your baby regresses, it doesn’t mean that it is your fault or something that you’ve done wrong. The important point to remember though is that babies will go through regressions and come out the other side, hopefully with a better routine than before they hit the regression.

Did your baby go through four month sleep regression? How did you manage to cope / survive, or didn’t you? Do you have any advice on what you did that went well or what you tried that didn’t work? Please let me know in the comments below!

  • Merlinda Little

    This is what I am always scared of.. I thought that I know parenting then suddenly boom! something will go wrong and I dont know what to do. I really dont know what to say as we co-sleep. So when my son would wake up early in the morning boob out and breastfeed and he will fall back to sleep. Sorry I am not a help at all. #pocolo

    • Basically parenting is just making it up as you go along I think! Haha no worries. We do the same thing around 6am – put her into our bed and give her a feed so we don’t have to get up so early 🙂

  • This happened to us we were al smug thinking we had it sussed then band he stopped sleeping at 5 months and it lasted until he was 5 years old grr, now he is 14 we can wake him up, he will sleep till 1 in the afternoon if we let him.

    • Eeek 5 months to 5 years! Very scary. Haha, very true, I remember those nice teenage years when you could just sleep all the time. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Loving My Ls

    I had a lot of sleep less nights with my youngest, in till I stopped breastfeeding her at 22 months, we still co-sleep but she sleeps all night now 🙂 things do get better slowly x
    https://lovingmyls.wordpress.com/

    • Thanks, good to know! I think it’s just about getting through every day and knowing it will improve at some point! 🙂

  • Great post, sleep regression is so evil, Boo four month sleep regression lasted until she was 12 months! I joke… a little.
    We actually stopped night feeds recently when Boo was just over a year old and after a couple of weeks of no booby juice she stopped waking as often and one night this week she went to bed at her bed time and we heard not a peep until 6.40am!! I almost know what it is to feel human again!

    • Haha – so it should really be called 4 to 12 month regression in your household – hopefully it doesn’t in ours…
      That’s good, sounds like your night booby juice was the issue haha. Sounds like things are going well though which is great. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Mariet Schroder

    Out of my five kids I only have one that is a good sleeper. At least when they get older they start reading books instead of waking me up. I feel your pain.

    • 1 out of 5 isn’t great odds! I’m not prepared to have another 4 in order to find a good sleeper haha. Great that yours have found another way to keep themselves busy 🙂

  • The one thing you can guarantee about children is, the minute you think you’ve got them sussed, they laugh at you and change it all. S is almost 3 and still has me on my toes. Have you read The Wonder Weeks? It’s great for giving you that realisation of “oh, this just happens at this stage…”
    Thanks for linking up with #WeekendBlogHop!

    • That’s what I’m discovering! The only certain things is uncertainty! No, I’ve not read it, I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Victoria Welton

    Kids really do keep you on your toes, don’t they?! That sketch from Harry Enfield is one of my absolute favourites and is so very true! I hope she changes again soon, and improves! Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo 🙂

    • I love that sketch too, used to be a massive fan of Harry Enfield growing up. Thanks, I hope she gets better too. If not, we’ll have to send her back 🙂

  • This may not be what you want to hear… but you get used to the sleep deprivation. I am literally awake until 1 am every night because I’m used to not sleeping. I’ll still be up on work days at 6 am too.
    Breaks in sleep patterns don’t last long. You’ll find she will have a growth spurt soon, will be more active and awake in the day and will sleep for longer spells in the night waking later. Which is what you need.
    Keep going!

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I know it’s just a phase and she’ll get through it, but it is a bit difficult to realise that in the early hours! Wow, 1am to 6am, that’s pretty hardcore. Can I have some of what you’re having! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Tom Briggs

    My younger son is still going through this stage of sleep regression and will be three years old in two months. Nothing works!

    • Haha unlucky. Also takes away any hope I have that things will improve. I’ve heard chloroform can work…

  • Mummy Giggles Blog

    We went through this too. Think we hit one at about 7 months too (sorry to worry you!). However yes we are still alive and he does sleep far better now. #MBPW

    • Haha that’s fine – I’m pretty much certain that when she gets over this regression, she’ll soon be into the next one! Great to know that you’re still functioning and things get better 🙂

  • martyn

    Think we have all gone through this at some point. It is so difficult when you are in the moment. Survival is exactly what it is…you will survive in a sleep deprived way. But you will come through it.

    • Thanks Martyn – that sums it up pretty well! The main thing is that there is an end in sight, it is just a long way away 🙂

  • Newcastle Family Life

    We have just been through this with baby Jacob too he was waking every two hours and i was so tired. Thankfully it has passed and his sleep routine sounds similar to baby l and he goes sleep upstairs at 7 and then wakes 2-3 times during the night and is wide awake for 7 xx

    • Hard work, isn’t it?! Great that you’re through it. Sounds like Jacob is sleeping a bit longer than ours, so well done on whatever you’ve done. Babies, eh, who’d have them!

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  • Matthew Kessing

    America checking in: 4-month regressions are evidently a thing here as well. This past week, we went from a luxurious 5-hour stretch at the beginning of the night to waking every hour. I take solace in our shared misery and the hope that, one day, I will again have 3 hours of unbroken sleep.

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  • Lea

    Waiting for that light at the end of the tunnel! We’ve been sleep training for nights so it’s been better in that sense but babe has decided to wake up at 5 ever morning..naps have been a “do whatever it takes” kinda deal and sleep is worth more than my weight in gold! Hoping to get through this Alive ha!

  • JB the Mama Wolfie

    This blog cheered my dragging spirits, thank you! I was wondering what on earth happened to my little dude literally overnight as you noted. He was really starting to freak me out!! I’m so glad this too shall pass, but most of all that this sleep regression is a normal growth event. Terrible…but normal. I’m glad you gave me the heads up as well about the 9 month and 18 month excitement ahead.

    All I’m doing is sleeping when I can and feeding him (he is ravenous) often. Keeping him right next to me helps too since I feel like a total zombie again and like he is suddenly a newborn again.

  • Naomi Beth-Anna Hassan

    I was lucky we never had to go through that… and we’re praying no.2 due in December will be good too! Atleast I know where to come if we have problems!