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Navigating the Dreaded 4-Month Sleep Regression

June 15, 2021

The 4-month sleep regression! You’ve heard whispers about it from your mama friends but thought you’d be the lucky one to avoid it. After all, your baby is different; special. You’re feeling confident because your little one is starting to get a hang of the whole sleep thing—better naps, longer stretches at night and even falling asleep alone in their crib. Then bam! The dreaded four month sleep regression. No one is safe.

What is the 4-month sleep regression?

Just like the name suggests, a regression means a return to a former state, which in this case means a former state of sleeping. Your little one is falling back into old sleep habits that you’d hoped were a distant memory. When we talk about a sleep regression we’re not talking about a fussy night here or there. A true sleep regression can last between two and four weeks and typically happens when your baby is around 4 months old.

But don’t panic—sleep regressions are totally normal, even if they are super frustrating! That’s why we created Dream Lab by Owlet, an online, personalized sleep program designed specifically for babies age 4 to 12 months. The best time to start teaching your baby to embrace sleep is in the midst of a sleep regression, because you're teaching Baby skills they’ll use for the rest of their life. A step-by-step plan from Dream Lab will give you and your baby the tools to reestablish healthy sleep habits and enjoy more restful nights.

What causes the 4-month sleep regression?

As much as it may seem like it, your baby isn’t waking up during the night just to spite you. Disruptions in your baby’s normal sleeping habits are usually due to hitting developmental milestones, like rolling over, sitting up or crawling. A sleep regression can also happen because Baby is starting to notice more things about their environment. In fact, your little one is likely to experience a few more sleep regressions before they turn one because babies learn and grow so much in their first year. They’re just really excited about all that development and want to practice their new skills all the time, even when they should be sleeping.

And because you’re a tired parent (who should also be sleeping!) you may rely on feeding, bouncing, or rocking your little one back to sleep. But unfortunately, these make things worse, since you’re setting an unrealistic expectation for your baby. Think about it: your sweet little baby wakes up and wants to be snuggled until they fall asleep. Once they’re asleep, you put them back in their crib. But when they wake up again they find they aren’t in your loving embrace—they’re alone in their crib! So they get upset, start crying, and the cycle starts all over.

A customized sleep plan from Dream Lab can help you survive and even thrive during the 4-month sleep regression and beyond. Dream Lab helps you teach your baby skills they can use during future periods of difficult sleep, so you both have a solid foundation to go back to when needed.

Babies and sleep cycles

When you first bring your little one home, it seems like all they do is eat, poop, and sleep. A newborn baby needs as much as 18 hours of sleep a day. As babies grow, they need less sleep during the daytime and are able to sleep longer during the night, with fewer night wakings. Between 3 and 4 months a baby transitions from the short, 40-minute sleep cycles common for newborns, into longer cycles of REM, light, and deep sleep that more closely mirror adult sleep cycles. But remember: all that learning and developing can be overwhelming for a little one, and a baby who once slept 6 hour stretches at night may suddenly wake up 3, 4, or even 5 times during the night. As with most things in life, the only constant with a growing baby is change.

How to navigate and survive the 4-month sleep regression

There’s no magic spell to prevent your baby from waking up during the night, but there are things you can do to encourage the best sleep possible.

  • Don’t let Baby get overtired. Babies age 4 to 11 months need between 12 and 15 hours of sleep spread across naps and nighttime sleep. A common mistake parents make during a sleep regression is keeping Baby up more during the day in hopes that they’ll sleep longer and better at night. Don’t forgo nap time! In fact, encourage your baby to nap for longer during the day to ensure they’re well rested and can properly settle down for sleep at bedtime.
  • Keep up your normal bedtime routine. It’s important to send consistent signals that nighttime is for sleeping. To do this, stick to your regular wind down activities: bath, jammies, story, and putting Baby down drowsy but still awake. Encouraging Baby to fall asleep on their own increases the chances that they’ll resettle on their own if they do wake up during the night.
  • Stay calm and carry on. You’re tired, Baby’s tired, everyone is tired. When Baby wakes up at night, it’s tempting to immediately fall back into the old habits of bouncing, feeding, or rocking Baby back to sleep. The best thing you can do is wait and give your baby a chance to self-soothe and settle before you intervene. Try to avoid creating new sleep aids that your baby will rely on to fall back asleep.

For extra support and to help Baby establish lifelong healthy sleep habits, check out Dream Lab. With three proven sleep methods to choose from, you and your baby will experience better sleep in as few as 7 days—guaranteed*.

*Refund must be requested within 15 days of registration