4 Month Sleep Regression: How to Stop the Madness!

If baby just won’t sleep anymore, we’ll explain why, plus how long you can expect the 4 month sleep regression to last, and how to get baby on track.

4 Month Sleep Regression How to Stop the Madness baby post by Mama Natura 2560 x1440

You finally got baby to sleep for long stretches at night, then—BAM!—the 4 month sleep regression hits, and you’re right back at square one. Where, oh where, has my sleeper gone?!

What Is the 4 Month Sleep Regression?

The 4 month sleep regression is when a baby’s brain makes a developmental leap and his/her sleep cycles change. Though referred to as the “4 month” sleep regression, it generally happens between 3 and 5 months of age.

When a baby is a newborn, their sleep is disorganized and is not governed by the circadian rhythm. They fall asleep easily, but never enter a true deep sleep, sleeping at odd intervals throughout the day and night.

Around 4 months, their sleep becomes more like an adult’s, with 45 minute sleep cycles governed by the circadian rhythm. Here’s what a typical sleep cycle looks like:

  • 0-10 minutes: Falling lightly asleep
  • 10-20 minutes: Settling into a deeper sleep
  • 20-30 minutes: Heavy sleeping
  • 30-40 minutes: Coming out of a heavy sleep
  • 40-45 minutes: Lightly sleeping and easily awoken

If an adult wakes during those lighter periods of sleep, they generally fall back asleep without even realizing it.

A baby, on the other hand, hasn’t yet learned to fall back asleep. They may wake fully and be fussy or even want to play.

What Causes the 4 Month Sleep Regression?

We’ve established that brain development is the main cause of the 4 month sleep regression, but there are other factors that can affect the severity of the 4 month sleep regression.

1. Other Milestones

“[The 4 month sleep regression] affects children differently depending on temperament and what other milestones it happens to coincide with. There is a lot going on at this time for your baby!” — Katelyn Thompson from Sweet Pea Sleep Solutions

It may be hardly noticeable for a baby with an easy-going temperament who hasn’t started rolling or teething yet. For others—perhaps a sensitive child who is learning to roll or popping a first tooth—it can be a seriously difficult time for all involved. ? Here are some baby milestones that occur around the same time and might interrupt sleep: 

2. Increased Appetite

If your baby is waking excessively through the night, he/she could be hungry. Breast milk digests in about 2 hours, and baby is having insane growth spurts that require extra energy.

And, interestingly, lactation follows the circadian rhythm. Prolactin production increases after the sun goes down, meaning you make more milk during the night. (Why oh why?!) Babies wake up to nurse because they know it’s there waiting for them, like ice cream in the freezer for a midnight snack (source). What’s even more fascinating is that nighttime breast milk is fattier, more filling, and contains extra melatonin—the hormone needed to fall asleep.

3. Need for Physical Affection

Then there’s their need for physical affection (which is a real, biological need!). At this age, baby still hasn’t been outside the womb longer than he or she was in the womb. Maybe baby is awake because she needs to reconnect with mama? If mom works away from home, baby will play catch-up breastfeeding during the nightly hours.

In fact, research shows that many babies nurse most frequently between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. (especially in the early weeks and months)—they can take in as much as 20% of their total daily caloric needs at night. 

4. Unfavorable Sleep Environment

Sleeping areas that are too bright, too loud or quiet, or too warm or cold will prevent baby from getting comfortable. Think about your own sleep needs—you probably prefer a temperate, dark space. Then consider that baby is still adjusting to the bright, loud, cold world. It only makes sense that they’d be very sensitive to their environments. A 4-month-old may need exterior sleep aids like blackout curtains, white noise makers, and a sleep sack.

5. Lack of Daytime Stimulation

A 4-month-old’s brain is on overdrive, observing the world around them. Challenging that growing brain with reading, age-appropriate toys, sensory play, and other stimulating activities can help tire baby out. Just like if we stay indoors and sit on the couch all day, sleep may not be as appealing or deep if baby hasn’t had enough activity. (We discuss ideas for daytime stimulation below.)

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How Long Does Sleep Regression Last For?

Not forever! ? Experts say the 4 month sleep regression phase generally disrupts naps and night sleeps for 2-6 weeks.

“Don’t think you’ve done anything wrong or that there is something wrong with your baby. This is a typical developmental milestone, and you often have little control over how much it will affect your little one. Know that ‘this too shall pass,’ but in the meantime, definitely work on good sleep habits and keeping your child from becoming too overtired during this phase.”  — Katelyn Thompson from Sweet Pea Sleep Solutions

What to Do When Your Baby Won’t Sleep

This 4 month sleep regression time is hard, especially since it often comes just as your baby was getting into a good sleeping groove! Some mamas also go back to work right around this time. Having that new schedule turned upside down in an instant is brutal!

It’s not a result of anything you’ve done and there’s nothing wrong with your baby—the 4 month sleep regression is totally normal. 

This too shall pass, and in the meantime, use these day and nighttime strategies to work on good sleep habits:

During the day…

  1. Catch some rays. Good sleep starts first thing in the morning. Exposure baby to natural daylight to help calibrate his day-night cycle. As the sunlight reaches the iris, it actually sets the circadian rhythm for the day and can support a good sleep at night.
  2. Get fresh air. The great outdoors is full of sounds, sights, smells and experiences that are rich food for baby’s brain. And if you need more convincing, one study suggests babies who spend more time outdoors in the afternoon sleep better. You can even experiment with an afternoon nap outdoors in stroller, a popular Scandinavian practice. Of course, be sure baby is properly dressed and kept warm.
  3. Stimulate their brains. These are the wonder weeks, so stimulate that growing little brain, which may wipe them out by bedtime. Try:
    • Talk to baby; imitate her; smile and look into her eyes. If you need to get chores done, babywear her. All of this connection stimulates baby’s brain.
    • Avoid screen time of any form for your small baby. It’s been associated with reduced sleep in babies, plus it’s not good for their developing brains!

In the evening…

  1. Introduce a bedtime routine.  At this age, baby is improving his or her memory and pattern recognition. Introducing a gentle routine and working on independent sleep associations is a good idea. An infant bedtime ritual might include:
    • Dimming lights (artificial light and blue light hinders melatonin)
    • Giving a warm bath (maybe with Epsom salts if doctor approves)
    • Massaging baby’s scalp, arms, legs and feet with coconut or olive oil
    • Speaking quietly to baby while changing their diaper and putting on cozy PJs
    • Playing soft music or singing a lullaby
    • Reading a story or saying a bedtime prayer
    • Giving kisses and snuggling
    • Final nursing session or bedtime bottle: “filling up the tank” or “topping off baby” right before bedtime is important for lengthening the time baby sleeps.
    • Finally, the proverbial, “Lay baby down drowsy, but not asleep.” This allows baby to self-settle enough that when he or she wakes again between cycles, they may be able to self-soothe as a matter of routine.
  2. Promote a peaceful sleeping environment. At 4 months, most babies can roll over, so swaddling is no longer appropriate. Instead, try:
    • blackout curtains
    • a white noise machine
    • an age-appropriate sleep sack
    • Safely diffusing 1-2 drops of lavender or chamomile essential oils. These oils have relaxation properties and help calm baby.
  3. Pause. When baby wakes in the night, give her a moment to self-settle before picking her up. She may surprise you by transitioning to the next sleep cycle on her own.
  4. Shhh! If you need to change a diaper or feed in the middle of the night (and you probably will), don’t play with baby or do a lot of talking. This stimulates the baby’s brain to an even more wakeful state. During the night, business is business and it’s good baby knows that.
  5. Dream feed. Before you go to bed, you could try gently “waking” baby to feed and putting baby right back down to sleep. In one small study, this did help baby sleep longer durations at night.
  6. Ride the wave. The relaxed approach is perfectly acceptable. If nursing-on-demand is how you do parenting, there is really no reason to change anything. If you’re a cosleeping parent, the sidelay breastfeeding position is a secret weapon to soothe baby back to sleep while safely getting a few Zzz’s yourself.

My Baby Still Won’t Sleep!

“For some babies, the [4 month sleep regression] coupled with very dependent sleep habits and an unpredictable schedule can cause an overtired cycle that can last far beyond the regression.”  — Katelyn Thompson

You may want to try a sleep consultation. Speaking to a pediatric sleep consultant that understands your style of parenting is invaluable. They can help you tweak your baby’s sleep association, offer product suggestions, and coach you through the tough times. Many offer Skype sessions. Find one here

If you’ve tried everything (including giving it some time), you should visit your pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical condition.

How About You?

Did you experience the 4 month sleep regression? What strategies did you use to combat the exhaustion? How did you manage to get baby on a schedule that works for your family?

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a doula and childbirth educator. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 135,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.


  1. “Put your baby down drowsy but awake”. 😑 This advice always puts me in a blind rage.

    • This! Its so refreshing to read an article that doesn’t make me feel like a terrible mom for not doing awake but drowsy. But, my baby just will not have it. Its like he knows when I’m even considering it.

  2. THANK YOU. This article came at the perfect time. First time momma here, baby boy just turned 5 months old. These past few weeks have been REALLY hard with his sleep. I felt like I did something wrong and I was confused. I was encouraged to read that I did a lot of what you mentioned and suggested. He’s getting back into rhythm. So thankful for Moma Natural <3

  3. My 5month old has suddenly started waking every 90mins over night and more cranky and irritable during the day, putting things in her mouth, chewing everything. I think we are going through a leap/ late 4month regression and maybe early teething ? SOS!!!

  4. Thanks so so much for the detailed explanation. I was going insane. Love to you ❤

  5. My little one is 4months and 12days he’s sprouted two bottom teeth 3weeks ago and last week’s he had his second jabs. This week his routine have just gone completely off the norm. He has had a bedtime routine nearly every single day from day 5, that’s bath, massage,swaddle (eventually badly as he’s strong to unwrap and fuss loudly) feed to sleep.

    Now he seems to have his deep sleep in the morning when I’ve woken him at his usual time7:30 he just wants to sleep 1hr later.. or not sleep at all gen sleep for 3hrs at 11:00 am sometimes 4 hrs if i wake he always wants to have either short bursts or a long slog. He never had a 6pm nap but now he really craves it. We’ve shifted bed time coz of this sometimes he does and sometimes he won’t sleep till 10:30pm and so what happens in the night happens in the day. My laddy has had intense teething and really ensures the pain and he even tried to not bite on my nipple. Even tho ive had a good grasp these past 3weeks or so have been a case of free flowing ..but my sleep dep will occur ever 3 days and I feel scrambled.. help me make sense if this anyone!!!? Thank you

    • Thanks so so much for the detailed explanation. I was going insane. Love to you ❤

  6. Thank you so much for this! My 3 months old baby wakes up around 00:00 to 01:00 and he just gets all fussy as soon as I put him down he’s up again, and it is so exhausting for me because I wake up exhausted in the mornings, I might have been slipping back from stimulating him during the day, will definitely go back into it.

  7. My amazing daughter is 3 months and 3 weeks, she sleeps quite well through the night, just wakes up once. Lucky me ?
    But, my question has to do with daytime sleeping. Can sleep regression happen to daytime sleeping? As in, that the baby doesn’t sleep through out the day and obviously gets super tired and still doesn’t fall asleep?
    If yes, what can I do to support her to fall asking and nap?
    Thank you ?

    • Hi Sancha, my experience with the regression so far is also mainly with daytime sleeping. My baby is 15 weeks and has simply stopped taking daytime naps. That is, he’ll doze off while nursing in my arms, but as soon as I try to put him down anywhere else (his crib, the floor, his playmat, literally anywhere that isn’t in my arms), he immediately wakes up and throws a fit about it. He won’t even nap in the carrier anymore. Just a couple weeks ago, he was napping every 2-3 hours for 30-40 solid minutes every day, very reliably, anywhere that I put him. So that’s over now, I guess! All to say, yes to your question and I’m so sorry as I have not yet figured out anything that helps lol. Best of luck to us both!

      • So this is happening to my little boy and I’ve started using the carrier more often and he just passes out on his own and stays down longer – on the days he won’t let me put him down. I assume those are the days he just needs extra cuddling. The carrier allows me to give him that and still play with my 1 year old daughter and get things done around the house. ???

  8. My 4 month old is waking up twice in the night for a quick snack then back to bed. But putting her to bed has been a problem lately like she won’t go to sleep she fights sleep thinking she’ll miss something so she’ll start crying for no reason. Maybe she’s teething?

  9. my daughter just turned 5 months and she’s going through the regression now. It’s been rough especially since dad recently had shoulder surgery and can’t hold her at the moment. So night times are all on me. 🙁 I’m breastfeeding and I’m constantly battling with myself on weather to pump or to stay full for when she wakes in the night. Then again I don’t want to slow the production down but I’d always rather nurse than pump. Any advise?

    • I would pump half as much as you normally would. That way you always have some in you. And in my experience my baby likes to nurse at night mostly for the connection and not so much for the food. So as long as you have a little left then you should be good. I usually put baby to bed at 8 and then pump at 10 before I go to bed and we cosleep so me going to bed wakes him sometimes but he just needs the nipple in his mouth to fall back asleep

  10. This article was so helpful. My little boy is quite active and 4 days ago it was like a flip was switched and he went from sleeping excellently through the night to waking up constantly to be nursed and soothed back to sleep. He just turned 3 months old today and I wasn’t aware that the 4 month sleep regression could start so early! Im gonna try some of these tips tonight.

    • Im having the same struggle wuth my newly 3 month old. The switch happened but this article helps so much.

  11. My 4.5 month old wakes himself when he rolls from side to side, every couple of hours. Any advice specifically on this? Mama is so sleepy!

    • Hi Erika- I honestly don’t have any advice, just here to commiserate! ? my LO is 3.5 months and just started rolling from back to tummy. I think he is also teething. When we lay him.down even if he’s asleep he’ll automatically start rolling! It seems almost like a reflex… then he starts grunting and wakes himself up. Happens every 1-2 hrs and even after I’ve nursed him back to sleep. I feel so lost as to how to help him! ? and so sleep deprived. I tried a sleep sack, no change. Good luck mama!

      • Hi, I’m going through the exact same thing right now: rolling, grunting, waking up constantly after being a perfect night sleeper for 3 months.
        Did you LO’s sleep get better eventually? Any advice? Thank you!

  12. Hi there,
    Thanks for this article! I’m just wondering if the 4 month sleep regression is the same as leap 4? I can’t find any material that answers this question.

    Thank you

    • It is the same thing.

  13. I’ve seen you mention previously that drinking tart cherry juice for EBF moms may help. Is there a recommended time of day to be drinking it to help capitalize on night sleep during the 4-month regression? Or a recommended amount?

    • I didn’t read it in direct relation to this, but tart Cherry juice 1-2 oz around 4pm and same about 8 pm.

  14. This was so helpful first just by finding out that sleep regression in 4 month olds in common.
    I am going to try the suggestions and will be glad to report the results. Thank you.

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