How Long Does the 4 Month Sleep Regression Last? And, How to Shorten.


The 4-month sleep regression is an exhausting time in a family’s life. Your baby might be waking every 1-2 hours all night and taking short naps. And, if your baby is going through this, you’re probably asking yourself how long the 4-month sleep regression lasts. Based on my 10+ years as a sleep consultant, it doesn’t have to be as long as you think. In this blog post, I’ll share tips to get through the 4-month sleep regression.

What Is the 4-Month Sleep Regression?

The 4-month sleep regression marks the time when your baby stops sleeping like a newborn and starts sleeping more like an adult. Newborns spend a lot of time in deep sleep which is why they can sleep through so much in those early days. Once they go through this period of development, they change their sleep cycles which means they are sometimes only in light sleep and will wake more easily. So, the 4-month sleep regression is only the name we give this period of development. Do all babies go through the 4-month sleep regression? Yes, all babies go through this change and there isn’t a way to stop it. It’s actually a good sign your baby is developing appropriately!

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Signs

The most common signs of the 4-month sleep regression usually include one or more of the following:

  • Waking a lot at night (even when they used to sleep in long stretches) – waking every 1-2 hours at night is common.
  • Taking short naps of 20-30 minutes, sometimes 45 minutes.
  • Can’t be put down awake (or even asleep sometimes!) Baby wants to sleep only in your arms or a carrier/sling.
  • Irritability and Fussiness (though that can be simply due to sleep deprivation!)
  • Needing to be put back to sleep the same way each time (e.g. rocking or feeding back to sleep).

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How Long Does 4 Month Sleep Regression Last?

The 4-month sleep regression starts around 3 to 4 months old and lasts around 3-4 weeks at its peak. But since it’s a permanent change to how your baby sleeps, it doesn’t ever “end” in a traditional sense. Some babies will begin (or go back) sleeping fine again. But, others will continue to wake up frequently at night and take short naps. Over the past 10+ years, I’ve gotten phone calls or e-mails from parents of 4-month olds, 6-month olds, 10-month olds, 12-month olds, or 18-month olds with virtually the same exact sleep problems: frequent night-waking and/or short naps.

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How to Shorten This Regression

The only way to “end” the sleep problems this regression causes is to help your baby sleep better with their new sleep cycles. If you don’t want this regression to last months when it can last just a few weeks, you need to help your baby learn to put sleep cycles together.

Linking sleep cycles sounds simple enough when you’re an adult but for babies, it can be difficult. The most common reasons babies struggle moving into the next sleep cycle is due to hunger and sleep associations. A sleep association is a way in which your baby falls asleep. Because this is how they fall asleep, this is how they expect to fall BACK to sleep. Examples of sleep associations include rocking, feeding, bouncing, sucking on a pacifier, and driving in a car.

So, the key to shortening the 4-month sleep regression is simply to have your baby fall asleep the same way they will need to put themselves back to sleep. We typically do this by teaching babies to self-soothe with gentle sleep training. There are many methods to do sleep training or sleep coaching. The key is to find the one that works best for your baby’s temperament and personality. Please poke around and read through our many blog posts about this topic and more!

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