You are four months in with your new baby, you are now adjusting to parenthood and your baby may be in a lovely routine. Yay you have this parenting thing down!
But then the four month regression hits and you notice big changes with your baby’s behaviour, feed and sleep patterns. Baby may now be:
Taking less interest in their feeds particularly during the day
Needs more feeds during the night
Is frequently unsettled and is needing lots more cuddles and support
May be more difficult to settle for their naps and at bedtime
May be waking in the night more frequently at night and difficult to settle back to sleep
If this sounds like your baby then welcome to the four month regression, though I promise you these changes are perfectly normal. You may be wandering why your once settled baby is now inconsolable or why your once hungry baby is not feeding so much. You may be blaming yourself, thinking you have done something wrong yourself. You may have heard about the dreaded four month regression and are full of anxiety about it. Please let me reassure you this stage is perfectly normal and of course you have not broken your baby.
So what is the four month regression?
The four month regression happens around 3-5 months and again is unique to each baby, like with everything some babies will experience this earlier or later than other babies. Some babies will be affected greatly whilst others sail through it without any fuss.
This change however is a permanent change to your baby’s sleep and therefore should be called a PROGRESSION rather than a regression as their sleep will not go back to how it was due to the different ways they will now be sleeping. I also think progression sounds so much more positive, they are learning and developing so quickly and this change is a positive one though it may not feel like it whilst you are in it.
As a newborn your baby had very different sleep architecture to ours, their sleep would be much deeper non rem state and was fairly simple. They would wake for a feed or comfort and generally they would be fairly easy to settle of course they loved to be held and rocked and close to you. However you may now be finding that no amount of rocking or bouncing will soothe them.
Now your baby has grown they have now developed a second sleep cycle which is very different to what they were used to. They now begin to cycle through a lighter sleep better known as REM. Now your little one will no longer go straight into that deep newborn sleep state they now go into the lighter REM sleep first before transitioning into their Non REM deep sleep. Throughout the night now they will transition between the two, this continues to develop and mature up until the age of four when it resembles adult sleep patterns.
Why has my baby’s behaviour changed?
Your baby may need a little more reassurance and comfort during this stage, they may become much more easily overtired than they did previously. This is due to more wakefulness during the night, this change makes them a little insecure and anxious and what they previously associated with sleep is not the same anymore.
They will now be going into a light sleep cycle instead of a deep sleep meaning its much more difficult to settle them as they find it tricky getting into this first stage of sleep. Overtiredness can then creep in meaning that they are in a stress state as their cortisol levels rise
You may be experiencing more frequent wakes and this is due to baby cycling through both light and deep sleep, as we transition during sleep we all wake slightly we however do not notice and go back to sleep. For your baby this is something new and they therefore need your support to help them to link their sleep cycles together.
You may find that your baby is feeding differently, taking more at night than during the day. This is also around the time that they wake up to the world and find it all just so exciting. Sometimes a picture, a light or even your face can be far too exciting and stimulating to feed. For some babies they need the peace and quiet to feed and this is usually at nighttime.
Your baby is also quickly learning new skills which of course they love to practice 24/7 they may have begun to roll which is new for them but it can be an anxious time for you as they begin to roll in their cot. They will be absorbing language and they just love faces, all this means they can get a serious case of fear of missing out.
How we can support our babies through this period
Rest assured that there are things you can do to support your baby through this phase, it usually lasts around 6 weeks
Give your baby lots of reassurance, lots of cuddles, touch, skin to skin, a massage
Talk to your baby and communicate that it is ok
Get plenty of fresh air and natural daylight
Give your baby lots of quality time and opportunities to play and practice their new skills, lots of time on the floor to practice their rolling
Have a calm, relaxed and consistent bedtime routine
Use white noise to distract them
Look at different holds the tiger in the tree hold can be beneficial as it helps baby to not become over stimulated whilst in your loving arms
Try to relax them using still touch, place your hand on their tummy to ground them
Feed in a calm and quiet place
Offer frequent and extra feeds during the day
Establish that first nap of the day, the first nap of the day enables to sync the rest of the days naps.
Watch for baby’s early sleep cues, these are a brief yawn, turning their face away, a glazed expression, going quiet, losing interest in people or their toys.
Put baby down for his first nap around 1 hour to an hour ½ to prevent overtiredness
Now is a great time to introduce some consistent bedtime and naptime rituals
It is normal for babies to take a little while to go to sleep, often sleep onset is around 15 to 20 minutes, some babies need support whilst other babies may just have a little groan before going off to sleep.
When your baby wakes at night, listen to them first, sometimes we can intervene too soon and wake them up more. This can also impact them knitting their sleep cycles together, however do judge this yourself. You know your baby best and will know if your baby is having a groan or needs your support.
Use a few different settling techniques rather than just the one, this can help them with not associating with just one
Also be kind to yourself, this stage can be hard but it won’t be forever and remember your baby is progressing.
Find some self-care for you too, be it a bath, a walk or some breathing and journaling
Ask for help, this stage can be difficult and exhausting for you. Ask partners, family and friends to help where they can
Always remember that this stage is positive and that you are doing an amazing job
Lots of Calm, care and love
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