Baby's Sleep Schedule at 4 Months
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The 4-month sleep regression
If you’re a new parent, you’ve probably heard of the dreaded 4-month sleep regression. It’s the time where your baby goes to sleep easily pretty much anywhere to an overtired, cranky baby who just. won’t. sleep.
The reason for this change is simple: babies are born without a circadian rhythm, which is the internal clock that governs our sleep and wake times. In some ways, this is great for new parents: for the most part, when the baby needs sleep, she’ll get it (despite loud noises or bright light). In other ways, it’s quite challenging because the baby’s inability to differentiate between night and day means she may think that 3am = party time.
At four months, your baby now needs a schedule that corresponds with his biological sleep times and respects his need for sleep at regular intervals.
By four months (or more if your baby was born prematurely), the baby’s circadian rhythm has developed more fully. He now needs a schedule that corresponds with his biological sleep times and respects his need for sleep at regular intervals. And just like you probably couldn’t nap in a loud restaurant or in a bright room, your baby will also have trouble doing so. He’ll do better in a quiet, dark sleep environment. (If you don’t already have one, now is the time to invest in a white noise machine. I love the Dohm sound machines, either in the full-size or travel versions).
Setting an age-appropriate sleep schedule
Babies at this age can’t tolerate long awake times and, if they aren’t put down before they become overtired, can easily become riled up and difficult to soothe to sleep. Therefore, I recommend 90-120 minute awake periods during the day. Note that this schedule assumes that the baby is up for the day by 7am and that the last nap ends by 5pm to protect nighttime sleep.
Here’s a sample sleep schedule for a 4-month old with whom I recently worked:
8:30-10am: First nap
11:30am-1pm: Second nap
3-4pm: Third nap
*All times are when the baby should be placed in the crib/bassinet; the sleep routine should be finished by that point.
**Babies who take shorter naps/wake earlier in the morning may temporarily need 4 naps per day to get to a reasonable bedtime, but still ensure they’re up by 5pm to protect nighttime sleep.
A consistent sleep schedule can restore sanity to the parents’ lives and ensure that their baby is well-rested.
A consistent sleep schedule can help to avoid a full-blown 4-month sleep regression. It can also help to restore sanity to the parents’ lives, enabling them to feel more in control of their daily schedule. If your baby has been going to bed later at night, it can be an adjustment to move his bedtime earlier, but trust me–it’s the best for everyone involved. The baby will be able to take advantage of the deeply restorative nighttime sleep that he needs and you’ll be able to have a few baby-free hours before bedtime.
Once your baby is well-rested and napping at regular intervals, aim to move the first nap consistently to 8:30am/9am.
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