I was tricked into having my two daughters after the first one was born. But don’t worry- I learned my lesson and we stopped at three. Mostly because that 4-month sleep regression just about killed me.

If you haven’t heard about the 4-month sleep regression that probably means you don’t have children yet. Or maybe you are about to have a baby. Or you are reading this in the middle of the night rocking your 4 to 6 month old back to sleep for the 18th time browsing Dr. Google trying to figure out why your sweet little baby all of a sudden turned into a sleep-hating monster.

Welcome, my red, puffy-eyed friends, to the 4-month sleep regression.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the 4-month sleep regression is one of the biggest reasons we don’t have more children. It just about nearly killed me each and every time. The sleep deprivation was real for months 4 until my girls were about 9 to 10 months old each. I was often up for 2 hours at a time several times a night. I was a zombie during the day and I hit peak emotional sleep deprivation every single night. It was truly awful and it is honestly the reason I told my husband I couldn’t have more babies.

You see, all of my children came out of the womb sleeping mostly through the night. All of them would nurse every 2 to 4 hours for the first 6 weeks or so, and then they all started sleeping through the night. But then, with every single child, they would hit that 4-month sleep regression and everything would go downhill. Fast.

With my first daughter, I didn’t even know sleep regressions were a thing. I kept trying to figure out why she wasn’t sleeping anymore. Was she sick? Did she need to stop being swaddled? Did she need to be swaddled tighter? Were her naps changing? Was she not eating enough? Did I need to start solids?

The number of questions I asked myself every day about this child’s reasoning for lack of sleep is beyond comprehension.

And the amount of money I spent trying to throw gadgets at the problem? More than I care to admit.

My husband was deployed, which, at first glance, sounds like it was harder to deal with by myself. But it was actually easier. I didn’t have any other kids and he was gone so if the house was messy or I didn’t shower or I ate Cocoa Puffs for dinner, it didn’t matter. I was in survival mode and it was manageable.

Then baby number 2 came. Again, she slept great until about 4-months-old. By this point, I knew about the regression phases (by the way, there are regressions at 9 months and a year old, too. Yay!). But for some reason, I didn’t think it would happen to her. I thought she would be one of those magic babies that just slept through the night early on.

I was wrong.

For one, she got her first little tooth right at 4 months old. So a sleep regression and teething? I was basically being tortured through sleep deprivation.

My third daughter came a whopping 14 months after my second, so I really just rolled right into another round of sleep deprivation. To say I barely remember those days is an understatement.

I may not remember the actual day-to-day life but I do remember the feelings I had.

Anger. Resentment. Rage. Exhaustion. Jealously.

All signs of postpartum depression. Couple that with sleep deprivation and I was basically the Hulk.

Now I don’t write all this to scare you. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. So if you know that the 4-month sleep regression is coming, or you can identify that that is what you are experiencing, then it might just be a little bit easier for you to deal with.

What happens during a 4-month sleep regression?

Sleep regressions often happen because a child is learning new and wonderful things. They are developing new and exciting skills, and their little brains are so active from all this learning that sleep seems like a boring thing to do.

You may be experiencing a sleep regression (which not only happens at 4 months but oftentimes around 9 months and 12 months old as well), if your child was previously sleeping well throughout the night and now they are suddenly not sleeping. Other signs include:

  • fussiness
  • multiple night wakings
  • less or very short naps
  • changes in appetite

The 4-month sleep regression occurs because your baby is becoming more engaged with the world around them. Their eyesight is getting better so they can see things easier. They are started to recognize sounds more easily. They may be rolling over and their hand-eye coordination is getting better making playtime more fun.

So although it is exhausting for you, take it as a sign that your baby is progressing normally and their are developing well.

There is no doubt that a 4-month sleep regression is extremely hard. You aren’t sleeping which means you are not only feeling exhausted but probably also irritated and overwhelmed. It is important that if you recognize these feelings starting to bubble over that you ask for help whether that be help from a partner during the night wakings or during the day by hiring help or asking a friend or family member to step in for different chores.

One of the best ways you can help your baby during the 4-month sleep regression is to introduce consistent sleep habits. Here are some ways you can help your baby recognize that it is time to sleep:

  • Keep the room dark during naps and bedtime
  • Keep the room quiet during naps and bedtime
  • Don’t turn on the lights when your baby wakes at night
  • Limit engagement your baby if they wake at night- feed them, rock them, then put them back to sleep
  • Have a consistent bedtime routine
  • Have a consistent nap time routine
  • Make sure your baby has ample time to practice their new skills during the day

You also need to make sure you take care of yourself. If you are the primary caregiver, keep in mind that the 4-month sleep regression won’t last forever. Give yourself some grace and understanding during this time. You’re in survival mode, mama! Do things like:

  • Actually sleep when the baby sleeps- This might only work if you have one child or if you happen to be a nap queen and are able to get all of your children to sleep at the same time. But if you can, sleep when the baby sleeps.
  • Let the house get messy- I know, mess can cause anxiety. But if you are always trying to keep your house perfect, then let some of it go. Don’t get stuck on crossing everything off your to-do list and some days, just close the doors and walk away from the mess
  • Hire someone to help- If you can afford it, hire out some help. This may mean hiring a cleaning lady or even the pre-teen girl next door to come be a “mother’s helper” a few times a week.
  • Order out- Don’t be a slave to your kitchen. Order out or use a meal delivery service like Hello Fresh for your dinners
  • Grocery pickup- Honestly, this is the greatest invention of the 21st century. Order your groceries online and pick them up or have them delivered to your house. Checking that task off your list is an amazing help.
  • Understand that this is survival mode- Will you look your best? Probably not. Will you shower every day? Nope. Will you drink entirely too much coffee? Yes. You are in survival mode. AND THAT’S OK.
  • Do something every day that makes you happy- Maybe it's showering in peace. Maybe it's having a glass of wine at dinner. Maybe it's a 30-minute workout. Do one thing every day that is just for you. Ask your partner to make sure you get this time for you, especially if you are the primary caregiver at night too.

The good news? It doesn’t last forever.

The other sleep regressions are not as bad as the 4-month sleep regression, mainly because your child is a little older and is more than likely able to put themselves back to sleep or need less assistance in getting back to sleep. If you are reading this article in the middle of the night, holding your little one and maybe even crying a little yourself out of pure exhaustion, just know that every day is one day closer to you getting back to regular sleep. It sucks, its hard, and its downright torturous. But you will get through it, mama. I promise you that.