Babies are strange creatures. We love them, of course, but they can be quite a handful to deal with. Thus, sometimes we need a little help.
One of the trickiest things when it comes to babies is knowing when they need sleep and how much of it they need. This problem is only exacerbated when we take into account that a baby’s sleep schedule is often closely linked to their eating schedule, and so it is easy to get lost in all the planning.
Luckily, this guide exists. In it, you will find information when it comes to the optimal 4-month-old sleep schedule and how to fit that into the baby’s life. The reason why this guide focuses specifically on that period is that babies have a very fast rate of growth and change, and their food and sleep needs vary from age to age. The information will be broken down into sections to make it easier to digest.
Before we get to the schedule part, we will go over important things when it comes to the way a four-month-old experiences sleep in the first place. These things are crucial information to properly understanding and maintaining the optimal 4-month-old sleep schedule so that both you and your baby stay happy.
So, without further ado, let us get started.
Pay Attention to the Sleep Hours
A change that you will start noticing with your baby at around four months is that they will already have started differentiating between night and day, meaning that their internal clock has finally started working.
This is good news for you as a parent because it means that you will most likely have to deal with a less hectic sleep schedule. At this point, your baby should be on its way to an established and stable sleep schedule. At four months old, a baby can go eight hours of sleep every night without eating—a noticeable change from earlier.
Consider Moving the Baby
Another thing you have to keep in mind around this time, although not strictly related to the sleep schedule, is that the baby is probably getting too big to be kept in a bassinet. This means that you might have to consider moving it to a crib so that it has more space. There it can sleep comfortably and without interruption.
If you have been practicing cosleeping and you simply find that nobody in the family is getting enough sleep, then it may be time to move the baby to a separate room. It is possible that a parent feels bad for doing this but it is important to keep the big picture in mind. If you are not getting enough sleep then you are less likely to take proper care of your baby anyway, not to mention that there is a heightened risk of depression.
Establish a Routine
Babies are sensitive to chaos, especially in this fragile period of their growth. Therefore you must form some sort of established bedtime. This is especially true after the baby’s internal clock has kicked in.
Many moms talk about the “witching” hour when the baby becomes cranky and difficult to deal with. This is a real occurrence and you can circumnavigate it by getting your child ready for bed half an hour or so earlier than you have noticed it starts getting cranky. This usually occurs in the evenings so watch your baby and do your best to make sure it dozes off before that sort of behavior starts to manifest.
Establish a routine and stick to it. Like adults, babies need a calm and quiet environment in order to fall asleep, so about half an hour before bedtime turn off any loud and stimulating electronics such as the TV and start reading to the baby or perhaps play some relaxing music. A bath and clean diapers are also recommended, as is feeding your child by either breast or bottle.
Do not Underestimate Naps
Naps are very important for babies and at this stage, it is important that they be rather lengthy and at predictable times. Nap training is no piece of cake because babies are prone to get excited and wanting to extend playtime. It, therefore, takes some effort on your part to switch them from active mode to restful. However, if they do not get enough sleep during the day, it can lead to them becoming over-stimulated and over-tired which can make it difficult for them to fall asleep at night.
Typically your four-month-old should have around three naps and two of those should be ninety minutes or longer. The last one can be shorter or sometimes even left out. It is also recommended that babies sleep in their cribs rather than their strollers, car seats, and the like.
It is good to schedule your baby’s naps for the same time each day as that will work with its internal clock to your advantage and give you the best four-month-old sleep schedule. It will get used to going to sleep at that particular time every day. Morning naps typically happen around one and a half to two hours after waking and afternoon naps usually at one or two in the… well, afternoon.
You can use a similar routine the one you practice at night to help your baby get to sleep as it is familiar to them and they will associate it with sleep. This includes, but is not limited to, clean diapers, reading a story or singing a song, and bottle-feeding or nursing them. You should also make sure your baby is in a dark, quiet room as at this age they become sensitive to their environment and it is very possible to wake them up from their naps prematurely.
Finally, do not wait for your baby to show signs of being tired. Trust that your baby is ready to sleep and proceed with the routine. Hopefully, if this advice is properly followed, it should help you and your baby establish a healthy four-month-old sleep schedule.
Recognize Your Baby’s Sleep Signals
Despite what we have written above, your baby will still manifest some signals that will let you know that it is ready to sleep. These signals usually consist of the baby showing signs of calmness and losing interest in toys and the people around it. It is imperative to seize this opportunity to try and put the baby to sleep as it will be much more natural that way. Also, if you wait too long, you risk your baby becoming quite irritable and throwing a tantrum. So keep this window of opportunity in mind.
Introduce Sleep Training
Most humans will wake up at one point during the night. Adults simply roll over and continue sleeping, but babies will probably expect you to come and help them fall back asleep. It is during this period that you can consider training your babies to help themselves fall back asleep, whether you let the baby cry until it falls back asleep, or use a no tears method (for example, gentle sleep training), or something in-between. Consider your baby’s personality to decide what is best and if you are really at a loss for how to go about this, you can always consult your pediatrician.
Start Practicing the Feeding Frenzy
It is at this point that you should start getting your baby used to not eating during the night. If you must, feeding a baby once a night is the most you should do. To counteract this, make sure you are giving your baby plenty of food during the day. You will need to make up for the nutrients that your child is not getting during the night and to do that, it is recommended that you practice cluster feeding, which means feeding your baby more frequently during the late afternoon and evening hours.
You should not fret that this will not be enough for your baby. Even though it needed food during the night up until now, starting at four months it actually becomes counterproductive as they need the nighttime to fully rest and process all the information they accumulated during the day. Your baby will naturally eat more during the day to make up for it.
Be Wary of Separation Anxiety
It should be noted that during this time your baby will start fighting your attempts to get it to nap or sleep, or it might wake up in the middle of the night in order to spend more time with you. It can be helpful to teach your baby how to self-soothe at this point as it is an important stage in development. This is most easily done through the aid of a “lovey”, that is a plushie or a comforting blanket. That way the transition will be easier and should leave everyone towards less disruptive sleep.
Thus, it is a combination of all of these factors which will create the optimal four-month-old sleep schedule. The benefits of a good sleep schedule include, but are not limited to healthier growth, better mood, healthy psychological development, and less fuss for both you and your baby.
Below, we have provided a sample four-month-old sleep schedule, but every baby is different and it is important that you make sure you are meeting your child’s needs.
Sample 4-Month-Old Sleep Schedule:
- 7 to 7:30 AM – Wake up (2.5 to 3 hours)
- 10 AM – 1st nap (1 hour)
- 11 AM – Waketime (2.5 hours)
- 1:30 PM – 2nd nap (2 hours)
- 3:30 PM – Waketime (1.5 hours)
- 5 PM – 3rd nap (30 minutes)
- 5:30 PM – Waketime (2 to 2.5 hours)
- 7:30 to 8 PM – Sleep (11+ hours, with or without nightly waking)
Total sleep time: 14.5 to 15.5 hours
Note: Instead of having the first two naps be one hour and two hours long respectively, you can make them both one-and-a-half- hour-long naps as is discussed in the guide.
Having a healthy and consistent sleep schedule is essential to your baby’s proper development and happiness. By keeping in mind the tips we have given you, you are making sure that your child gets the rest it deserves and saves you a lot of headache over the whole process. It is difficult to overstress the benefits of a good sleep routine, so keep this guide in mind but at the same time always remember that every baby is different and that some principles presented here may need tweaking to better suit your child. If you have any further questions about this, do not hesitate to speak to your pediatrician or consult a book.