How to Sleep Train a 4-Month-Old
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If you’re bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, and ready for longer night sleeps, sleep training might be on your mind. But before you dive into sleep training your 4-month-old, it’s important to know how long you can realistically expect your baby sleep—and what sleep training strategies are actually age-appropriate. And if you’re on the fence about sleep-training your 4-month-old, know that sleep training is not for every family! Keep reading for all sorts of helpful sleep tips and to see if sleep training is right for you and your 4-month-old.
Is 4 months a good time to start sleep training?
It can be! While all 4-month-olds are different, babies are usually developmentally ready for sleep training sometime between 4 and 6 months old. This is the age range when babies’ sleep cycles begin to mature and their natural circadian rhythm starts to kick in. Plus, 4-month-olds likely are not yet reliant on rocking or nursing to get to sleep.
Can you sleep train a 4-month-old?
Yes, you can sleep train a 4-month-old! But before you do, it’s important to understand what “sleeping through the night” actually looks like for a 4-month-old baby. It might not be what you think—or hope—it is!
How often do 4-months-olds wake at night?
At 4 months old, your baby can likely manage to sleep for at least 6 hours without needing to wake up for a feed. But just because your baby is now capable of this feat, doesn’t mean they won’t wake throughout the night anymore! For instance, if your baby nods off without a full belly, they can’t help but rouse themselves in the middle of the night for some nutrition. In fact, even at 6 months, roughly 38% of babies aren't getting 6-hour stretches of shuteye. (If your baby is waking every hour, follow this key advice from Dr. Harvey Karp.)
How long does it take to sleep train a 4-month-old?
Most sleep training strategies take about a week or so to implement, but it can definitely take longer depending on your method, consistency, and your baby’s personality and needs. If you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to sleep train your 4-month-old for two weeks, consider taking a pause and examining the reasons your baby might be resisting sleep training.
Is there any reason to not start sleep training my 4-month-old?
To set your baby up for sleep-training success, it’s best to avoid sleep training your 4-month-old during a chaotic period at home. That means, hold off sleep-training if…
Your baby is actively teething.
Your baby is under the weather.
It’s daylight saving
Your baby doesn’t already have a set bedtime.
There’s been a change in caregivers.
Your baby is transitioning to a crib.
How do I sleep train my 4-month-old?
Many new parents assume that sleep training means “cry it out,” but sleep training a 4-month-old doesn’t have to involve crying it out. Pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp’s favorite gentle sleep training method is called the wake-and-sleep sleep training method. With this approach, you literally wake your sleeping baby up to sleep train them! While waking a snoozing baby seems counterintuitive, rest assured that those few seconds of drowsy waking—without being held or nursed—are your baby’s first steps to understanding that they can self-soothe—and sleep through the night!
How to Sleep Train a 4-Month-Old Using the Wake-and-Sleep Method
Here’s how to use the wake-and-sleep method with your 4-month-old:
Step 1: Swaddle your baby—unless they’re able to roll! It’s no longer safe to swaddle a baby arms-down once they can roll, unless they’re safely secured in SNOO, which prevents risky rolling. (Learn more about when to stop swaddling.) Turn on rough and rumbly white noise, making it as loud as a shower. The womb-like hug and noise helps to activate your bub’s calming reflex, which is their “off switch” for fussing and “on switch” for sleep. (That’s why these sensations are part of the 5 S’s for soothing babies!)
Step 3: Chances are your baby will fall asleep in your arms. That’s fine! Simply lay your snoozer in their bassinet, safely on their back.
Step 4: Softly tickle your sleeping baby’s feet to gently rouse them until their eyes barely open.
Step 5: After a few seconds, your 4-month-old will close their eyes and drift off to sleep again. If your baby is swaddled and shushed—and their tummy is full—they should be able to fall back to sleep fairly easily.
If your baby resists slumber, crank the white noise up a little louder and jiggle the bassinet for a few seconds to help them along. But if crying persists, pick your baby up to feed or soothe them to sleep…and then start over again by waking them with a gentle touch.
Other Sleep Training Methods for a 4-Month-Old
The wake-and-sleep method is Dr. Harvey Karp’s go-to gentle sleep training strategy, but there are other sleep training techniques that may work for your family. Here are some of the most well-known sleep training methods:
“The Chair.” Put your freshly fed, burped, and changed baby into their bassinet drowsy, but awake, with the rumbly white noise already on…and then take a seat! “The Chair” sleep training method required you sit next to your baby’s bassinet until they fall asleep. But if your baby cries after you’ve left, you must return to sit and wait again. While you are not supposed to pick up your baby, you can offer gentle verbal reassurances. Every few nights, gradually move your chair closer to the door until you finally leave the room.
“Pick-Up, Put Down.” Turn on the white noise, feed, burp, and change your baby before placing them in their crib awake. If your 4-month-old cries or fusses, quietly shush them, lay a hand on—or pat—their belly, or even pick them. The key here is to soothe your baby just enough so that they settle—then promptly put them back into their crib and skedaddle out of the room. Repeat this routine each time your baby cries. (This is also called the “shush, pat” sleep training method.)
Ferber Method. For this sleep training method, you still want to turn on white noise, feed, burp, and change your baby before placing them in the crib awake. Leave the room, but if your baby cries, return to check on them at specific, graduated intervals—without picking them up. For example, if your little one cries, return to them in 3 minutes to shush and comfort them with a gentle pat or an “I love you” and “good night” (no picking up), then swiftly leave. If your baby continues to cry, return after 5 minutes…with the time between each check-in getting longer. This is also known as “graduated extinction” or the check-and-console method.
“Cry it out.” Also known as the “extinction” method, “cry it out” tends to be a last resort method for babies who struggle to settle when their parents intervene. With what’s known as the “full extinction” approach, you let your little one fall asleep without any interventions. Start by turning on rumbly white noise. Feed, burp, and changing your baby—then place them in their crib or bassinet drowsy, but awake. Offer some loving words, but make a quick exit out of the room whether they’re settled or not, which means letting them cry until they doze off, not returning until their next feeding or morning. Understandably, this approach is difficult for many parents, so families often instead opt instead for a “graduated extinction” approach, like the Ferber method, where they’re still checking on and offering some reassurance to their baby through the night.
What time should a 4-month-old go to bed?
While all babies are different, bedtime for 4- to 8-month-olds often starts around 7 to 9pm. When your baby passes the 4-month mark, they’re likely still clocking 12 to 16 hours of sleep daily—and starting each morning between 6 and 8am. Babies this age can either be napping two or three times a day, totaling 3 to 5 hours of daytime ZZZs. (Learn more about your baby’s first-year sleep schedule.)
Getting Your 4-Month-Old to Go to Bed on Their Own
Newborns, 4-month-olds, toddlers...all babies and big kids thrive on predictable routines. That means when you establish (and follow) the same reassuring bedtime routine every night, you’re setting your little one up for sleepytime success, which includes being able to go night-night on their own. Here’s what your 4-month-old’s bedtime routine should look like:
Dim the lights. And close the curtains about an hour before night-night to signal that sleepytime is near.
Turn on rough and rumbly white noise. And do so about 30 minutes before bedtime to set a sleepytime atmosphere. Research shows that white noise can help 80% of infants fall asleep in just 5 minutes!
Swaddle your baby. Only do this if your baby is not yet rolling—or they’re safely sleeping in SNOO.
Offer a pacifier. Sucking can lower a baby’s heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels, making a pacifier a super-effective bedtime helper. (Learn how to help your baby take the paci.)
Implement the wake-and-sleep method. Again, gently waking your baby before you leave the room builds their self-soothing skills and confidence!
If after you go through your soothing bedtime routine, your baby still fights falling asleep for 30 to 60 minutes—and/or shows no sign of fatigue at bedtime—their bedtime may be too early. Try pushing your whole nighty-night routine 15 minutes later every two to three nights to land on your baby’s ideal bedtime.
Do I need to worry about sleep regression for my 4-month-old?
While the 3- to 4-month sleep regression is not a given, it is definitely something many families go through. That means, it’s important to not only be aware of the 4-month-sleep regression, but to prepare, too. Here’s what you need to know:
All babies wake throughout the night. All babies wake two to three times a night, but by 3 months old, they usually slide right back to sleep without a peep.
Things get exciting at 4-months-old! Your 4-month-old is becoming a little social butterfly, so instead of nodding off after their regular nighttime wakeups, they cry for you because they’re eager for your company.
Morning light helps. Get out of the house in the morning, allowing the early daylight set your baby’s sleepytime hormone (melatonin) release on the right schedule.
Shorten daytime naps. Make sure your bub isn’t snoozing for more than 1.5 to 2 hours each nap. (Learn about common naptime fails.)
Increase daytime feeds. And consider doing a dream feed to make sure hunger isn’t behind your 4-month-old’s wakeups.
Continue with good sleepytime cues. That includes a rough and rumbly white noise, dim lights, and more!
If your baby is in SNOO… try using Level Lock to lock motion on Level 1 (Purple) or Level 2 (Green) all night long. Some babies do better with just a little extra movement! (Learn more ways to customize your SNOO experience.)
Products That Can Help With Sleep Training a 4-Month-Old
To achieve sleep-training success, babies need a safe sleep space, a full tummy, and they need to feel safe and secure. Your sweet cuddles and loving voice work wonders to help your baby feel secure…and so do a few key reminders of their time in the womb, like a…
White noise machine. Once white noise is folded into your baby’s bedtime routine, they’ll expect it and internalize that the calming sound means sleepytime is here. It’s like muscle memory! (SNOObear and SNOObie white noise machines play SNOO’s signature white noise, plus more soothing sounds babies love.)
Swaddle blanket. A swaddle blanket, like the award-winning Sleepea 5-Second Swaddle, is a fantastic way to remind your baby of the warm and comforting embrace of the womb. But if your baby is rolling, unsnap the shoulders of your baby’s Sleepea so it transforms into an arms-out safe sleep sack. This way, your little one gets the familiarity of their favorite swaddle, but it’s safe for them to roll in!
SNOO Smart Sleeper. SNOO was designed to be the ideal sleep space for babies up to 6 months old, keeping little ones secure on the back—and swaddled—all sleep long. SNOO’s swaddle plus its all-night rocking and white noise helps babies fall asleep, thus building their “I can do it” sleep confidence.
More Help With Baby Sleep:
- Get Naps Back on Track
- How Dream Feeds Can Lead to More Sleep
- Your Baby’s Sleep Sounds, Explained
- How to Transition Baby from SNOO to a Crib—3 Easy Steps
- When to Move Your Baby to Their Own Room
Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Submit your questions here.
Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.