The 3 month old sleep regression can be challenging. Get practical solutions to help get your newborn baby back to sleeping well quickly.
You almost jinxed yourself.
Just when your baby started sleeping well, his sleep seems to have gone downhill the same day he turned 3 months old. He went from being an awesome sleeper to waking up every two hours, and short naps have also become the norm.
You almost can’t believe that just a few short weeks ago, you were telling others how he was able to sleep a good five to seven hours straight at night. Sure, he’d still wake up for a nighttime feed, but at least you’d get a good, long stretch after putting him down in the crib.
Now, you’re so tired from the multiple wake-ups and dread facing the next day.
What gives? How is it that your baby wakes up more often—and crying loudly at that? You’ve always had a consistent schedule and healthy sleep habits, and nothing has changed in your routine. You’ve even tried every type of sleep sack and swaddle (and yes, with arms in and arms out) with no luck.
And perhaps you’re a first-time parent, so you have nothing to compare to the 3 month sleep regression and your baby’s sleep patterns and rhythms. Is this a growth spurt? How do I get my baby to go back to night waking only once?
How to survive the 3 month old sleep regression
If only babies were an exact science, right? But when mine went from decent sleeping to What-is-going-on?! sleeping, I chalked it up to yet another developmental milestone. I experimented with a few tips, and learned that several factors can contribute to babies not falling into a deep sleep at this stage.
If you find yourself awake yet again at four in the morning heading to the bassinet, rest assured, friend, you’re not alone. Below are the tips that helped me survive the 3 month regression. As one parent said:
“Wow, just thank you for this. It’s 2 am here and I’m rocking my almost 3 month old back to sleep after only 2.5 hours of sleep for the second night in a row. I’m beyond exhausted because she also is only taking 40 minute naps and you pretty much described my life perfectly in this post. Obviously I’ve just come across this so I haven’t been able to implement your ideas yet but I finally don’t feel like I’m crazy. I thought I ruined my baby’s sleep habits by rocking her to sleep, instead she’s just going through a regression and changing her sleep. This was so reassuring so thank you!” -Miranda
1. Adjust your baby’s sleep schedule
One of the biggest reasons babies hit a sleep regression at the 3 month mark is that their sleep needs are simply changing. At birth, newborns need 14-17 of hours to sleep. But as they grow, their sleep needs change to make way for fewer naps and longer wake times.
At some point, your baby won’t always take three or four naps a day, and it’s often during these sleep regressions that these transitions happen.
So, what can you do about these sleep problems? Adjust her schedule to accommodate these changes. For instance, see if putting her down for an earlier bedtime (even up to an hour earlier!) helps her sleep in longer stretches. Or ask her daycare providers to put her down for more frequent naps if she feels tired.
You might even experiment with her wake time and sleep cycles. Observe her newborn sleep cues and adjust depending on whether she’s overtired or not sleepy enough. Two hours is typically the most a 3 month old baby should be awake.
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2. Feed your baby more during the day
One way to get through the 3 month old sleep regression is to feed her more during the day. After all, as your baby grows, she’ll be better able to take in more of her calories during the day, like you and I do, and sleep through the night.
Start with as little as breastfeeding her for two minutes longer or adding an extra half ounce to her bottle. Then, in the middle of the night, reduce her feeding by that amount. Continue to add more minutes or ounces during the day and decreasing the same amount on following nights.
Now, if your baby is still hungry (and not simply needing to suck) after a nighttime feeding, then offer her the feeding that she needs. Hold steady with whatever minutes or ounces you’re giving her for a few days before trying to decrease it once again.
Another easy trick is to give your baby a “dreamfeed” right before you’re about to sleep yourself. Let’s say you fed and put her down at 7pm, and you typically fall asleep at 9pm. Give her an additional feeding (even if she’s still drowsy) at 9pm to “top her off.”
3. Put your baby down awake as a first resort
With your baby transitioning out of the newborn stage, now is the perfect time to help her get used to putting herself to sleep. One simple way is to put her down awake each time, giving her a chance to at least try to fall asleep on her own during her sleep routine.
You see, we all wake up throughout the night—you and I included—but while we know how to fall back asleep, not all babies do. But after months of relying on us to put them to sleep, they understandably have no idea how to do this on their own, even at 3 months old.
Instead, try to put your baby down awake each time you set her down. If she cries, then go ahead and resort to your go-to strategies, but at least you’re giving her the chance to sleep on her own. Help her along by hanging darkening curtains and adding white noise to the room.
In the evenings, you might even want to feed her first, not last, during your bedtime routine. For instance, you’d feed, then give her a bath, and change into her diapers and pajamas. This will prevent her from relying on feeding to sleep, or accidentally falling asleep during a feed.
4. Give your baby a moment to settle
If you’re like me, you woke up at the slightest whimper you heard from your baby, no matter how small, and went to comfort him. (I was so frantic that I even started hearing my baby’s cries in my head, rousing me awake while he was still asleep!)
But do this too often, and he’ll have fewer chances to soothe himself back to sleep. At this stage, he may have learned to rely less on himself and more on you to fall back asleep, hence the multiple wake-ups.
Of course, he’s still in the newborn stage, so it’s unrealistic to expect him to sleep through the night just yet. But here’s the thing: not all cries are equal. In fact, many of his cries will be because of minor discomforts—”complaining,” if you will—that he can develop the skills to cope with and get through.
The next time he cries, give him a moment to see if he’ll settle on his own or go back to sleep, especially if his cries are little whimpers. You might even offer a pacifier every five minutes to help him fall back asleep.
No doubt, frequent night wakings during the 3 month old sleep regression is exhausting, but especially for this stage. You’ve been through months of caring for a newborn, and to think that sleep is going downhill from here feels discouraging.
Hopefully you’ve come away with tips to try. Start by adjusting your baby’s schedule, especially as his sleep needs change from the first few weeks. Gradually feed him more during the day and less at night to help him adjust to eating and sleeping at certain times.
Give him a chance to fall asleep on his own by putting him down awake each time. And finally, should he cry, try to decipher the type of cry. If he’s simply whimpering or “complaining,” give him a few minutes to see if he can settle on his own.
By taking these active steps, you’re giving him the best chances of sleeping well once more—no more jinxing yet another night of good sleep.
Get more tips:
- The Key to Creating a Successful 3 Month Old Nap Schedule
- Newborn Not Sleeping? 9 Tricks to Help Your Baby (Finally!) Sleep
- What to Do When Your 3 Month Old Won’t Nap
- Top 5 Reasons Your Newborn Wakes Up Screaming
- What to Do When Your Overtired Baby Keeps Waking Up
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