3-Month Sleep Regression In Babies: Essential Info For Exhausted Parents

3-Month Sleep Regression In Babies: Essential Info For Exhausted Parents

November 23, 2020 Updated March 19, 2021

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Tuva Mathilde/Unsplash

There are certain milestones new parents tend to remember: their baby’s first word, first solid food, and first genuine non-gas-related smile. But there’s another one that might even be more meaningful that doesn’t get as much attention — the first time your baby sleeps through the night. After the extreme exhaustion that comes along with a newborn, the first time you wake up and realize that your baby — and, as a result, you — have slept through the night, you’re filled with hope and optimism that maybe you’ve gotten through the worst part and it’ll be (relatively) smooth sailing from here.

And then they hit the three-month mark, and it seems like all of your hard sleep-training work has gone out the window and you wonder what could have happened to make your little one do this. Then, one quick Google search or a text to a mom friend later, and you realize this is your baby’s three-month sleep regression. Here’s what that means, and what exhausted parents need to know.

Baby going through sleep troubles? Check out our entire sleep regression package for baby’s first year including the four-month regression, six-month regression, seven-month regression, eight-month regression, nine-month regression, and 12-month sleep regression

What is sleep regression?

Generally speaking, sleep regression involves periods of time (usually around three to six weeks), when a baby or toddler who had previously been sleeping on a (semi) regular schedule goes rogue. This could involve waking up frequently during the night (and having difficulty getting them back to sleep), as well as taking much shorter naps than usual, or flat-out refusing to nap. In other words, it’s extremely frustrating for exhausted parents who thought that they’d finally get back on some type of normal sleep schedule themselves.

Starting in the 1940s, the idea of babies experiencing sleep regression has been studied by those working in developmental psychology. But after more than 70 years, although scientists know that sleep regression does happen, they still don’t know why or precisely when it happens, the New York Times reports. And despite the lack of hard data pointing to a precise sleep regression timeline, there is no shortage of books and websites that present specific “stages” of sleep regression as established milestones experienced by most (if not all) infants.

On the one hand, this can be really helpful for parents who are experiencing these stages with their own child — reassuring them that their child’s sleep regression is not unusual. But on the other hand, it can also give parents something else to worry about, in terms of whether their child is developing “normally”. Ultimately, parents should understand that sleep regression and development looks different in every baby, so if yours isn’t following the timeline precisely (or at all), it’s usually not cause for concern. And as always, ask your pediatrician if you have any questions about this.

What happens during a baby’s 3-month sleep regression?

If your three-month-old baby won’t sleep, they may be experiencing a period of sleep regression. Though many sources on sleep regression indicate that the first phase happens around the four-month mark, that’s not set in stone. If your 12-week-old has stopped sleeping through the night and is off their regular nap schedule, a few different things could cause it. Typically, at three months, a baby can sleep for three to five hours at a time without a feeding, so if they wake up around three times each night, that’s pretty standard. If it’s more than that, though, they may use feeding (or other forms of soothing, like rocking or cuddling) to get themselves back to sleep. Another possibility is that your baby has simply started their four-month sleep regression stage a little early.

What to do during a baby’s 3-month sleep regression

Aside from reminding yourself that as defeating as a period of sleep regression may feel, it’s completely normal, it’s also important for parents to keep in mind that these phases don’t last forever. If you’re unsure whether they’re going through their four-month sleep regression phase a little early or are just waking up when they want to be fed or held, this is a good time to introduce them to falling asleep independently from feeding or rocking. Start small, shortening their calming ritual by one minute each day, which should result in your baby being drowsy (but still awake) when you put them down, and getting used to this arrangement. After a few weeks of this, the baby should be more accustomed to being put in their crib while they’re drifting off to sleep (instead of once they’re already asleep). So in the event that this isn’t their four-month sleep regression starting early, this kind of training can help if/when that time does roll around.

How much sleep should my newborn get?

When your baby is napping, it’s a good day for everyone. It’s a chance to catch up on some sleep and your other mommy duties. It’s tough when your little one won’t go to bed, but how much sleep should your baby be getting? Now that you know how much sleep is too little, how much sleep is too much? When your baby is zero to three months, they’re supposed to get around 14 to 17 hours a day. Newborns usually sleep for about an hour or two at a time.

What should a 3-month-old nap schedule look like?

Do you desperately need a sleep schedule for your newborn? Check out our outline below. Remember, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all routine, so be sure to make it your own according to your schedule and baby.

Wake up: 7:30 a.m.

Nap one: 8:45 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Nap two: 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Nap three: 3:15 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.

Nap four: 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

*Use this two-hour gap to do your baby’s bedtime routine.

Bedtime (AKA the final nap): 8:45 p.m.

What can help a baby fall asleep?

One way to tucker out your three-month-old is to engage them with different activities. Below, we’ve gathered several exercises that will not only burn up their energy but enhance their growth and development.

  • Get your child to practice sitting up. If your baby is too little, they can sit this one out. But if they’re capable, this will help build their baby muscles.
  • Tummy time is a great way to get your baby moving. This exercise strengthens their arms and legs, so when they begin crawling, it’ll be a breeze. It also builds their hand-eye coordination.