3 month sleep regression: Myth or real?

Updated Jun 04, 2024
3 month sleep regression: Myth or real? | Huckleberry

If your baby was a champion sleeper through the newborn stage and now at around 3 months their sleep has suddenly fallen off a cliff, you may be left scratching your head. It must be a 3 month regression, right? Well, let’s discuss! 

When babies' sleep patterns suddenly change for the worse, this is often called a "sleep regression" — a phrase used to describe a temporary struggle with consistent sleep patterns. It’s common to see a change in sleep patterns among 3 - 4 month olds. However, each baby is different, and research doesn’t support that sleep regressions happen at the same age for every child.

Why is it common for 3 and 4 month old babies to struggle with sleep? Well, a baby’s sleep architecture significantly changes around 3 months. This biological change can lead to a change in sleep patterns, which is commonly known as “the 4 month regression” but can impact sleep earlier, at 3 months.

In this article, we’ll walk you through sleep regression symptoms, let you know how long they typically last, and give you tips that can help your baby develop healthy sleep habits and be physiologically ready to link sleep cycles without caregiver assistance. 

Sleep regressions can be tiring (and frustrating!) for babies and families alike. If you’d like personalized sleep guidance for your little one, consider submitting for a sleep plan through Huckleberry Premium. Our step-by-step plans are tailored to help your child’s sleep get back on track plus you’ll get access to our SweetSpot sleep predictor that notifies you when it’s likely time for them to sleep after an age-appropriate wake window.


Is there a 3 month old sleep regression?

Why do 3 month old babies have sleep issues?

My 3 month old won’t nap so is this a sleep regression?

How long do 3 month sleep problems last?

6 tips to handle 3 month old sleep issues

3 month sleep regression FAQ

Around 3 - 4 months old, a baby’s circadian rhythm [1] begins to mature, which causes a change in the stages and cycles of their sleep. Instead of sleeping like newborns, they begin to experience cycles of light and deep sleep. This "sleep regression" occurs because babies wake fully between these cycles and need assistance falling back asleep. This often leads to increased night waking and shorter naps between 3 - 4 months of age.

If your 3 month old is suddenly experiencing more middle-of-the-night waking, short naps, and fussiness, this may be a sign that a biological change is occurring in the way they’re sleeping. Instead of thinking of this as a step backward, try reframing it as they’re growing and developing! 

3 month olds can have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep due to their sleep pattern maturing. Newborn sleep isn’t strongly influenced by their internal “body clock” (called the circadian rhythm), but that starts to change closer to 3 - 4 months old. Additionally, they start sleeping in more stages and cycles that are similar to how an adult sleeps. 

When in this cyclical sleep, babies (and everyone else!) briefly awaken after each sleep cycle before entering the next one. Most people don’t recall their own momentary waking throughout the night, but 3 month olds may signal for an assist from a caregiver if they more fully awaken between sleep cycles and can’t make it back to sleep independently. This is especially true for babies who have a sleep onset association (rocking, feeding to sleep, etc.) and rely on help to fall asleep at the beginning of the night. Since it’s common for babies to get help falling asleep at this age, it’s common for little ones to have new struggles with sleep.

Aside from sleep issues caused by the changes in sleep stages and cycles, baby sleep at 3 months is often fairly irregular. Most children at this age do best with 4 - 5 hours of daytime sleep spread over 4 - 5 naps, but it’s common for sleep times and durations to change from nap to nap and day to day. This is normal and age-appropriate, even though it often makes it hard to plan your day. 

It’s normal for babies at 3 months to continue to wake up overnight to feed [2], whether or not they’re experiencing the 4 month sleep regression. You’ll want to continue feeding your child overnight until they’ve established a pattern of weight gain and have been cleared by a doctor or lactation consultant. 

There’s a lot of variability when it comes to naps at 3 months old. We wouldn’t expect your little one to be napping on a set schedule just yet, which can sometimes make trying to plan your day a bit hard. At times it may seem like your baby won’t nap if they’re only taking short cat naps throughout the day. However, this is fairly common at 3 months. Some babies at this age are taking 1 - 2 hour naps and may only need 3 naps per day, while others take shorter naps and may need 5 in order to make it to a desirable bedtime. And this might change daily.

Every baby is different! In addition to total hours of sleep, paying attention to their mood and energy levels can help you gauge whether or not they’re getting enough rest. And don’t fret, this won’t last forever. At around 5 months you may expect your child to be on more of a predictable schedule. 

Sleep regressions usually last somewhere between 2 - 6 weeks [1]. However, improvement in sleep after the regression largely has to do with a baby developing independent sleep habits and their physiological ability to link sleep cycles on their own.

The 4 month sleep regression often begins around 3 - 4 months when a baby’s sleep architecture starts to mature.  

Sleep regressions typically last around 2 - 6 weeks. While there’s no magic “cure” for a sleep regression, babies tend to sleep better when they’re following an age-appropriate schedule, are developmentally able to link their sleep cycles, and are able to fall asleep on their own (at least some of the time). It can be useful to practice having your little one fall asleep without assistance though it may still take another couple of months (until 5 - 6 months) for them to master this. 

Babies often thrive on predictability, even at this age. Establishing consistent pre-bedtime and pre-nap routines can help your little one know what to expect at sleep times. While this sounds like another lofty item to add to your to-do list, note that routines don’t have to be complicated. For instance, a pre-nap ritual could be as simple as a diaper change and a song. You may consider a longer routine for bedtime sleep that possibly consists of a feed, bath, changing into pajamas, and then reading a story. Doing these things in the exact order every time can make the transition to sleep much easier.

You know how people say babies will just fall asleep when they’re tired enough? Unfortunately, it’s a little more nuanced than that. Babies are typically able to fall asleep easily when they’re tired, but there’s a fine line between sleepy and overtired. If a little one is awake too long, they usually have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. 

So how do you know when to even try getting your baby to snooze? By paying attention to wake windows and sleepy cues. At 3 months, most babies can comfortably stay awake between 60 - 120 minutes before napping again. So if your baby has been awake for about two hours and they’re not showing signs of being sleepy (like yawning or rubbing their eyes) quite yet, we recommend trying to get them to bed anyway. Sometimes physical sleepy cues can be hard to decipher! 

While newborns can often fall asleep on their own in the middle of the day with music blaring and the sun shining, this is likely not the case for curious 3 month olds. Blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and keeping their sleep space cool [3] can mean longer naps and fewer early morning wakeups. This is especially true after the 4 month sleep regression when babies are often in a period of light sleep in the very early morning hours. If they see light during this period, it can signal to their body that it’s time to get up and start the day. 

Helping your baby learn to fall asleep on their own at bedtime is one of the best ways to prevent them from waking frequently overnight. If a little one can fall asleep without help (like rocking or feeding to sleep), chances are they will be able to use these same skills to get back to sleep when they wake briefly between sleep cycles overnight and during naps. When this happens, they sleep longer and you do too! 

Remember, it’s perfectly OK to start slow and practice having your baby sleep in their crib once per day at 3 months old and then increase from there if you choose. 

Many babies at 3 months still need 1 - 3 feedings at night. On top of that, children at 3 - 4 months often go through a growth spurt [4] and need to eat more during this time. If you find your little one suddenly eating more and waking more frequently in the middle of the night, consider offering more breast milk or formula during the day if you can to curb hunger at night. Dream feeds and cluster feeding before bedtime are also good ways to try to rule out hunger as a cause of night waking at 3 months. 

Note it’s best to consult your child’s pediatrician and/or a lactation consultant to discuss your baby’s individual dietary needs to ensure they’re getting the nutrition they need.

Many babies at 3 months still need a little help falling asleep! That’s perfectly normal and common at this age. However, if your goal is to work on getting your little one to fall asleep on their own in a crib, around 3 months you may consider trying gentle sleep training methods like gradual withdrawal or pick-up/put-down method

3 month sleep regression FAQ

Q: Can sleep regressions happen at 3 months?


Yes. While it’s commonly called the 4 month sleep regression, it can be more like a 3 month regression. This depends on when a baby’s sleep architecture begins to mature and they begin to cycle between light sleep and deep sleep instead of the more constant state of newborn sleep. Also, note the 4 month sleep regression may occur later than 3 - 4 months if your child was born prematurely.

Q: Do all babies have sleep problems at 3 months?


Many babies in this age group are helped to sleep, whether they’re fed, rocked, or otherwise assisted. This can lead to an increase in wakings overnight and short naps. When babies are already learning to fall asleep on their own at around 3 months without parental support, they may experience fewer sleep disruptions. These babies may be less affected by the shift in sleep cycles (commonly called the “4 month sleep regression”) that occurs around 3 - 4 months too. However, every baby is different and there’s a wide range of normal when it comes to sleep at this age. Often young babies still need some help in the sleep department and wake overnight to feed, even if they’re working on independent sleep skills too. Keep in mind that even if your infant is having sleep problems at 3 months, not all hope is lost! We’re here to help.

Q: Why is a 3 month old baby not sleeping?


There are a host of reasons why your child may not be sleeping well at 3 months. Possibilities include: they’re reliant on caregiver help to fall asleep, they’re overtired or hungry at bedtime, they’re waking overnight to feed, they need a little more awake time between naps, and/or their sleep cycles are maturing. It could be any one of these things or a combination of them too — or perhaps something completely different. Understanding the root cause of 3 month old sleep issues can be tricky business, but rest assured these phases don’t have to last forever and you’re doing the best that you can as a parent.

Q: Should I change the feeding schedule of a 3 month baby with sleep problems?


Often 3 - 4 month old babies will still need 1 - 3 feedings overnight. If they’re waking up more frequently than this, you may want to adjust their feeding schedule to offer more milk or formula (longer feeding sessions and/or an increased number of feeds) during the day to try to curb hunger at night. Another option may be a dream feed, where you offer a nursing session or bottle feed right before your own bedtime (likely a couple of hours after putting your baby to bed for the night), to get in a longer stretch of sleep for both baby and parents. Cluster feeding before bedtime may also help your little one sleep better if you suspect they’re waking frequently overnight due to hunger.

Q: Can babies have nightmares at 3 months?


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics [5], children can start having nightmares as early as 6 months old so it’s unlikely that your 3 month old is waking due to nightmares at this age. If your baby is crying out in their sleep, it may be due to hunger, or overtiredness, or they could be transitioning from one sleep cycle to the next.

Q: My 3 month old baby won't sleep unless held. What should I do?


It’s pretty common (and natural!) for babies at 3 months to want to be held for sleep. But we recognize that this can be exhausting at times. If your baby doesn’t like to sleep unless they’re being held, we recommend practicing sleeping in their crib once each day. Start small! This can help them get accustomed to sleeping on their back in their own space. Even if this results in a short nap, that’s OK. You can hold them for their next nap so it’s longer then try again the next day. With enough time, practice, and patience, your little one will be able to transition to sleeping for longer periods without being held.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.

5 Sources


  1. Department of Health, Western Australia (2024). Sleep 3 – 6 months. https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/S_T/Sleep-3-6-months

  2. Cleveland Clinic (2024). Sleep in Your Baby’s First Year. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14300-sleep-in-your-babys-first-year

  3. WIC Breastfeeding Support, US Department of Agriculture (2024). Cluster Feeding and Growth Spurts. https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/cluster-feeding-and-growth-spurts

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics (2023). Nightmares, Night Terrors & Sleepwalking in Children: How Parents Can Help. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/preschool/Pages/Nightmares-and-Night-Terrors.aspx?psafe_param=1