Sleep training for 3 and 4 month olds: How to, methods, and tips

Updated Apr 10, 2024
Sleep training for 3 and 4 month olds: How to, methods and tips | Huckleberry

If your baby isn’t sleeping well, you may be wondering whether it’s appropriate to sleep train at this age — with all that conflicting information out there, it can be hard to figure out what to do! 

We understand that parenting decisions, especially those related to your baby's sleep, require extra thought and consideration. If you're feeling unsure, we're here to help you navigate this maze of sleep advice and give you all the details you need to make the best sleep-related decision for your baby. But don't fret: you have the final say on what's best for your little one. 


IN THIS ARTICLE:

How we define sleep training

Can you sleep train 3 and 4 month olds?

How many nights does it take to sleep train 3 and 4 month olds?

Sleep training methods for 3 and 4 month olds

Sleep training tips for 3 and 4 month olds

Can you sleep train 3 and 4 month olds for naps?

Can you sleep train during the 4 month sleep regression? 

How to sleep train 3 and 4 month old twins?

What to do if sleep training for 3 and 4 month olds not working

Takeaway: Sleep training 3 and 4 month olds

Sleep training 3 and 4 month olds FAQ


We define sleep training as teaching a baby to self-soothe and fall asleep independently, without relying on help (e.g. being rocked, fed, or held). There are a variety of sleep training methods, and we're happy to cover the most popular approaches later in the article.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) [1] suggests placing babies into their sleep space when they are still drowsy, but not already asleep at 4 months of age. Not only can this benefit your little one by teaching them how to self-soothe, but it can also mean more restful nights for the whole family. Fewer night wakings [2] can lead to more sleep-filled evenings for everyone involved!

This can be easier said than done, however, if your baby is accustomed (as many are!) to falling asleep with help. We find results will vary for babies at 3 and 4 months old. Some may have already formed sleep routines and will respond really well to sleep training techniques, while others may still need a bit more time before they’re able to make significant improvements. 

While sleep training at this age can help set a foundation for healthy sleep habits, it won’t act as a magic wand. It's not uncommon for progress to be unsteady. But if you choose to sleep train your little one at this age, think of it as an opportunity for them to practice (but not fully master) falling asleep on their own. Plus, even if they learn to self-soothe at bedtime, it's likely that they will still need some help drifting off throughout the night after waking.

Ah, the ever-changing landscape of baby sleep! It's like trying to navigate a rollercoaster ride with twists, turns, and the occasional loop-de-loop. Expect ups and downs at this age, rather than linear progress especially because 3 month sleep schedules are still pretty unpredictable. Many babies won't be able to fully learn the skill of self-soothing throughout the night until they reach six months old. However, 3 and 4 month olds can often make progress on independent sleeping skills at bedtime which will later translate to better sleep throughout the night.  

It may take some time for your baby to adopt new habits at bedtime — anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the method you choose and your baby's temperament. 

Sleep training methodDoes it work for 3 and 4 month old babies?
Gentle methods, including the chair method and pick up put downYes, these can be an effective way to help babies learn a new way of falling asleep at bedtime.
Ferber method or gradual extinctionYes, these methods can be used to help babies learn to fall asleep on their own. Generally, babies can make progress at bedtime but may not be able to fully drift back to sleep independently until they reach 6 months old.
Cry it out or total extinctionGiven that consistent progress is not usually expected at this stage of development, we don’t usually recommend CIO. If this approach is employed, we suggest monitoring progress through a video monitor with regular safety checks taking place at least every hour.

Gradual sleep training methods (also referred to as “gentle”) allow you to guide your baby toward developing independent sleeping skills. These techniques, such as the "chair method," "fading," and "pick up put down," involve actively comforting your baby as they learn to drift off in a new way. These strategies are appropriate to use at bedtime and during the night, as long as their feeding needs are being met.

Gentle methods are particularly suited for parents who prioritize a tear-minimizing approach and are open to investing extra time in the process. For example, if your little one typically falls asleep while being fed, you can start by shifting to rocking them to sleep instead, then progressively reduce the motion until you place them in the crib while they're still awake. Throughout this journey, you can remain nearby to offer support, gradually lessening your touch and presence.

In the realm of sleep training, graduated extinction strategies, such as the Ferber method, begin by placing your baby in their sleep space while they're still awake. After saying goodnight, you intermittently return for brief check-ins, starting as short as 3 minutes on the first night and gradually extending the intervals. Alternatively, some parents may opt for a consistent interval, like 10 to 15 minutes. 

This approach appeals to those seeking faster results and who are comfortable with allowing their baby to cry for specific periods. It's sometimes viewed as a variation of "cry-it-out" (CIO), yet distinct in that parents typically return at regular intervals to offer soothing comfort before departing once more. 

Consistency is important during sleep training but not always possible at 3 and 4 months old. If you decide to use this method for your young baby, keep in mind that it’s normal for babies this age to have difficulty falling asleep on their own consistently. You can always take a break if your baby is struggling on a particular night and opt to use a gradual sleep training method instead (or try again the next night). 

CIO, or "total extinction," is a sleep training method that involves allowing your baby to fall asleep on their own, without attempting to soothe them. Before using this technique, ensure that your baby is well-fed, dry, and not in any physical discomfort, and that they are mature enough to fall asleep without assistance. 

Put the baby in their crib after the bedtime routine, while still awake, then leave the room. To maintain peace of mind, keep a video monitor in the room and conduct safety checks every hour. Some babies fall asleep within 10 minutes, while others may cry for longer.

We typically do not recommend this method at this age, as many babies will struggle to consistently fall asleep on their own and may need help from parents. That means that CIO may result in a lot of crying, but not a sleeping baby. 

At this age, sleep training can be your trusty sidekick on the journey to establishing healthy sleep habits. But since not all babies this age are developmentally ready to fall asleep on their own consistently, it isn’t a cure-all or quick fix. Expect to make progress over the long term, rather than immediately solve sleep issues.

Your baby may struggle to fall asleep on their own on some nights, but not others. This is common and expected with young babies learning to fall asleep in a new way. If your baby is having a tough time on a particular night, you can take a 20 - 30 minute break and try again. You can also decide to help your baby fall asleep and try again the next night.

It’s common for babies to briefly call out in between sleep cycles. While it’s tempting to jump up and help your baby back to sleep during the night, you might find it helpful to wait a few minutes before responding. Often you’ll find that your baby will settle back to sleep on their own without your help. 

It’s often easier to make progress at bedtime, but if night sleep is already fairly consistent, feel free to start setting the foundation for better naps. Here’s how:

1. Focus on 1 or 2 naps in the crib per day (the first nap is usually the easiest to sleep train). 

2. Use a shortened version of your bedtime routine as a pre-nap routine to cue that it’s time to transition to sleep.

3. Work on the nap for 30 minutes; if your little one hasn’t fallen asleep, leave the room and take a 30-minute break. 

4. Try again: Do the last couple of steps of the nap routine again and give them another opportunity to fall asleep on their own.

5. If your baby still won't nap after the second try, go ahead and help them to sleep.

6. Move bedtime earlier if naps are shorter or skipped.

Yes, you can! The term "4 month sleep regression" is often used to describe a period of disrupted sleep patterns that some infants experience around the age of four months. It is not a clinical term but rather a colloquial phrase used by parents to refer to changes in their baby's sleep habits during this developmental stage.

Between 3 and 4 months of age, infants undergo significant neurological and physiological changes. They begin to experience more mature sleep cycles, which include periods of lighter and deeper sleep similar to adults. As a result, their sleep patterns may become less predictable, and they may wake up more frequently during the night.

It's important to note that not all babies go through a 4 month sleep regression, and the severity and duration of sleep disruptions can vary. Some babies may experience minor changes in sleep patterns, while others may have more significant difficulties. Babies that get help falling asleep at bedtime (i.e. they’re rocked or fed to sleep) are more likely to wake up fully in between sleep cycles and call out for help in the night in order to return to sleep.   

If you find yourself dealing with sleep disruptions during this time, it can be helpful to transition away from that help falling asleep at bedtime. Although we wouldn’t expect sleep to be “perfect” at this age, sleep is likely to improve alongside independent sleeping skills. 

You can make sleep training multiples easier with these tips:

  • Coordinate sleep schedules: Although twins may have their own individual sleep needs and patterns, try to coordinate their sleep schedules as much as possible. This can help you manage your own sleep and ensure that both babies are getting adequate rest. If one baby wakes up for a feeding or diaper change, you can wake the other baby briefly to sync their schedules. This way, you won't end up with one baby awake while the other is sleeping, causing disruption to everyone's sleep.

  • Limit overtiredness: If your baby is overtired, they’re more likely to have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. Planning bedtime according to wake windows and sleepy cues can help cut down on tears related to a mistimed bedtime. Use our magical sleep predictor, SweetSpot® to help ensure your babies get to bed at an ideal time.

  • Separate babies at bedtime: Whether you’re parenting solo at bedtime, or have someone to help, you might find that things go smoother by separating the babies at bedtime. This can help your little ones work on their new independent sleeping skills without disturbing their sibling.

Here are some things to consider if sleep training isn’t going as expected:

  • Aim for your baby to be sleepy but still awake when placed in their crib. If they’re usually put down into a state where they are almost asleep, it can be hard to make progress.

  • If your young baby is struggling every night to fall asleep on their own, and it’s causing stress, it’s okay to take a break! Try again in a week or two, when they’re a little older.

  • Baby sleep can be really tricky! If you’d like some expert advice, consider getting a customized plan for your individual needs through Huckleberry Premium.

Sleep training can set a foundation for healthy sleep by helping your baby learn how to soothe themselves, which can lead to more peaceful nights for the entire family. While it may be a bit challenging if your baby is used to falling asleep with some assistance, every baby is different at this age. Some may respond really well to sleep training techniques, while others might need a little more time to make significant progress. 

Remember, sleep training isn't a magic fix, and progress may not always be smooth. But think of it as an opportunity for your baby to practice the skill of falling asleep independently (even if they don't quite master it just yet). And don't worry if they still need some support during nighttime wakings – that's perfectly normal too! Just remember, the path to success is as unique as your baby's adorable little quirks.

If you're curious about what happens during this age, peek into the 4 month old milestones.

Sleep training 3 and 4 month olds FAQ

Q: How to sleep train 3 and 4 month olds?

A:

You'll find a variety of methods out there to sleep train. Some focus on gradual changes to minimize crying, while others offer a quicker path, even though they may involve a few more tears. Whatever method resonates with you, it will serve as a helpful framework for empowering your little one to doze off independently, without relying on your assistance.

Q: Are 3 and 4 month olds too young to sleep train?

A:

While you can start sleep training at 3 - 4 months of age, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic. Many babies this age will continue to need some help at bedtime and during the night, even if you use a consistent approach. Gentle methods like gradual withdrawal or pick-up-put-down work well, while intensive methods like total extinction may not be suitable. Consider the baby's health and any sleep issues before starting sleep training.

Q: How to sleep train 3 and 4 month olds without crying?

A:

Various gentle sleep training methods, including gradual fading and pick-up-put-down, can help minimize crying. It's important to remember that babies may cry when their routines change, no matter how gradual your approach is, and this is a normal part of the process. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can provide comfort and assist your baby in learning to fall asleep independently.

Q: Should 3 and 4 month olds fall asleep on their own?

A:

At this age, some babies can learn to fall asleep independently through regular practice. However, it's important to recognize that not all babies can consistently achieve this milestone at this stage. When sleep training your little one, patience is key as it takes time for them to adapt to new routines and habits. Many babies this age also continue to sleep better with nighttime feedings.

Q: Which sleep training method is best for 3 and 4 month olds?

A:

The "best" sleep training method for 3 and 4 month olds varies since each baby is unique and may respond differently. Selecting an approach that aligns with your comfort level and is tailored to your baby's specific needs and temperament is important.

Q: Is it harder to sleep train 3 and 4 month olds?

A:

You’ll want to manage your expectations when sleep training at this age. Babies are beginning to establish sleep patterns at 3 and 4 months old and can be receptive to bedtime sleep training methods. However, it's common for many infants this age to still require parental assistance during nighttime awakenings.

Q: Can you let 3 and 4 month olds cry it out?

A:

Although some parents may opt for the total extinction cry-it-out method to sleep train their 3 or 4 month old, we generally do not recommend it. Total extinction cry-it-out involves allowing the baby to cry themselves to sleep without providing any comfort or reassurance. This approach can be especially challenging for parents at this age, and younger babies may struggle to consistently fall asleep independently.

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.

2 Sources

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (2022). Getting Your Baby to Sleep. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/getting-your-baby-to-sleep.aspx

  2. American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2006). Behavioral Treatment of Bedtime Problems and Night Wakings in Infants and Young Children. https://aasm.org/resources/practiceparameters/review_nightwakingschildren.pdf