Congratulations on making it out of the 4th trimester! Your baby is now 3 months old, and you’ve probably noticed some significant changes. Your baby is less fussy in the evenings, colic is improving, they’re more interactive, and they may even be starting to laugh. Your baby is transitioning from the sleepy, fussy newborn stage into a phase filled with giggles, drooling, babbling, and wiggles.
At 3 months, there’s typically a bit of a respite on the sleep front. Thanks to an increase in melatonin as the circadian rhythm matures, some babies will be sleeping for a longer stretch in the first part of the night, they also may be starting to have a bit earlier and more regular bedtime. You’ve found your rhythm with feeding and day-to-day routines, and are emerging from the fog of the newborn stage. However, right around the corner is the maturation of sleep, which typically brings an increase in night waking.
In this article, we’ll cover your baby’s development at 3 months old, discuss the impending 4-month sleep regression, go over a sample sleep schedule for a 3-month-old baby, and discuss the significance of creating a consistent sleep environment and routine and how to navigate the maturation of your baby’s sleep as seamlessly as possible. See here for our comprehensive “Sleep Regression Guide”.
Now that your little one is 3 months old, you’ve likely noticed they are becoming more alert and responsive to the world around them. Feeding issues have usually been resolved by this time, and your little one is likely able to take in more feeds during the day so they can sleep for longer periods at night. Additionally, since your little one’s stomach can hold more, they can start to space out feeds every 2-3 hours during the day.
Around this time your baby may be able to roll from their back to their side. It’s common for babies to start rolling from their tummy to their back first before mastering rolling from their back to their tummy after that, but like all developmental milestones, there is a range of ages when rolling can first occur, and in which direction it might happen first. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends stopping swaddling once a baby exhibits signs of attempting to roll, so if your baby is showing signs of rolling or seems uncomfortable being swaddled, it’s time to transition out of the swaddle.
Signs of rolling readiness:
Once your baby starts rolling, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind:
Remember, every baby is unique, and the age at which they reach developmental milestones may vary, however, if you’re concerned, check with your pediatrician.
Your 3-month-old baby’s sleep patterns are still evolving, and every day can look a little different. The good news is that as your baby gets closer to 4 months old, their sleep is steadily maturing. In the coming weeks, you will likely notice a little more predictability in your little one’s sleep schedule. However, it’s important to note that you may already be seeing some signs of the 4-month sleep regression such as restlessness during sleep, and more frequent wake-ups. There’s no set timeline for when this big developmental milestone hits, and it’s not like flipping a switch, but rather a gradual shift as sleep starts to mature.
While it’s still too early to follow a strict sleep schedule, your little one may get anywhere from 11-19 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. They may be getting 4-5 hours of that sleep during the day split between 4-5 naps, and the rest at night (though not consecutively, as night feeds are still likely at this age). Short naps are still very normal at this age, however, there may be one nap each day that is longer than the rest. Your little one may be able to stay awake for 1.25-2 hours between sleep periods.
It’s important to take into consideration your little one’s mood and use the suggested sleep duration hours above as a general indicator of whether your baby is getting enough sleep rather than a strict quota. A little one who is generally happy and able to make it to their next nap without getting overtired is likely getting enough sleep.
As your little one’s circadian rhythm develops, their bodies will circulate melatonin and cortisol in a more predictable rhythm based on environmental cues such as light and temperature. This boost in melatonin leads to more regular nighttime sleep, and when combined with sleep pressure, helps your baby be able to settle in for longer stretches of sleep at the start of the night. Concurrently, your little one’s sleep cycles will start to resemble those of adults and they will spend less time in REM sleep. This maturation of sleep around 3-4 months of age is what’s commonly referred to as the 4-month sleep regression. While these changes to the architecture of sleep are hugely important milestones, they also cause some sleep disruptions.
The intensity and duration of the sleep disruption brought on by this significant milestone can vary significantly from baby to baby. And it’s a very common time for parents to start thinking about sleep training. However, we have found that families achieve the best outcomes with sleep training when they wait a little longer for their baby’s sleep patterns to solidify and their gross motor development to progress enough that they can be physically capable of finding ways to self-soothe. By about 6 months, your little one’s sleep patterns should be predictable enough to consider formal sleep training if that’s something you’re considering, however, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to improve your family’s sleep even before your little one is 6 months old.
3 months old is a good time to take a look at how you are helping your baby get to sleep and start to work on setting up sustainable sleep routines that work for you as well as your baby. If what you are doing only works for your baby, it’s not going to be sustainable in the long run. Even though your baby is still too young for formal sleep training, this is a great time to start laying the foundation for sleep associations that will work long-term.
Be patient with yourself and your baby as you navigate this stage. It’s a time of learning and adjustment for both of you.
Take a moment to look back on the last 12 weeks and be proud of yourself for getting through them! Some people love the newborn phase, and others just survive it, while others still are somewhere in the middle. Whether you loved it, or just survived it, you’ve made it through the first 3 months, and that’s something to acknowledge. As you enter this next phase of your baby’s development there will be new milestones, and new challenges, but also lots of cuteness, chubby baby cuddles, and giggles.
If you have any concerns about your baby’s sleep habits, feeding, development, or any other aspect of their health, don’t hesitate to consult your pediatrician.
For more information on sleep regressions at other ages, check out this blog on sleep regressions here.