As a sleep consultant, I get asked about the 2-3-4 schedule ALL THE TIME. Before I give you my thoughts, let me first explain how the 2-3-4 schedule works.
What is the 2-3-4 schedule?
The 2-3-4 schedule is a suggested framework for a schedule to put your baby on who is napping twice a day. It is suggested for babies over the age of 6 months. According to this framework, your baby should nap 2 hours after waking up for the day. 3 hours after that nap ends, your baby goes back down for the second nap. And then 4 hours after your baby wakes up from the second nap, it’s time for bedtime.
Penny for my thoughts?
Thanks for asking! Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of the 2-3-4 schedule. It’s not something I ever suggest as a starting point because it doesn’t work with most babies. And here’s why:
1) Most babies by 6 months of age still need 3 naps.
The average 6 month old baby can only be awake for 1.75-2.5 hours before getting tired again. As a result of these short wake windows, a 6 month-old will likely become VERY overtired on a 2-3-4 schedule. And overtiredness can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightwakings, early rising, and short naps!
2) The suggested wake windows (usually) don’t work!
If your baby is tired enough for a nap after 2 hours of wake time in the morning, he likely won’t be able to stay awake for 4 hours before bedtime without getting overtired. And if your baby legitimately needs to be awake for 4 hours before bedtime, he is likely not going to be tired enough to nap in the morning after only 2 hours of wake time.
So look, obviously every baby is different. If you happen to have your baby on a 2-3-4 schedule and it appears to work, there’s no need to change it! The advice I’m providing here is not meant to be customized advice for your particular baby; rather, this is a general observation I have made being in this field for a number of years and having worked with hundreds of families. It just doesn’t work with the vast majority of babies! If it DOES happen to work for your baby, just remember that he is the exception 🙂
To get proper guidance on age appropriate wake windows for your baby, check out my sleep chart that outlines suggested sleep totals, wake windows, and number of naps! https://mailchi.mp/mysleepingbaby/sleep-chart
I scooched up that first nap to get him on the schedule over a couple of days, and it made his naps longer, too.
Great to hear!
The 2-3-4 schedule also only works if your baby is sleeping a lot—for example, about three hours during the day and 12 hours at night—and with fairly consistent nap times.
And most babies over the age of 6 months don’t need that much sleep!