Why We Don’t Recommend the 2-3-4 Nap Schedule.
The 2-3-4 or 2/3/4 nap schedule is popular because it’s easy to remember. It's as simple as that. But just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s the best. Read on to find out why we don’t LOVE it.
The 2/3/4 nap schedule refers to wake windows for baby between sleeps and depicts a 2 naps per day sleep schedule. Baby is awake 2 hours in the morning before they take their first nap. Then, baby is awake 3 hours between nap 1 and nap 2, and then 4 hours before bedtime. This allows for 9 hours of wake time which is standard for a 6-8 month old newly on a 2 nap schedule.
Here is the issue.
Two hours awake in the morning is rather short, and 4 hours awake before bed is REALLY long. We find that babies cannot handle 4 hours before bed until they are 9-11 months old. Keeping baby up longer before bedtime doesn’t result in a later morning wakeup. Instead, it backfires, and baby can wakeup even earlier than their typical morning wake time. Cortisol is responsible for this. So, keep the wake window before bed a tad on the conservative side.
The 2-nap schedule we recommend instead of 2/3/4
What if we balanced those 9 hours of awake out a bit more? How about 2.5/3/3.5 wake windows. We know 2.5 hours in the morning can be a comfortable sweet spot and 3.5 before bed will make sure baby isn’t overtired; resulting in early morning wakeups or a false start. 3 hours in between the naps is just right. We sound a little like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but trust us, this nap schedule will feel like a fairy tale.
Our favorite two nap schedule
You may notice that our favorite 2-nap schedule depicts times on the clock and doesn’t show wake windows. Well, that’s because we are giving you the permission to stop physically counting wake windows once your baby is on two naps per day. Feel free to do a little dance!
Clocked schedules vs wake time schedules can work for babies 6 months + and on a 2 nap schedule. Instead of counting wake windows, you will go by clock only. This can work for those babies and caregivers who live and breathe by a schedule.
How to know if your baby is ready to take two naps per day?
Here is a quick checklist to help you spot the warning signs of a nap transition:
· Baby is 6-8 months old.
· Naps are naturally getting longer to push out the cat nap.
· Naps are chronically short, so a schedule change is needed.
· Baby wakes up early in the morning in an effort to acquire more awake time. This may also manifest into night wakings.
How to establish a clocked nap schedule?
Start by choosing a desired wake time. We like 7:00am. Then offer the naps at 9:30 & 2:00 PM every.single.day. Bedtime will become super consistent and so will nap lengths and morning wake time!
If sleep still feels like a giant struggle at your house no matter what you try, we can help. Talk to a certified baby sleep specialist today by booking a FREE introductory call.
Lindsay Loring is the author of this article. Lindsay is passionate about sleep and helping families get it! Get to know Lindsay and her team on Instagram.