The 2-3-4 Sleep Schedule

I’m always a little wearyΒ to write about sleep routines so as not to jinx us. It seems like every time I do, Olivia starts sleeping poorly again. But I just had to share this. I stumbled across the 2-3-4 sleep schedule when I was researching what to do about Olivia’s 45 minute naps. I knew she was way overtired when she woke up from those naps, and she was starting to get raccoon eyes, despite her nighttime sleep being 7pm – 7am with a quick wake up at 5am to eat.

Here is how the 2-3-4 method works. There’s minimal math, and no spreadsheet required (unless you’re a nut like me).

  • Nap #1 is exactly 2 hours after morning wake up
  • Nap #2 is 3 hours after Nap #1 wake up
  • Bedtime is 4 hours after Nap #2 wake up

This really got us back on track. Sometimes this schedule naturally develops. For us, the mistake I made was waiting 3 hours after morning wake up to put Olivia down for the first nap, which led to her being extremely over-tired and unable to sleep for longer that 45 minutes. I guess I just thought that 2 hours was too soon, but when I came across the 2-3-4 schedule, I was willing to try anything. It really worked like a charm. And while we have our off days once in a while, things are MUCH better now.

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  1. How long did it take until Olivia started lengthening her naps once you put her on the 2-3-4 schedule?

    • Hi Stephanie! I noticed it as soon as I started a full day, so I think that 2 hour interval at the beginning (vs. my previous timing of 3-3.5h) really makes a big difference in establishing the longer nap times for the rest of the day.

  2. Hi! My little one turned 6 months on the 23rd. I didn’t think she was ready for this schedule, but I’m trying it today. We were basically on a 2-2-2 schedule, but her middle of the day nap was almost always only 30-45 minutes. I’m trying 2-3-4 or a modified version today to see if she’ll have better quality naps and maybe consolidate 3 naps into 2 longer ones. Much to my surprise, she was still super cheerful almost 3 hours after her morning nap. I thought she’d be a basket case! Hopefully, we’ll have success!

    • Hope the rest of the naps went well today! I have to go back in my logs to see when that third nap fell out of the rotation based on timing. I think it was 5.5 mos? It felt like way too soon πŸ™‚

      • They went well! Her first nap was from 9-10 so I kept her up until 1, then she slept til 3! Then, we did bedtime at 630. I don’t think she’s quite ready for the 4 hour stretch. I’m so glad I came across this post!!

  3. I’d like to try this with my 4 month old, but we are still on a 3 hour eating schedule. How did you work out her feedings to make sure she was getting enough to eat but still being able to take long naps?

    • You know what’s funny? At 8 mos, Olivia is still on a 3 hour eating schedule during the day! She drinks her formula every 3-3.5 hours and then has her solids in between. If I know that the 3 hour mark will fall during her nap time, I just give her some extra before I put her down. She typically has 6 oz per bottle, so if she woke up at 6:30 and had a bottle at 6:45, breakfast (oats and fruit) at 7:30 and then it’s nap time at around 8:30, I’ll give her 3-4 oz at 8:15, and depending on when she wakes up (and whether she finished , I’ll either give her another 3-4 oz or a full one when she wakes up. Hope that helps!!

  4. I love your blog!! Just discovered it tonight and it all makes sense now!!! I’m just wondering at 12 weeks, how long were olivia’s naps? My little one has about 1hr in the morning, 2hrs around mid day and then about 1hr in the evening..but the problem is that every second day, she has a completely lazy day where she will sleep most of the morning like a four hr nap and she’ll be fine in the afternoon and evening..and still sleep ok at night..each time it happens, I worry if it’ll ruin the rest of the day!

    • Hi Jan, thanks so much!! At 12 weeks, O’s naps were pretty erratic. I went back to my daily logs, and it looks like she was taking four 1hr naps throughout the day (every 1.5 hours) and waking three times at night, but other days had one 2hr and two 45min ones! So you’re definitely not alone! It was definitely hard to know what to expect back then, especially given the physical and developmental growth spurts that took place around that time. We also had her on a later bedtime back then (9ish), and I wonder if that was part of the reason on our end. We instituted the 7pm bedtime at 19 weeks (after the notorious Wonder Week 19 passed), and did it in conjunction with moving her to her own room and crib.

  5. I’ve been doing the 2-3-4 schedule with my nearly 8-month old for awhile now and her naps aren’t great yet, but what I’m wondering is how long you can use this method? Until the morning nap disappears? I’ve always heard to keep extending their wake time as they get older, but this schedule works perfectly for the days when I go to work bc she can sleep from 9-1030, wake up and then we leave for my cousin’s, who watches her during the day. Can I use this schedule indefinitely??

    • Hi there! We started 2-3-4 at around 6 months since that’s when Olivia seemed able to handle the longer intervals of awake time. At 4 months, she went through a pretty intense Wonder Week leap and all of her naps and nighttime sleep were thrown off. She needed at least three naps then (as short as they were sometimes!) otherwise she got pretty crabby. We did have some luck with the Baby Whisperer’s EASY routine at around that time – maybe you can try re-visiting the EASY? Hang in there! The sleep thing gets a lot easier at around 5/6 months!

    • Hi Courtney! Apologies for the delayed reply. We JUST transitioned from 2 naps (and a variation of 2-3-4) at 17 1/2 months!! So, yes, I think you can potentially have a nice long stretch of it! I noticed that the earlier naptime remained consistent (2 or 2 1/2 hours after wakeup), whereas the other two intervals reversed. So, before we switched to one nap, it was more like 2.5 – 4 – 3 πŸ™‚
      7am wake up
      9:30 – 11 nap
      2:45 – 4 nap
      7:15 bedtime

      • No problem at all and thanks so much for the response! Do you recommend stretching the morning wake time? Ive been putting her down at 9:00 and her routine most days is to fall right asleep, up after 30 minutes, plays for 20-30, and asleep for another 30-60 minutes. Im wondering if stretching her would keep her down for at least a solid hour? The only worry I have is some mornings I need to leave for work at 1030 so she needs to be up by then and if I stretch her to 930 she may not have the time for an hour of sleep, and she’s not the baby that will make up for the sleep in her second nap – she just isnt a marathon napper πŸ™ She seems really tired by 9 as well – rubbing her eyes sometimes by 8:00 am!

        • My take is – don’t mess with a good thing πŸ™‚ If she’s falling asleep right away, then I wouldn’t stretch the wake time. One thing you might want to try – as counterintuitive as it sounds – is putting her down 15 minutes earlier, especially on the days that you see she’s really tired early on. I found that when Olivia is overtired, she takes longer to fall asleep OR she falls asleep and wakes up 30-45 later. Good luck and let me know how that works!!

          • Thanks! Yes, she generally falls right asleep for her naps and bedtime :). Now that I think about it, there have been times when I put her down around 845/850 and she did sleep longer sometimes! I will keep a closer eye on her in the mornings to see if that will work! Also, do you think that doing some sort of “wind down” before the nap routine would help? Sometimes I play sleepy music with dim lights in my room and read her a story before taking her to her room, but sometimes there isn’t time lol. Thank you so much!!

          • Yes! I always do the wind down, and I’ve found that it really helps. When we’re short on time, I only do one book but it may be useful to also add a quick little ritual that she associates with sleep when you don’t have much time – does she have a lovey or stuffed animal she sleeps with? What if you start rubbing her cheeks with it or giving it to her for some snuggles as you put her down in the crib? Also, can you do the wind down in her room?

          • She doesn’t have a lovey right now – I’m still a little worried about the suffocation risk, as she is a tummy sleeper, but what I generally do is the sleepy tunes, a short story, and then we head to her room, turn on the white noise, change her diaper, put her in the sleep sack, and say a little prayer and then I tell her goodnight and that I love her, etc before I put her down in the crib. I was concerned that the nap routine was a little short without the music and story, but wasn’t sure. I think I’ll try the wind down in her room from now on as well πŸ™‚ And by the way, I really appreciate your willingness to respond to all of these questions! Moms need other moms!!

          • I completely understand! When she (and you!) is ready, check out the Aden+Anais muslin loveys with the satin trim. We use those and they are so small and ultra thin, almost like cheese cloth. I got them because they were the thinnest I could find and I shared your concern.

            And I’m so happy that my comments are helpful! I agree, mommyhood is an interesting club πŸ™‚ We definitely need to support each other as much as we can!

          • I just looked them up and they are great! Right now she sucks on her fingers to self soothe luckily :).
            Most people who deal with sleep won’t ever respond to emails or they want $400 to answer three emails from me lol. As a first-time mom, I LOVE brainstorming with other moms (most of my free time goes to that these days, as you can tell with my influx of emails lol) and LOVED looking through your pics of Olivia’s toys!!

  6. Do you think 4 months is two young to start this routine? I’ve struggled with naps with my daughter since birth, she is a very alert baby and I tried things like the baby whisperer and that never worked.

  7. 4 months should be okay. what i do is take turns with the babies father when the baby awakes. so i get sleep. maybee you should do the same with your babies father. just sleep in another room. the baby whisperer neva worked for us as well.

  8. I also was wondering if 9 weeks is too early to start this, because i am at my wits end… lol i dont know ic she is overtired or not tired enough to nap.

    • Hi Teresa, thanks for stopping by! I think it may be a tad early for 2/3/4, at that age I’m not sure that little ones stick to any defined schedule. Check out this link, it goes through sleep/nap expectations for 9 weeks: Hang in there, those early months can be rough as far as sleep is concerned but she (and you) will get there!

  9. Hi! I know this post is a couple years old, but hoping that you are still reading the comments. I was trying to do 3-3-3 wake times with my 7 month old, but it doesn’t seem to be working well. She takes a good morning nap 1-2 hours (most days), but then I think she is overtired by the afternoon and is only sleeping 30-40 minutes. Then I have to fight her to take a catnap or she’s ready for bed at 5:30 (too early for us!).

    I have a couple questions that I was hoping you could help me with, if you don’t mind. Did you have a consistent wake up time for your baby? I am spending the first year at home with her, so I don’t have to have her up by a certain time. Most days she is up between 7 and 8, although today she was up at 5:45 (thank you snow plows!). What would you do on days that they wake up extra early? Also, would you wake them from the second nap so that bedtime was at the same time each day? We try for a 7-7:30 bedtime. I don’t want to be tied to a clock, but a routine and some predictability would be nice. Thanks!!!

    • Hi there! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I tried to keep nap time fairly consistent at that age, same with bedtime. If I’m recalling correctly O had two naps back then and I tried to stick to the 2/3/4 as much as possible. But on early wake ups I would just wait until the normal first nap time – I’d try to minimize anything that throws off bedtime as much as possible. I think you’re right on!! Routine is key, especially at bedtime πŸ™‚

  10. Hello! Hope your still responding. My LO is 12 weeks old and is a horrible napper. She is always so alert and only catnaps, which is usually on me or my breasts. If I move she always wakes up before I get her down or is awake within 5 min. I’m exhausted and I know she is. She tends to be fussy all day unless held. She also nurses almost 1.5-2 hrs. How is she supposed to nap when she eats so often! She can nurse any where from 20 min to an hour. Also, are you letting LO’s cry it out when you lay them or nurse? She also refuses any type of pacifier.

  11. What do you do if the 2-3-4 means a really early bedtime? My baby has been waking at 4:30 am – ugh – and I can’t get him back to sleep until almost 6 or 7. That is a problem in that itself which I guess becomes his first “nap” of the day though it seems more like an extension of nighttime sleep. He also tends to take catnaps rather than long restorative naps so that would mean his bedtime would sometimes be at 4 PM or 5 PM which is quite early. I normally get him to bed between seven and 7:30 PM. Any tips on what to do if I want to try this 2-3-4?

  12. Hi there. Not sure if you’re still checking this post, but I appreciate the info about the 2-3-4 schedule! I go back to work in a few weeks and would love to be able to hand off our then 6 month-old with some semblance of a consistent routine (it’s so scary going back to work and realizing you won’t be in the know about everything/won’t have control over anything that happens while you’re gone! I digress πŸ™‚ ).

    Baby boy is 6 months next week and I’m nervous that maybe I’m holding him back by adhering to old wake-time expectations. He’s up for 2 hours before first nap (lasts for about 2 hours, but I wake him up for fear of him sleeping too much and being under tired at bedtime), 2-2.5 before second nap (1.5-2 hours), and then that third nap is hit or miss. I know I should defend bedtime by not letting him nap too late in the day but I’ll wake him up if he’s sleeping too long so he can have a consistent bedtime of 7:30-8:00 (but maybe I shouldn’t be going off the clock like that?).

    I’d like to try the 2-3-4 schedule (!) because my girlfriend said it was a lifesaver, BUT 1) how do I go about extending wake time from 2.5 hours – 4? Gradually? Or just try it? and 2) he’s not yet sleeping through the night. (Wah. He goes to bed after a consistent bedtime drowsy but awake but still gets up to eat 2-3 times a night). Do you think night sleep should come first, or that the nap sleep could potentially help the night sleep?

    Oy. Sorry for the twenty questions. Thanks in advance for any insights you might be able to provide!

  13. Hi,
    I tried 234 yesterday and today, but I think I did it for different reasons to most people. She’s always napped well, that’s not the issue – she self settles and naps for 1.5-2hrs. But I started it to try and 1. get an earlier bedtime (9pm just wasnt working for her or us), and 2. to try and improve night sleep. So the first day she woke once more overnight for a feed (being 3times), and tonight she’s already woken twice for a feed and now won’t go back to sleep. Yesterday we did 2.2-2.55-3.2hrs. Today we did 2.15-2.5-3.45hrs. I was working up to today being 2-3-4 but it really seems like adding an extra 20mins WT at the end of the day isnt going to be enough to make her sleepy enough to not wakeup for 2hrs overnight. And if I add more WT during the day, I just end up back at a 9pm bedtime. I’m very tempted to just scrap it. Any ideas, suggestions, guidance would be greatly appreciated though. Katie

  14. Thank you so much for your blog. A few years later, your comments are still pretty relevant! I’m so glad to know I’m not along on this crazy journey of sleep discovery. Going to try the 2-3-4 when MLO wakes up.

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