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When your baby is young, you will typically feed your baby every 2.5-3 hours throughout the day. As your baby gets older, he will be able to extend that time interval and eventually land at the 4 hour schedule. This post outlines when and how to implement a Babywise Four Hour Schedule.
When to Move to a 4 Hour Schedule
Your baby might be ready for a four hour schedule when the following are true:
- Baby is at least 12 weeks old. Baby needs to be old enough to go 4 hours between feedings both for the length between feedings and also because going 4 hours between feedings means dropping the number feedings in a day.
- Baby is sleeping through the night with no feedings. You may or may not have a dreamfeed when your baby moves to a four hour schedule. Your baby should be going 8-12 hours at night without a feeding before you consider a four hour feeding schedule.
- Baby is ready to eat 4-5 times a day. Your baby is probably eating 5-6 times a day if you are considering a four hour schedule. Once you are on a four hour schedule, your baby will eat four times during the day. You might have a fifth if you still have a dreamfeed.
- Baby is asleep every time you get him for the next feeding. If your baby is still asleep at every feeding on your current 3-3.5 hour feeding, there is a good chance it is time for a four hour schedule.
- Baby can have a longer waketime or longer naps. To have a four hour feeding schedule, your baby needs to be able to stay awake for 2 hours and then sleep for 2 hours, OR baby needs to be able to stay awake for 1.5 hours and then nap for 2.5 hours. Some babies might be up for 2.5 hours and then nap for 1.5 hours.
- Baby isn’t hungry when eating every 3-3.5 hours. If baby isn’t hungry yet at 3-3.5 hours, he might be ready for a longer feeding schedule.
- You feel like it is time. Never discount your parental intuition. If you just really feel like it is time, give it a try and see how it goes. You can always go back to the 3-3.5 hour schedule if the 4 hour schedule was not right.
If your baby is not ready, do not stress and push moving to the four hour schedule. Your baby will get there when he is ready. Also, remember a combo schedule is perfectly acceptable. You might find your baby can go four hours in between the first two feedings, but needs the remainder of the feedings to be every 3 hours. That is totally fine.
How to Move to a Four Hour Schedule
If you feel confident it is time to move to a four hour schedule, you might be wondering how to make it happen.
You will first need to either keep baby awake longer for playtime or let baby sleep longer for naps. This will ensure baby can get to a four hour feeding interval. If you try to keep baby awake longer and naps stop going well, go back to the 3-3.5 hour schedule and try the four hour schedule at a later date.
You can initially let baby sleep longer and slowly add five minutes of waketime to each waketime until you find out how long baby can be awake and still take a good nap (or until you get to a 2 hour waketime with a 2 hour nap time. If you get there, stop and be satisfied).
Again, if you feel like some intervals need to be 4 hours but others need to be 3 or 3.5, that is perfectly fine.
Once you have moved to the four hour schedule, if your baby starts to be discontent, act hungry, or start waking early from naps or in the night, go back to your old schedule and try for the four hour schedule a later time.
Moving to a four hour feeding schedule is a glorious milestone. Watch for the readiness signs and give it a try when baby is ready. Do not push the schedule before your baby is ready for it. This is a developmental milestone just as walking is. You cannot successfully force it before baby is ready to do it.