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When to Move baby to a 4 Hour Schedule. Once your baby is happily eating every three hours and you seem to always need to wake her up to eat, it may be time to move from a three hour schedule to the four hour schedule. Read on to see if your baby is ready.
Aaahhh. The four hour schedule. Any mom who has been there knows how wonderful it is. Any mom who hasn’t can only dream, but she is sure it is lovely. There are many wonderful things about a 4 hour schedule, especially if you are breastfeeding.
As lovely as it seems (and it is lovely), don’t rush into it. Wait until your baby is ready for it. The Babywise book says that “many a mother” is anxious to move to a 4 hour schedule (for good reason!), but there is no need to rush it.
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 Four Hour Schedule for your baby. So how do you know if your baby is ready?
- Signs Baby is Ready for a 4 Hour Schedule
- Baby is Sleeping Through the Night
- Baby Can Take Fewer Feedings
- Baby is Always Sleeping When It is Time to Eat at 3 Hours
- Baby Is Not Hungry at Feeding Times
- Baby Can Handle Longer Waketime Lengths
- Baby is at Least 12 Weeks Old
- Trust Your Gut
- What To Do When Baby is Almost Ready for a 4 Hour Schedule
- How To Move to a Four Hour Schedule
- Poll Results of Poll Conducted on this blog
- Related Schedule Posts On This Blog
- Reader 4 Hour Schedule Questions:
Signs Baby is Ready for a 4 Hour Schedule
How do you know 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 Sleeping Through the Night
Baby should be STTN (sleeping through the night) with no feedings. By STTN I mean 12 hours with no feedings. The Babywise book, however, says 9-10 hours before moving to a 3.5 hour schedule.
Watch your child and do what you think is best. 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 Can Take Fewer Feedings
Your baby will likely be taking 5-6 feedings a day between 7 AM and 7 PM (or 7:30-7:30, depending on your waketime) before you are ready for the 4 hour schedule. 4 hours means 4 feedings.
You want to be sure your baby is physically ready. That is why I say don’t push. Some women need to do 5 feedings if they are BF (breastfeeding). Watch your supply if you are breastfeeding.
To know if your child is old enough to drop to four feedings in a day, see Your Babywise Baby First Year Overview. 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 Always Sleeping When It is Time to Eat at 3 Hours
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.
This is the biggest sign. Items 2 and 3 are taken care of, and now you watch for item 4. By always I mean most of the time.
Some babies (like my Brayden) will be able to have longer wake times and therefore will sleep later. Others (like my Kaitlyn) will have the same waketime length, but just sleep longer for naps.
I just wouldn’t move to a four hour schedule if the child wasn’t sleeping well. If you are entertaining them before mealtime on a 3 hour schedule, imagine what it will be like if you extend it to four hours.
With that said, there are moms who feel like it is time to move to a four hour schedule and it actually fixes baby’s sleep issues and baby sleeps better.
Baby Is Not Hungry at Feeding Times
Baby isn’t that hungry for each meal eating every three hours. They don’t show interest in it. If baby isn’t hungry yet at 3-3.5 hours, he might be ready for a longer feeding schedule.
Baby Can Handle Longer Waketime Lengths
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 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.
Trust Your Gut
You will just know when your baby is ready. With my two older kids, they moved to 4 hours themselves, I didn’t move them. I had to let them, but that is a different post.
If you feel like it is time, trust yourself. 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.
What To Do When Baby is Almost Ready for a 4 Hour Schedule
Let’s say your baby can go longer in the morning but not all day, what do you do? I say this is a sign that 4 hours is coming soon. Until then, let baby go 3.5 hours in the morning, then do 3 hours the rest of the day. You can do a combination 3-3.5 or even 3-4 hour schedule. You can do some intervals at four hours, others at three hours, and others at 3.5 hours.
Sometimes you will have to decide between moving to a four hour schedule OR dropping a dreamfeed. Many babies can do one or the other at first, but not both at the same time. There is no one right order to go in. I did it one way with two babies and another way with the other two babies.
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.
Ready to move? See these sample 4 hour schedules for baby
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.
Don’t feel pressured to move to a 4 hour schedule. Don’t measure your success by it. Kaitlyn didn’t move to 4 hours until she was almost 7 months old, and Brayden was older. They may have gone sooner if I had pushed them, but I let them set the pace and we all were peaceful, happy and relaxed. Don’t thrown one more thing into the mix to stress you out and cause you frustration.
This post was originally published December 19, 2007
Poll Results of Poll Conducted on this blog
What Age Did LO Move to 4 Hour Schedule (approximate)?
- 3 Months: 1 Vote
- 4 Months: 5 Votes
- 5 Months: 1 Vote
- 6 Months: 5 Votes
- 7 Months: 0 Votes
- 8 Months/Older: 3 Votes
Total of 16 Votes.
Related Schedule Posts On This Blog
- Four Hour Schedule: More Thoughts
- Combo Schedule is Okay
- Tricks for Getting Baby on a Consistent Schedule
Reader 4 Hour Schedule Questions:
- Amber said…
Hey, I love this post [It’s Dynamic] it describes parenting so well! It is always changing and of course that is what makes it so hard.Quick question: I would like to ~try~ to see if my daughter (3 1/2 months) is ready for a 3 1/2 hour schedule. The problem is that she is still having only 1 hour – 1hour 15min at the most of waketime. She would then be sleeping for 2 1/2 hours. Is that alright? Or should I not move the schedule until she can stay awake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours?Thanks~January 9, 2008 6:49 AM
2.5 hour is fine. If she is sleeping and you have to wake her for feedings, then you know she can go longer. Keep in mind that you can do a combo schedule. If she can go 3.5 hours in the morning but only 3 the rest of the day, that is fine! It is moving in the right direction.January 9, 2008 7:12 AM
- susie said…
I am new to this website. I love BWise & I just love this very helpful website. I wish I new about this months ago. I have a 6 month old daughter and we’ve been doing Bwise since birth. She has been sleeping thru the night since 6 weeks. She is a great sleeper at night, but not so much a good napper. She is on a 4 hour schedule. She “takes” 3 2 hour naps a day. She lays down for a nap really well, usually no crying. However, every nap since birth it seems like, she wakes up after 30 minutes and struggles falling back to sleep. Any suggestions?*Do you think I started the 4 hour routine too early?
February 18, 2008 12:02 PM
I am glad you found us! I personally don’t move to the 4 hour schedule until baby can sleep through to the next nap. It throws everything way off otherwise. She might not move her schedule back. I would continue to see if you can figure out the napping thing. See the “Naps: Troubleshooting” post. Some babies just seem to click one day. Let me know if I can answer any questions! I would recommend looking at the blog index and then the Naps section. I would read the many posts on nap issues. Good luck!
February 18, 2008 1:42 PM
- Fortibus Marketing of Charleston, L.L.C said…
I typically have to wake up my son for all of his naps except for his first morning nap and his last nap he tends to wake up early most of the time and I have to go in a calm him to sleep, or he usually settles himself to sleep for the last nap. What does that mean for him? He doesn’t seem to be able to stay up longer then 1.5 hours, so does that mean that we should have him sleep for 2 hours and then still stay up for only 1.5 hours?
February 26, 2008 7:40 PM
My daughter stays up for various lengths depending on the time of day, but one time is 1 hour 45 minutes. She then sleeps for two hours fifteen minutes. That is fine.You can try extending certain feedings. Not a feeding he wakes up for, but one he is always asleep for at feeding time. See how that one goes. Good luck!
February 26, 2008 9:35 PM
- susie said…
I have a 7 month old daughter. I work as a nurse so she is in daycare 2x/week. We have been doing BW since birth. My daughter has went straight to sleep and slept through the night since 6 weeks old. However, for thew last couple of days, she cries at bedtime and for every nap. I have been trying to move her to a 4 hour schedule for a few weeks now. I am just so frustrated b/c I feel it is so hard hearing her cry. My husband has been working really late nights and my family doesn’t support BW at all!!! So, I feel lonely. I do believe it works. I love the whole concept of BW. I see great results in BW children. However, her naps have NEVER been solid 1.5 – 2 hours. I have tried adjusting her wake times. I feel like I have tried it all!!! She is the one that you cannot interfere with at all during naps. So not only am I letting her cry at naps, but also during waketimes b/c she hates alone time…HELP!!!March 13, 2008 3:00 PM
Susie,So was she fine for naps and night before you started trying the 4 hour schedule? If so, I would move back to that and see how it goes. You will make life a lot easier on yourself if you aren’t trying force yet another thing. I personally wouldn’t move to a four hour schedule until I had to get the baby up from naps, like Babywise says. However, there are moms who have tried it before naps were long enough and found baby slept well once the 4 hour schedule has been established.I would stick with the 3 hour (or remember you can do a combo 3-3.5 or even 3-4 hour schedule) since crying seems to have gotten worse.Also, watch for those normal disruptions like teething and sickness. If she suddenly starts crying after not having done so for so long, my guess is there is a good reason for it. Good luck, and please ask if you have further questions.
March 14, 2008 10:02 AM
- Kelly said…
Hi. I don’t know if you remember me but I posted about my twins that were 5 weeks early (their ped does NOT adjust age…weird!). You suggested waiting until 12 weeks adjusted until doing anything. They turned 12 weeks on a Friday and Saturday one slept 6-6:30 and the other 6-4-6:30. YAY! However, now my one that woke at 4 is back to waking at 11 and 4 and taking 4 ounces at each feeding. Oh wait…they have moved to a 4-3-4 hour schedule. Here is their schedule now645 wake/eat815-11 nap11 eat1215 nap2 wake/eat3 nap415 wake545 bedtime routine6 last bottle…bed
Both of my girls have moved themselves to this schedule (before they were 7,10,1,4,7). I wish they didn’t to be able to get the one to STTN (more feeds) but I am not going to wake them from their nap just to get more food in them. Because I have two I don’t really want to mess with their daytime schedule (ie have one on one schedule and the other on another). I think right now the “waker” may be teething and not eating as much during the day causing her to wake at night….is that possible? Thankfully the “waker” does not wake my other one. Do you have any suggestions?
June 10, 2008 9:23 PM
Oh, forgot to add they are almost 15 weeks adjusted now, almost 5 months unadjusted.
June 10, 2008 9:24 PM
Yes, it is common for a teether to not eat as much as usual. You are also about at 4 months with the adjusted age. See these posts:4 month Sleep Problems
5-8 Month Sleep Disruptions
June 11, 2008 11:02 AM
- Abby’s Mom said…
I have a 6 month old who is still on a 3 hour schedule, sometimes only 2.5. She still eats 6 times per day because she continues to wake between 5am and 6am and will not back to sleep unless I feed her. I then wake her at 8am to start her day. She has never been a good napper and I think I have finally accepted that she never will be because I have tried everything. Her naps are usually about an hour, sometimes only 45 minutes. With this in mind, do you think she will ever move to a four hour schedule? Her optimal wake time is about 1.5 hours. If she doesn’t ever take longer naps, does that mean she will just always be on a 3 hour schedule? Is there harm in feeding her every 3 hours still as she gets older? She started solids about a month ago and eats them 3x a day at 8am, 11am and 5pm. She will usually only eat about 1.5-2 T at each meal.
June 17, 2008 2:08 PM
No, at the least her waketime will lengthen so she will be able to make it longer. My daugther was still on a 3 hour schedule at 6 months also, so don’t worry. It also takes time for them to get good enough at solids that they take in enough. Things will improve 🙂
June 17, 2008 10:51 PM
- Meghan said: Thank you for the post- so timely for me. I have a 7 month old daughter (almost 8 months– January 11th) that I think is ready for a four-hour eating schedule bc she’s simply not hungry every three hours (not finishing bottles). She is also having solids/ finger foods two, sometimes three times a day. However, her naps are A MESS. And I’m desperate for help. She sleeps through the night but consistently wakes early (sometimes as early as 5 am) and I know she’s overtired because her naps are short and sometimes she will wake from a nap crying. Every once in a while she will take a longer nap- 1 1/2 hours, but this is not consistent. She simply can’t move to two naps a day because she isn’t consistently sleeping long enough, yet she often fights the third nap of the day. Suggestions? Advice? I need help!
BabywiseMom said:If you are having trouble with naps but think your baby can move to a four hour schedule, give the four hour schedule a try and see if it fixes your nap issues. If you move to a schedule where baby gets up, is awake for 2 hours, goes down for nap for 2 hours, then gets up for 2 hours, then goes down for nap for 2 hours, it just might fix your nap issues.
Some little ones cannot go 2 hours of being awake, though. In those cases, you can do awake time for one 1.5 hours and nap for 2.5 hours.
Specifically for the 5-8 month old age range, this post can help you figure out why our baby is not sleeping well: https://www.babywisemom.com/10-reasons-your-5-8-month-old-has/
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