Learn a good sleep schedule for your 4 month old using an appropriate 4 month old wake window that will optimize your baby’s sleep.
Getting into a good sleep groove with your baby can be a challenge. Most parents know that there are always going to be hurdles to overcome—whether it’s sleep regressions, adjusting baby’s sleep schedules for growing babies, or fostering independent sleep skills.
Still, I have to admit that learning how to use appropriate wake windows with my daughter was a game-changer.
When I talk about the 4-month-old wake window, I’m referring to the time that your little one is capable of being awake between sleep.
Your baby’s wake windows are essentially a sleep-time sweet spot.
To help you better, download my free sleep calculator to see when naptime and bedtime should be based on your baby’s age. Click here to grab it, it’ll be super helpful.
When Should You Start Using A Wake Window?
You’ve probably heard it before, but sleep begets sleep.
While it’s easy to be hyper-focused on your baby’s nighttime sleep (it’s the time that most directly impacts our own rest, after all!), how well your baby sleeps at night is directly impacted by their quality of sleep during the day.
Wake windows can help you make sure that your baby is getting enough naps (at the appropriate length) throughout the day. This will help you avoid an overtired baby at bedtime.
Knowing appropriate wake windows also makes it so that you’re not putting your baby down to sleep for a nap before they’re ready.
Have you ever set your “sleepy” baby down baby for a nap, only to find they wake up after just one short sleep cycle?
Putting your 4-month-old down for a nap before they’ve hit the appropriate wake window might mean a struggle with the 45-minute intruder and a shorter nap than they need and you’d like.
A baby who takes too-short naps will often get overtired by the end of the day, making bedtime especially tricky.
How Long Can a 4-Month-Old Stay Awake?
Your baby’s wake windows will change quickly and often, especially up until about 6 to 8 months, when your baby drops the third nap.
You may not think that the awake time for a 3-month-old and a 4-month-old would be different, but as your baby grows and develops, so will the time that they are able to stay awake.
Sometime between 3 and 4 months old, your baby will transition from their 3-month old wake window of 60 to 90 minutes, to a new wake window of 90 to 120 minutes.
However, generally speaking, there are some developments that happen around the 4-month mark that make their wake time more interesting and stimulating than it used to be.
Your 4-month-old is probably a proficient feeder by now, so feeds are taking less time. This means they have more time for stimulating activities like holding and shaking toys, imitating facial expressions and speaking sounds, and working on rolling onto their back from their tummy.
If you’re been using the eat-play-sleep routine, remember that these wake windows include both the eat and play portion of the routine.
Now is also a great time to start a nap routine with your little one. Something short and sweet that will cue to your baby’s brain that sleep is coming!
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How to Use Wake Windows With A 4 Month Old
Around 4 months old, many babies can start to extend their wake window to about 2 hours, setting them up well for the 4 to 3 nap transition.
There are a couple different ways to organize your baby’s sleep schedule with appropriate wake windows. Which one you use will depend largely on what works best for your family.
If your baby can go 4 hours in between feeds, I found the easiest schedule to be a 4-hour schedule. It’s easy to remember because of all the 4’s: 4 months old, 4 daytime feedings, 4 hours.
The 4-hour schedule consists of two hours of wake time and two hours of nap time, with a feed after each wakeup. It also includes a short catnap (long enough for one sleep cycle) and 2 hours wake window before bedtime.
If your baby can’t go as long in between feeds, a 3.5-hour schedule might work better for you. While it’s not as simple to remember, it offers some flexibility based on what your baby can handle.
The 3.5-hour schedule includes a catnap and snack feed in the afternoon to hold your baby over until dinner and bedtime.
How to Stretch Wake Windows
There may be situations when your little one is showing sleep cues before their ideal wake window has passed. In those situations, you may be wondering how to stretch wake windows before nap or bedtime.
One of my go-to methods for stretching a wake window is a change of scenery. Consider going outside for some tummy time in the fresh air and sunshine.
You might also consider having a novel toy on hand that your baby doesn’t see very often.
Before transitioning too quickly to this longer wake window, I would encourage you to do the following:
- Pause to assess whether you’re actually seeing signs of the 4-month-sleep regression instead of a need for a longer wake window.
- Look for signs that your baby is ready to transition to a longer wake window. Signs include waking up early from naps, taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep for a nap, or baby having early morning wakings.
If you’ve ruled out a sleep regression and you see signs that your baby is ready to increase their wake window, do so gradually.
I recommend adding 15 minutes to one or two wake times and keeping that consistent over three to five days before adding on another 15 minutes to the same or a different wake window.
Example 4-Month-Old Schedule
I’ve discussed a couple different schedules with slightly varying wake windows for your 4-month old. Here are some examples of both the 4-Hour Schedule and the 3.5-Hour Schedule.
Four Month Old Schedule with 4 Hours in Between Feeds
7:00 am: Wake and feed
7:00 to 9:00 am: Waketime
9:00 to 11:00 am: Nap
11:00 am: Feed
11:00 am to 1:00 pm: Waketime
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm: Nap
3:00 pm: Feed
4:30 to 5:15 pm: Catnap
6:30 pm: Last feed / baby’s bedtime routine
7:15 pm: Bedtime
Four Month Old Sleep Schedule with 3.5 Hours in Between Feeds
7:00 am: Wake and feed
7:00 to 8:30 am: Waketime
8:30 to 10:30 am: Nap
10:30 am to 12:30 pm: Waketime
12:30 pm to 2:00 pm: Nap
2:00 pm: Feed
2:00 to 4:00 pm: Waketime
4:00 to 5:00 pm: Catnap
5:00 pm: Feed (Smaller snack feed)
6:30 pm: Last feed/Bedtime routine
7:00 pm: Bedtime
Why is the First Wake Window the Shortest?
It seems odd that the first wake window of the day is usually the shortest amount of time, but many things regarding baby sleep are counterintuitive.
Even after sleeping 10 to 12 hours at night, most babies still have some built-up sleep pressure, making it harder for them to get through a long wake window in the morning.
This is also why most babies take a great first nap. If you’re struggling to transition your baby to a crib, try starting with the first nap of the day.
As the day goes on, most babies are able to have a slightly longer wake window. For your 4-month old, start their first wake window at 1.5 to 2 hours, and then shift to about 2 hours for the rest of the day’s wake windows.
Can a 4-Month-Old Stay Awake for 3 Hours?
It would be highly unlikely! Most 4-month olds need about a 2-hour wake window to get them to just the right sleepy spot. Three hours is more developmentally appropriate as they move past the 5-month old wake window and closer to a 6-month schedule.
Keep in mind that it can take some time and testing to get your 4 month old to their correct wake window. Once you find that sweet spot, your independent sleeper should enjoy longer naps and better night time sleep!
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