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Newborn Wake Windows & How to Optimize Your Newborn’s Sleep

Learn how long your newborn can be awake in between naps and how to optimize their sleep. Following proper newborn wake windows can help keep your baby from getting overtired and overstimulated.

newborn baby yawning after wake window

The newborn phase is full of so many sweet moments—skin-to-skin time, loads of snuggling with that soft baby skin, and lots and lots of sleepy newborn sweetness.

The term sleep like a baby definitely comes from the early newborn sleepy days. Newborns tend to fall asleep easily, sleep large parts of the day, and sleep through almost anything.

But newborn sleep can also be extremely tricky.

Keep your baby awake for too long, and she’ll get overtired, leaving you with an overstimulated baby who will have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep.

That’s why paying attention to your newborn’s awake time or wake windows is especially important!

It’s nearly impossible to implement a newborn schedule this early in the game, but you can watch the clock like a hawk and try to get your newborn to sleep within the recommended wake windows.

In the beginning, newborns are awake just long enough to get in the calories they need from a feeding and then fall back asleep, maybe 30 to 60 minutes at most.

Your newborn baby will sleep between 14 and 20 hours in a 24-hour period and that sleep will be scattered and disorganized for the first few months of life. It’s also very common if your baby only naps 30 minutes at a time.

newborn baby feet in mom's hands

Learn How to Get your Newborn to Sleep!

newborn sleep program

Have a new baby or expecting one soon? Grab my Newborn Sleep Program. It’s 8 short videos and 25 cheat sheets of newborn sleep tips and tricks to get your new baby sleeping well. The Newborn Sleep Toolkit is full of graphics and easy-to-read info and is perfect for exhausted new parents! Get it here.

How Long Can a Newborn Stay Awake?

Not long! Your 0 to 6 week old can only stay awake for about 45 minutes before it’s time for her to go back down for sleep. In the beginning, most of a newborn’s awake time is taken up by feeding.

Newborns are often sleepy as they feed and may fall asleep at the breast or bottle. If your newborn is a particularly efficient eater, you might have time for a quick snuggle and diaper change before another it’s time for another nap!

As your newborn grows, she’ll be able to stay awake a little longer. Around 6 to 8 weeks, a newborn’s wake window extends to about 60 minutes and a 3 month old wake windows can be up to 90 minutes.

Make sure to follow your baby’s sleep cues while watching the clock to get them down at the optimal wake window for sleep.

mom holding newborn

When Should You Start Using a Wake Window?

You can start using wake windows from day one! It’s important to protect a newborn’s wake window and not keep them up past it.

Sure life happens, and sometimes you’ll lose track of the time and miss your baby’s optimal wake window. Try to be cognizant of the clock most of the time while still granting yourself grace in this newborn period.

But the more you pay attention to your baby’s wake windows, the less likely you are to have to deal with an overtired baby.

Sleep begets sleep in those early days so a baby who is well rested during the day typically sleeps better at night.

How to Calculate Newborn Wake Windows

When your baby is under 12 weeks old, their wake window is the total time that they are awake. You count their wake window from the moment they open their eyes to the moment they close them.

Once you move to a 3-month old schedule, you’ll count your baby’s wake window from the time you put her in her crib or bassinet to the time you get her up from the crib or bassinet.

Remember that your newborn’s wake window includes the total time that they are awake, including the time spent feeding.

dad holding sleeping newborn after wake window

Should I Wake My Newborn After Three Hours?

Many sleep consultants and lactation consultants agree to wake a sleepy baby for feeds.

I recommend feeding your baby between every 2.5 to 3 hours during the day. When babies get a full feeding, they typically fall into a 2.5 to 3-hour feeding routine.

You may have heard the advice to never wake a sleeping baby, but as a pediatric sleep consultant, I throw that advice out the window.

If it’s been more than three hours in between feeds, I would give your baby another 30 minutes maximum to wake on their own, and then I’d wake her up to make sure she gets a feeding in.

Going too long without a feeding during the day can cause your baby to make up for all those calories at night.

Babies also have their days and nights mixed up until they are about 6 to 8 weeks old, so it’s important to wake your baby up for feeds throughout the day and create a conducive sleep environment, You can do this by including these baby nursery must haves for sleep!

Your newborn’s wake window is almost non-existent in the beginning. I promise they’ll start stretching those wake windows and be awake more and more as they grow and develop!

Each month they’ll grow and have a longer wake window. A 4 month old wake window can be up to two hours and a 5-month old wake window can be up to 2.5 hours, so you’ll have more play time with your little one soon!

Soon you’ll miss these sleepy newborn days where your baby slept any and everywhere! But for now, make sure to prioritize sleep and get your newborn down after she’s been awake for about 45 minutes.

Amy Motroni