How long your baby is awake in between naps can make a big difference in how well they sleep. This is called their wake window.
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A baby’s wake window is the amount of time they can stay awake in between sleeps, based on their age.
As your baby grows, their wake windows increase.
While every baby is different, most babies fall within a recommended range for their wake windows.
What are Baby Wake Windows?
A baby’s wake window is the window of time that your baby is able to stay awake in between sleeps without getting overtired.
Sometimes this is also called your baby’s wake time.
It’s the time they are awake—eating, playing, and getting their diaper changed. Your baby has an age-appropriate wake window, which will change as they grow.
This wake window is the sweet spot for making sure they aren’t overtired or under-tired.
Why Do Wake Windows Matter?
In working with families, I have seen how adjusting baby’s wake window by even 15 minutes can make a big difference in their sleep.
For example, my daughter would often yawn after being up for 60 minutes. I was very tuned in to her sleep cues, so I would put her down for sleep as soon as I saw that little yawn or eye rub.
But then she would wake up after 45 minutes, leaving me frustrated and confused on how to get her to sleep longer.
Then I increased her wake windows and it made all the difference in her naps and night sleep.
Not following the correct wake windows for your baby can lead to poor sleep for your baby (and for you.)
Putting your baby down past their optimal wake window can cause:
- Short naps and your baby only napping for 30 minutes
- False starts at bedtime
- Your baby waking up too early in the morning
- A generally fussy baby who isn’t getting proper sleep.
Figuring out your baby’s optimal wake windows can be a little tricky, but I’m here to help!
When Should You Start Using Wake Windows?
You can start using wake windows right away, even with your newborn.
Wake windows are just watching the clock and getting your baby down for a nap before they get overtired. Sticking to age-appropriate wake windows is one of the best ways to optimize your baby’s sleep early on.
Don’t worry about getting your baby on a sleep schedule right away, but using wake windows can help prevent your baby from getting overtired.
Does Feeding Count As Part of the Wake Window?
Yes, the goal is for your baby to be awake while they eat, so wake windows include the time it takes baby to take a feeding.
In the newborn phase, feeding will take up the majority of your baby’s wake window and your baby may fall asleep during the feed. (It happens and it’s okay!).
As your baby grows they’ll be able to stay awake longer, and be more efficient at feeds. Soon enough their wake window won’t consist of just eating.
If you’re following an eat/play/sleep routine, the wake window is the “play” part.
Baby Wake Windows By Age
In general, most babies will have a range of time that they can stay awake before getting too tired. Some babies require a bit more wake time, while others need a little less wake time.
Wake windows will typically increase with your baby’s age. The younger a baby, the shorter amount of time they’re able to stay awake.
Here are the recommended wake windows, from ages Newborn through 2 years. These are the sweet spots I have found in working with clients one-on-one:
- Newborn to 12 weeks: 45 to 90 minutes
- 3 to 4 months: 1.5 to 2 hours
- 5 to 6 months: 2.25 to 3 hours
- 7 to 13 months: 2.5 to 3.5 hours
- 1 to 2 years: 4 to 5 hours
Generally newborns can only stay awake for about 30 to 45 minutes before they need to go back to sleep. A newborn’s wake time is just about enough time for a feed, diaper change, and quick cuddle.
In those early days newborn wake windows are very tiny—just like those little babies.
If your newborn has been awake for hours, it’s likely they are overtired, and you just need to get them to sleep however you can.
It’s nearly impossible to enforce a newborn schedule, but you can pay close attention to the clock to ensure they are put down within their wake window.
At two months your baby is still a newborn, but is starting to come out of their sleepy haze. A 2-month old wake window can be 45–60 minutes typically.
See a sample 2 month old sleep schedule here.
3 to 4 Month Old Wake Windows
Around 3 months old, your baby can start staying awake a little longer.
I’ve found that baby’s sleep cues can be misleading around this age, so I keep an eye on them, but tend to go more by wake windows from here on out.
A 3 month old wake windows can be up to 90 minutes.
And a 4-month old wake window can typically be up to 2 hours total.
It gives you so much more time to play with your baby.
5 to 6 Month Old Wake Windows
A 5 month old wake window is between 2 to 2.5 hours.
A 6 month old wake window is between 2.25 to 2.75 hours.
By now your baby may be taking longer naps as well, which is a win-win!
7 to 8 Month Old Wake Window
The shortest wake window is typically at the start of the day and the wake windows lengthen as the day goes on.
Between 7 and 8 months your baby will be probaly ready to transition from 3 to 2 naps.
Once your baby drops the third nap, you’ll stick with similar wake windows for a while and can even move to a set schedule if you want!
9 to 11 Month Old Wake Window
I usually see that between 9 to 11 months, your baby may need to extend their wake windows a bit again.
1-Year Old Wake Windows
Between 13 and 18 months your baby will be ready to transition to one nap and follow a one year old schedule. Your baby has come a long way since those newborn days where they just had minutes of awake time.
A 1-year old’s wake window can have a lot of range, but can be between 3.5 and 5 hours.
Video on Baby Wake Windows
Watch the video below where Amy will answer the most frequently asked questions surrounding baby wake windows. Sometimes it helps to hear someone explain them versus reading a blog post.
Sleep and Feed Schedules for Every Age
Take away the stress of figuring out your baby’s sleep needs. With the Baby Sleep Schedule Binder, you’ll get sleeping and feeding schedules that you can implement for every age, even if you currently have no routine in place. Check out the Baby Sleep Schedule Binder here.
Frequently Asked Questions on Baby Wake Windows
How Do Wake Windows Change as Baby Grows?
Wake windows can be a bit maddening, because they are constantly changing as your baby changes.
The younger your baby is, the shorter their wake windows will be and the more sensitive they’ll be to getting overtired.
As your baby grows, they’ll be able to handle more awake time and won’t be as prone to getting overtired. (Though you still have to watch out for it).
Does Time in the Crib Count?
Sometimes a baby may be “awake” but playing contently in their crib. When should their wake window start if this is the case?
As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant here’s my general rule:
- If your baby is under 3 months old, start counting their wake window from when they open their eyes.
- If your baby is over 3 months old, start counting their wake window from when you get them out of the crib.
Should I go by sleep cues or wake windows?
Your baby will likely show signs that they are tired as well. But around 3 months old, your baby’s sleep cues can become misleading or non-existent.
In my experience some babies need to be stretched past their sleep cues to help them finish off their wake window strong.
This typically results in a longer nap and them going down easier after a quick nap routine.
How do I Stretch Wake Windows?
Some babies will start to show sleepy cues early on in their wake window and you may think they need a nap long before they actually do. This is what happened frequently with my daughter.
Around 11-weeks old, she would yawn at the 60-minute-mark, but from trial and error, I knew she needed a little extra time in order to take a long and restorative nap.
Not having a long enough wake window before bed can cause split nights with baby.
The best analogy I can give for this is this. If your toddler is hungry at 4:30 pm but dinner will be ready at 5:00 pm. You don’t want to give your toddler a snack now because then they won’t eat dinner.
Instead, you want to make sure they are hungry enough to sit and eat dinner with the family.
Baby’s wake windows for sleep are similar.
If your baby has independent sleep habits and is still struggling with short naps. consider their wake window. You may have to stretch them a bit in order to get them to stay awake a little longer.
A good way to stretch your baby’s wake time is to go outside or change the scenery on them. A little sun and some fresh air usually helps them get past the hump they need in order to make it to the new wake time.
You can also try enlisting big brother or sister or the family dog to help distract your baby and keep them up for an extra 15 minutes or so.
As your baby gets used to the new wake window, you won’t have to work so hard to stretch them. Generally, you’ll want to stretch your baby’s wake windows when you are dropping a nap, like the 3-to-2 nap transition around 7 or 8 months.
What Happens If Baby Falls Asleep Before their Wake Window?
Sometimes your baby might fall asleep before their wake window is up, especially if you are in the car or take them for a stroller ride.
I’ve been there. My daughter would always fall asleep in the car if we were getting close to the end of her wake window.
And I cut many walks short, because I saw her starting to doze off.
Some babies really need to be stretched to be able to finish their wake window.
If your baby is falling asleep before their wake window, you may need to pull out all the stops to keep them awake for those last 10-15 minutes.
When Can You Stop Paying Attention to Wake Windows?
It can be annoying to always be watching the clock and calculating your baby’s wake window. Luckily, you don’t need to pay attention to wake windows forever.
As a Baby and Toddler Sleep Consultant, I’ve learned that some parents want to follow wake windows and some parents just want the same set schedule everyday
Once your baby moves to two naps (between 6 and 9 months), you can move from following wake windows each day to using a more consistent sleep schedule.
With a two-nap schedule, your baby will nap about 2.5 to 3.5 hours after they wake up.
So you use wake windows to set their schedule but won’t need to adjust their naps or bedtime based on when they woke up from their various naps.
Nap time and bed time will be the same each day, regardless of your baby’s naps that day, which helps regulate your baby’s clock and prep their body for sleep each day.
It also gives you much more predictability to plan your day, knowing when baby’s naps will be each day!
I really think a lot of baby sleep problems can be solved by having the right wake windows for your baby. If your baby won’t sleep, check their timing and see if it needs adjustment.
If you have any questions on your baby’s wake window, feel free to leave a question in the comments.
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