Your baby’s wake windows are a critical part of your baby getting good sleep! Having appropriate wake windows can help your baby take better naps and sleep better at night!
I’ve been obsessed with sleep for a long time now—ever since I had my daughter 3.5 years ago. And now as a Baby and Toddler Sleep Consultant, I’m even more passionate about helping families get the rest they need.
And you know what? It all started with learning about my baby’s wake window or baby’s wake times.
I read several sleep books when I was pregnant, including Babywise and I thought I knew what I was doing.
But we struggled with naps and early morning wake-ups for a while, despite my best efforts to keep my baby from getting overtired, implementing an eat, play, sleep routine, and setting up a nursery environment that was conducive for sleep.
The thing that I was missing was age-appropriate awake windows!
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 often wake up after 45 minutes, leaving me frustrated and confused on how to get her to sleep longer.
Then I learned about baby’s wake windows and it made all the difference in her naps and night sleep.
What are Wake Windows for Babies?
As your baby is awake, we want to make sure there is enough sleep pressure for them to take a solid nap. We also don’t want too much sleep pressure!
A baby’s wake window is the amount of time that your baby is able to stay awake in between naps without getting overtired or being under-tired.
It’s the time they are awake—eating, playing, and getting their diaper changed. Your baby has an age-appropriate wake window, which is the sweet spot for making sure they aren’t overtired or under-tired.
Figuring out your baby’s wake windows can be a little tricky, but it doesn’t have to be!
Want to feel confident tackling every nap transition? Get printable schedules for babies ages Newborn through 4 years old with my Baby Schedule Cheat Sheets. This program walks you through your baby’s wake windows and nap transitions through their first 4 years, as well as tips on when to extend their wake windows and how to handle nap transitions. Check it out here!
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!
Do Wake Windows Include Feeding?
Yes! Wake window is the length of time when your baby wakes up from one nap, before they go down for their next nap. Your baby is awake while feeding, so that is part of his wake window.
In the beginning, feeding will take up the majority of your baby’s wake window. As your baby grows, is able to stay awake longer, and is more efficient at feeds, their wake window won’t consist of just eating!
Wake Windows By Age
In general, most babies will have a range of time that they can stay awake before getting too tired. Some baby’s require a bit more wake time, while others need a little less wake time.
Wake windows typically increase with baby’s age. The younger a baby, the shorter amount of time they’ll be able to stay awake.
Here are wake window ranges, broken down from ages Newborn through 2 years old as a general guideline.
Use this baby awake time chart to find your baby’s age and their proper wake window:
- 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
How Long are Newborns Wake Windows?
In those early days newborn wake windows are very tiny—just like those little babies!
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!
If your newborn has been awake for hours, it’s likely they are extremely overtired, and you just need to get them to sleep however you can. We really want to avoid an overtired baby, because sleep begets sleep!
You really can’t enforce a newborn schedule, but you can pay close attention to the clock to ensure they are put down within their wake window!
2-Month Old Wake Window
Three to Four Month Old Wake Windows
Around 3 months old, your baby can start staying awake a little longer! I’ve found that baby’s sleepy 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.
It gives you so much more time to play with your baby!
5 to 6 Months
At 5 months old, a baby’s wake window increases and a good 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 Months
A typical 7-month old wake window and 8-month old wake window is between 2.5 and 3.5 hours. 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 able to extend their wake windows even more until they are 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! Babies this age can typically stay awake between 2.5 and 3.5 hours before they need to go to sleep again.
9 to 11 Months
Between 9 to 11 months, your baby may need to extend their wake windows a bit again. Nine-month old wake windows should be between 3 to 3.5 hours.
One-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!
Understanding Baby’s Wake Windows
Wake windows can be tricky to understand, especially for new parents, so let’s see an example.
If your baby is 4-months old, her wake window will be between 90 to 120 minutes.
If she wakes up at 7 am for the day, her first nap will be at 8:30 am. The time from when your baby wakes for the day and the morning nap is often a shorter wake window.
Hopefully she’ll take a decent nap and sleep for about 1.5 hours, and then wake up around 10:00 am. You’ll feed her, change her diaper, and play before she’ll likely be ready for her next nap around 12:00 pm.
Many parents want to shorten the next wake window if their baby took a short nap, but doing so typically perpetuates the short nap cycle. Sometimes you have to stretch your baby a tiny bit to get them a second wind and help get them to their next nap time.
You can see a more detailed 4-month old schedule here.
Of course babies will always have off days if they are sick or had a restless night. Babies fight sleep for a variety of reasons! But in general, your baby’s wake times will be consistent day-to-day until they are ready to make a change.
How to 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.
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.
Wake Windows vs Schedule
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. You’ll establish a 6-month old schedule that works for your baby and keep naps and bedtime consistent each day.
You’ll use the age appropriate wake window to set their schedule and won’t need to adjust your baby’s 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.