Why Wake Windows Matter
Your baby is probably not sleeping enough during the day. How do I know this? Every parent knows that 11 or 12 hours of nighttime sleep is a dream/wish/goal to work towards. What most parents miss is that daytime sleep is just as important. The quality of your baby’s daytime sleep affects nighttime sleep and naps usually need to be happening more frequently than you assume.
The most common baby sleep mistake is keeping your baby awake for too long during the day. Sometimes we think our babies don’t need as much daytime sleep because
“She just isn’t a great napper”
“He doesn’t need so many naps”
“We’re fine during the day – it’s the nights that are the issue”
No. Just because your baby isn’t sleeping enough during the day doesn’t mean he’s ok with that. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need that daytime sleep. It just means he’s not getting it.
What are wake windows?
Babies are biologically designed to tire after being awake for a certain amount of time. All babies are designed to be this way, so your baby is included in this category even if she’s not a great napper yet. The amount of time a baby can stay comfortably awake before she needs another nap is called a “wake window.” At the end of each wake window, she’ll need a nap.
If your baby’s Wake Window is 45 minutes and she wakes up from her nap at 11 am, then from the minute her eyes open at 11 until the start of her next nap will be 45 minutes max. This means that her next nap will be 11:45 am, latest.
Many moms are shocked to learn that they can put their baby back down for a nap so soon. This is because we severely underestimate the amount of daytime sleep that babies need to function optimally.
Why do Wake Windows Matter?
First of all, if your baby is overtired or under-tired, you’re going to end up with shorter and fussier naps. Not the long peaceful ones that allow you to… you know, live a little.
Also, babies that are overtired don’t sleep well at night. Poor napping leads to night wakings. Good naps lead to better night sleep.
Putting a baby down for a nap before the end of her wake window will just result in prolonged fussing or crying – because a baby that’s not tired will not be happy to be in her crib.
This is why it’s so important to get the wake window just right – not too long, not too short, but just right. Kinda like the Goldilocks of baby sleep.
Wake Windows by Age
Wake windows lengthen with age, so it’s important to match your baby to the right wake window for her age.
|Age||Time Between Naps||Length of Nap||Number of Naps per day|
|0- 12 weeks||60-90 minutes||15 minutes – 2 hours||4-8|
|3-4 months||75-120 minutes||30 minutes – 2 hours||3-4|
|5- 7/8 months||2 – 3 hours||1 -2 hours||3|
|8-14 months||3-4 hours||1-2 hours||2|
|14-24 months||5-6 hours||1-3 hours||1 or 2|
|24-36 months||6 hours||1-3 hours||1|
Using Tired Signs to Identify Wake Windows
There are two ways to identify your baby’s wake windows. The first way is by using the chart above and keeping track of the time. When your baby wakes up from a nap, look at the clock and add her wake window onto the time to determine her next nap.
If your 5 month old wakes up at 8 am for the day, her first nap will be at 10 am, 2 hours after she woke up.
The other way to identify your baby’s wake windows is to watch for her tired signs. Your baby will start showing tired signs around the time listed on the chart for her age, but wake windows can vary by 20 or 30 minutes per baby, so it can be helpful to use the chart and the tired signs together.
|I’m Getting tired||I Need a Nap NOW||Overtired|
|Red eyebrows||Yawn||Arches back|
|Averts eyes||Rubbing eyes||Becoming rigid|
|Turns head||Pulling ears||Making fists|
|Blank stares||Becoming fussy||Hysterical crying|
Choose the method that works best for you, either by the clock or by learning to recognize your baby’s tired signs and get working on those wake windows!