The Ultimate Guide to Wake Windows by Age (0-3 Years)
Do you ever wonder why your precious little one sleeps so much? It can feel like a never-ending challenge to establish a peaceful sleep routine. It’s easy to feel frustrated when dealing with newborn sleep challenges, but we’re here to help.
Wake windows could be the missing piece in solving your baby’s sleep puzzle. Relying on sleepy cues alone can result in babies that are overtired and too fussy to go down for nap time.
Read on to learn how to incorporate wake windows into your baby’s sleep routine for more restful sleep for you and your baby alike!
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- What Are Wake Windows?
- Why Wake Windows Matter
- Wake Windows by Age
- Managing Wake Windows
- When to Get Help
What Are Wake Windows?
Wake windows are just like the name suggests: the time your baby is awake between periods of sleep. Wake windows include all activities during awake time, even feedings. An easy way to track wake windows is to start and stop counting when they come out and go back in the crib.
As your baby gets older, they need less and less sleep, so the wake windows get progressively longer. Knowing wake windows by age and adopting them into your baby’s sleep routine can have a profound effect on the quality of sleep and ease of getting them down, making life easier for both mom and baby.
For babies and toddlers, learning and following wake windows can be a game changer for sleep. The key is to put your baby down for a nap at just the right time; your baby should be tired enough but not too tired that they are starting to get fussy.
This balance can be hard to achieve using sleep cues alone, which is why wake windows are so important. Getting them right can mean more restful and longer sleep for your baby.
Developing a Routine
By utilizing wake windows for your baby, you will naturally start to develop a sleep routine, which in turn will help with quality of sleep. Having a predictable routine for the baby to pick up on can help prepare them for when it’s time for a nap.
Whether you use wake windows, wake to sleep, sleepy cues, or a combination of multiple approaches, developing and sticking to a pre-naptime routine is key.
Impact on Sleep
Not following wake windows can result in your baby taking short naps or maybe your baby wakes up when put down and won’t go back to sleep. By following the age guidelines, we can predict when a baby will begin to feel sleepy, get ahead of sleepy cues, and get them down for their nap quicker and more efficiently.
Wake Windows and Overtiredness
While sleepy cues are a good indicator of tiredness in babies and toddlers, it is often too late by the time they start exhibiting those symptoms. Sleepy cues generally indicate a baby is overtired, when the body has begun to produce stress hormones such as adrenaline to keep you awake.
A wake window that is too long results in an overtired baby who becomes fussy and difficult to get down for a nap.
On the other hand, a wake window that is too short can mean a brief nap or a baby who will not go down for their nap.
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Understanding your baby's wake windows is crucial for promoting healthy sleep habits. As your baby grows from a newborn into a toddler, these windows naturally adjust, often leaving parents feeling unsure about their child's changing sleep patterns.
In the next section, we will dig into the specifics of wake windows by age - from those first few days at home with your newborn, through to the toddler years.
This will help guide you in creating an adaptable sleep routine that supports your child's development and overall well-being.
Newborn Wake Windows (0-3 Months)
If you have a newborn on your hands, you’ve probably wondered, when do babies start sleeping longer? It can be exhausting to be constantly waking up to feed your little one, but it’s so important for their development.
In this section, we’ll cover what a newborn sleep schedule looks like, including wake windows for 3 month old babies and younger.
Recommended Wake Windows by Age
So, how much should a newborn sleep? Newborns require anywhere from three to five naps per day due to the incredible amount of growth and development that takes place.
The extra sleep helps to support all of those changes happening in their little bodies. Here are the recommended wake windows for newborns (up to 12 weeks old).
- 0-4 weeks: 30-45 minutes
- 4-8 weeks: 45-60 minutes
- 8-12 weeks: 60-90 minutes
Indicators of Sleepiness
There are some telltale signs of sleepiness that can help you recognize when your baby is tired and ready for sleep. For newborns, these sleepy cues are a little less varied than those of infants and toddlers.
In addition to crying, your baby may start yawning or making other facial expressions to indicate tiredness.
- Facial grimaces
- Fussiness with food
Tips to Establish Sleep Routines
Are you struggling with a baby who wakes up every hour after 3 am? Rest assured, you are not alone! For newborn babies, it’s common for them to want to sleep during the day and be awake most of the night. This day/night confusion is due to the lack of an established circadian rhythm and sleep hormones.
The good news is that babies take cues from what’s going on around them and can recognize and adapt to patterns. By sticking to a predictable sleep routine, you can help your newborn build those healthy sleep patterns. Keep in mind that even if you’ve followed all the right steps, a sleep regression around 3-4 months is very normal.
Above all, have patience and know that you’re doing the best you can!
- Maintain consistent wake times
- Offer a feeding
- Change diaper
- Interact and play
- Set the stage for sleep
Check out our tips for boosting your baby's brain, all of which can improve baby’s sleep at the same time!
Maintain Consistent Wake Times
We often hear concerns around waking newborns from sleep. Should I wake baby from a long nap? The answer in the newborn stage is yes, your baby requires those regular feedings in order to grow.
Develop a consistent waking routine by getting the baby up around the same time each morning. Start to turn on lamps and open the curtains first thing in the morning to help your baby wake up. Exposure to natural light can help stimulate better sleep when they go down for their next nap.
Offer a Feeding
You’ve likely heard of the eat, play, sleep routine for babies because it sets a pattern that a baby can adapt to. Once your baby is awake, offer a full feeding before starting any playtime. This prevents baby from falling asleep during feeding and helps promote better sleep during naptime.
One caveat to this method is that it doesn’t always work well in the very first weeks with a baby just because they have such a small wake window.
In keeping with the stable routine, burp your baby after feeding and then change their diaper. In addition to getting them all cleaned up and comfortable, changing time can also start getting them ready for playtime. If your baby is yawning after nap time, it doesn’t mean that they are ready to go back to bed.
Follow the wake window timelines and engage in play with your baby after the diaper change.
Interact and Play
Now that your baby is fed and changed, you can have some dedicated play time. As a simple guide to wake window play, think about what you can do to engage all five of your baby’s senses. Be vocal while you play as this helps your baby start to recognize your voice and language.
Have a variety of sensory toys available for your baby to look at and touch, and even better if they play music! While the interaction and playtime is great for daytime, we want to avoid it at night, so plan to limit nighttime wake windows to feedings only.
Set the Stage for Sleep
Following the newborn wake window guidelines, you’ll want to make the transition from playtime to nap or bedtime as smooth as possible. Develop a few steps that you can stick to each time you put your baby down for a nap. Start to lower the lighting and consider using a white noise machine or other nap time music to soothe your baby to sleep.
Ideally, you’ll want to put your baby down while they are still awake but slightly drowsy. How to put the baby down awake can seem daunting, but if you stick to your routine it will pay off in the long run.
Wake Window Activities
One of the most important activities you can start to introduce with your newborn is tummy time. Tummy time has numerous benefits for your newborn, including helping to develop their back and neck muscles. Start small with just a few minutes at a time and work your way up from there.
Other wake window activities include having face to face time with your baby, talking or singing to them and making faces as you play.
- Tummy time
- Face to face time
- Play with age-appropriate toys
- Make noises, sing, or play music
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Infant Wake Windows (4-12 Months)
Once you are out of the newborn stage, wake windows are continuing to increase and your baby is more attentive when awake. So, how many naps for a 4 month old? The number of naps per day decreases from up to five in the newborn stage to more like two or three per day.
This stage is when babies go from 3 to 2 naps, and around the one-year mark is typically when we see the transition down to one nap per day. Let’s take a look at wake windows for 4 a month old to one year.
Recommended Wake Windows
The infant stage is a period of noticeable growth and transition for your baby. In the span of these 8 months, your infant will be able to stay awake for longer periods of time, thus decreasing the number of naps required throughout the day.
Aim to stick to the wake windows outlined below by month.
- 4 months: 1.5 to 2 hours
- 5 months: 2 to 2.5 hours
- 6 months: 2.5 to 3 hours
- 7 to 10 months: 3 to 3.5 hours
- 10 to 12 months: 3.5 to 4 hours
Indicators of Sleepiness
As babies grow into the infant stage, they become more and more alert and reactive during their wake windows. This often makes it easier on parents to recognize those sleepy cues. In addition to crying and yawning, below are some additional indicators of sleepiness in your infant.
- Rubbing their eyes
- Pulling on ears
- Excessive blinking
- Arching their back
- Less engaged in activities
Wake Window Activities
When it comes to infant activities for wake windows, many are the same as recommended for newborns. Spend them actively engaged with your baby. At the infant stage, your baby’s vision and interaction will get better and better, so you’ll likely notice them start to grab whatever is in reach. They may also begin to put things in their mouth as they begin the teething process.
Continue ample face to face time with exaggerated expressions. What to do if baby falls asleep before naptime? Try transferring them to their crib and adjust their wake window next time to avoid this.
- Tummy time
- Play peekaboo
- Introduce teether toys
- Sing or play music
Toddler Wake Windows (1-3 Years)
By this age, you’ve mastered how to put a baby to sleep and how to identify sleepy cues. An 18 month old sleep schedule looks much different from a newborn sleep schedule due to lower sleep requirements.
Much of the intense growth is finished, but you are probably aware of just how active toddlers can be! All of this energy demands rest to recharge in addition to supporting normal growth.
Expanding Wake Windows
The one year mark is a big one for your baby and is usually around the time they transition from multiple naps per day down to one.
By the end of the toddler stage at three years old, most toddlers will have phased out of needing a nap altogether.
- 1 to 2 years: 4 to 5 hours
- 2 to 3 years: 5 to 6 hours
Recognizing Fatigue in Toddlers
For toddlers, indicators of fatigue include all of those discussed for newborns and infants plus a few additional sleepy cues. As activity increases in the toddler stage, your child will display signs of tiredness as their energy wears off and their play slows down.
As they start to become vocal, they may even start to tell you!
- Eyes glazed over or staring into space
- Reduced activity
- Snuggling up to you or a pillow
- Grumpiness or clinginess
Developing Consistent Nap and Bedtime Routines
For toddlers especially, developing that consistent routine before nap and bedtimes can be particularly helpful. At this stage, since they are beginning to do some tasks on their own, you can ask them to help participate! Maybe they can pick out their pajamas and a book before bed. Whatever works for you and your toddler, just remember to keep it predictable!
Tips for Managing Baby Wake Windows
Using the tips outlined above for wake windows by age will set you up for success, but keep in mind that managing sleep for babies is a challenge for everyone!
You’ll continually learn and adapt as you go, so keep an open mind and remember our top tips and tricks for baby wake windows.
- Create a Sleep Friendly Environment
- Consistent Routines
- Observe Baby Sleepy Cues
- Adjust Wake Windows for Individual Needs
- Balance Wake Windows with Napping Schedule
Create a Sleep Friendly Environment
Start by priming your baby’s nursery for sleep. Keep the temperature between 68 and 72 degrees to keep them not too hot and not too cold. Fit your windows with black out curtains and a white noise machine to mimic the womb. And don’t forget Boppy’s wearable blanket to keep your baby warm, comfortable, and safe all night long.
Follow the same pre-naptime routine to help your baby adjust to the required sleep and wake windows. Wake up at the same time each morning, offer a feeding, change their diaper, and then play until it’s time to go down again.
Maintaining a predictable routine allows your baby to pick up on those cues and adapt to the sleep pattern.
Observe Baby’s Sleepy Cues
As your baby grows, you’ll learn their unique behaviors and sleepy cues. The key here is to notice and predict your baby’s sleepy cues before they even happen. Often when a baby is displaying sleepy cues it is too late, as the body has released certain stress hormones to start giving the baby a second wind.
Utilizing wake windows based on age, we can shift away from focusing solely on sleepy cues to determine nap times and achieve better sleep.
Adjust Wake Windows for Individual Needs
The age-based wake window recommendations included here are of course just a guide and will vary based on your baby’s individual needs. Adjust wake windows up or down depending on what is best for your baby. How to extend wake windows involves a gradual stretch of a few minutes each day, so it doesn’t happen overnight!
Balance Wake Windows with Napping Schedule
Following the recommended wake windows by age will help dictate the napping schedule for your baby throughout the day. Keeping a log or journal of naps and feedings can be incredibly helpful as you navigate this sleeping journey.
When to Get Professional Help
There is no simple answer when it comes to seeking out professional help for your baby’s sleep. If you’ve gotten to a point where you are feeling lost or defeated, reach out for a consultation to see if professional help is right for you. There are a plethora of resources available online, whether you’d like to take an online class or want more individual coaching and support.
Many sleep consultants will offer a free initial session to make sure it’s a good fit and to develop a plan of action. Sleep in the first year of your child’s life can be a battle, but you are not alone!
Help Your Baby Get Restful Sleep with Boppy’s Wearable Blankets
Navigating sleep routines for your baby can feel like a long and isolating journey, but following age-appropriate wake windows can help your baby establish and stick to a routine. The first year is a period of much transition and growth (for you and your baby!), so remember to listen to your instincts and be flexible. No one gets it perfect!
Now that you’ve done the research, start following wake windows into your baby’s sleep routine for more restful sleep and more peaceful bedtimes. Add Boppy’s 100% cotton wearable blanket to keep your baby at a comfortable temperature all night long and check out our blog for more helpful tips and tricks!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do wake windows go by adjusted age?
- Yes, wake windows should ideally go by the adjusted age, especially in the case of babies who were born prematurely. This helps ensure that your baby’s sleep schedule is in line with their developmental stage.
Should I follow wake windows or sleepy cues?
- It's best to use a combination of both. Wake windows can give you a good guideline for when your baby should be getting tired, while sleepy cues can tell you exactly when your baby is ready for sleep.
Why is my baby’s first wake window so short?
- The first wake window is typically short because your baby has just had a long rest during the night and will get tired more quickly. As your baby grows, this wake window will gradually lengthen.
Does wake window include time it takes to fall asleep?
- Yes, the wake window includes the time it takes for your baby to fall asleep. So if it typically takes your baby 15 minutes to fall asleep, that should be included in the wake window.
Does a shorter nap mean a shorter wake window?
- Not necessarily. A shorter nap doesn’t automatically mean a shorter wake window. Every baby is unique, and various factors like their age, growth spurts, and overall health can impact their wake window and sleep needs.