Want an easy way to help your baby or toddler sleep? Pay attention to how long your baby or toddler is awake. Truly! Knowing your baby’s wake windows will help your baby fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer!
What are wake windows?
A wake window is the amount of time your baby or toddler is awake between one nap and the next. I like to count wake windows from the time you get your baby out of the crib or bassinet until you lay him down again.
Wake windows include everything that happens while your baby or toddler is out of the bassinet or crib, including feeding, spending time outside, playing with toys, singing songs, reading books, and even the bedtime routine.
Why are wake windows important?
Well, wake windows that are too long can result in an overtired baby or toddler who struggles to calm down enough to fall asleep or stay asleep. On the other hand, wake windows that are too short can result in a baby or toddler who simply isn’t ready to fall asleep or will only take a tiny catnap. If you get wake windows just right, you’re setting your baby or toddler up to be able to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer.
How do I find the right wake windows for my baby?
Your goal is to find that perfect balance between tired enough to fall asleep but not overly tired. So, let's talk about how to figure out the amount of awake time your baby needs between naps:
1. Start with the recommended wake window range for your baby's age.
Text version of table
|Baby's Age||Wake Window Range|
|0-4 Weeks||35-60 minutes|
|4-12 Weeks||60-90 minutes|
|3-4 Months||75-120 minutes|
|5-7 Months||2-3 hours|
|7-10 Months||2.5-3.5 hours|
|11-14 Months||3-4 hours|
|14-24 Months||4-6 hours|
2. Observe! Watch the length and quality of your baby's naps and notice how she's acting! Remember, you know your baby best, so watch your baby - If she's cranky and struggling, shoot for the shorter end of the wake window range. If she's alert and active, aim for the longer end of the range.
REMEMBER: Your baby is growing and developing rapidly. You’ll want to reevaluate baby’s wake windows each month!
Combining what you know about your little one’s wake windows with their individual cues can help create a flexible routine for your day!
3. Try implementing the strategies from my free resource: 5 Daytime Tips for Better Nights (and Naps!)
How do I find the right wake windows for my toddler?
Finding the right wake window for your toddler is much the same as when he was a baby – finding a balance of the right amount of tiredness so he falls asleep at nap time.
So if your 2, 3, or 4 year old is still napping, your goal is about 6 hours of awake time before his nap and about 5 hours of awake time after the nap. Let’s look at a few examples:
Notice for this 2 year old, her wake window before nap is 6 hours but only 4.5 hours after her nap when taking a 2.5 hour nap.
Text version of 2 year old routine table
|6:30 am||Wakeup time|
|12:30-3:00 pm||Nap time|
For this 3 year old, his nap lasts 1.5 hours and his wake window after nap is 5.25 hours. Since he is a bit older than the 2 year old, he’s able to handle a longer wake window at the end of the day with a shorter nap.
Text version of 3 year old routine table
|6:45 am||Wakeup time|
|12:45-2:15 pm||Nap time|
As your toddler gets older, you’ll find her wake windows get longer and her nap gets shorter. So watch how she does and adjust her schedule as needed.
When does my baby/toddler’s wake window start and end? How do I calculate my baby/toddler’s awake time?
Your baby or toddler’s wake window starts when she’s taken out of the crib and ends when placed back in the crib.
I know you may see her moving around on the baby monitor for the next 10 minutes after putting her down for a nap – and that’s okay! Babies take anywhere from 5-20 minutes to fall asleep, while toddlers can take 20-30 minutes to fall asleep. And so as long as she’s laying in a good napping environment, this is considered rest time (and not active awake time).
Here’s why: Think about the last time you laid in bed not really awake but not really asleep. This is your brain resting, and it’s the same for your baby or toddler. So those times your baby or toddler is awake just before falling asleep and at the end of the nap don’t really count as part of her wake window.
How will I know if wake windows are right?
Great question! Finding the right wake windows for your baby or toddler can be a bit of trial and error. You know you’ve got it right when naps & bedtime are not a battle and your little one is sleeping for good consolidated stretches.
Want to see some samples of how this can play out? Check out my blogs Nap Schedules: 5 Months to 25 Months or Toddler Nap Schedules for 2, 3, and 4 Years Olds for more information about typical nap schedules for your toddler or baby’s age.
If your baby’s wake windows seem to be on point and sleep is still a mess, I can help! I have a class for your baby’s age with a step-by-step plan to teach your baby the sleep skills he needs.