When you bring your wonderful bundle home from the hospital you’ll probably expect them to sleep quite a lot during a 24 hour period, and then as your baby grows the amount of sleep they need during the day changes. This can be hard to keep up with!
In this article, we’re telling you all about wake windows by age.
This article includes:
- What are wake windows?
- When should you start using wake windows?
- Wake windows by age
- Are my baby’s wake windows right?
- Baby wake windows by age: Activities
- How much sleep do babies need?
- Adjusting your baby’s wake windows by age
- How to stretch your baby’s wake windows
- What happens if my baby doesn’t have a wake window routine?
- What are the benefits of wake windows by age?
What are wake windows?
A wake window is “the amount of time your baby is awake between sleep periods” says Nicole Johnson, founder and lead sleep consultant of The Baby Sleep Site®. As your baby gets older, they’ll have fewer naps and more awake time in the day. For example, a newborn wake window last around 45 minutes, while some 8 month old wake windows last around 3 hours.
It can feel like there’s not a lot of time to do much when your baby is firstborn. All wake windows include the time it takes to feed and change your little one. You’ll need to factor this in, too, before your baby’s naps are due.
Baby wake windows are a fantastic time to teach your baby new skills and get to know them better.
WHEN SHOULD YOU START USING WAKE WINDOWS?
Wake windows are a natural part of life for babies.
“They all have daytime naps and sleep at night, so there will naturally be times they’re awake during the day. We would recommend using age-appropriate wake windows as soon as you can.” says Cate Hope, OCN qualified sleep consultant.
There are many benefits to using wake windows; one is that they can help you build a routine. Bringing a new baby into the family will come with lots of changes. This means that the rest of the family will need to adapt to a routine that suits everybody’s needs.
It may be harder to establish wake windows in the beginning as you’re still learning your baby’s needs. As your baby ages, you will learn their sleep cues, and a lot of babies naturally fall into a routine.
WAKE WINDOWS BY AGE
Wake windows are very important. You’d be surprised at how much of an impact having sleep schedules in place makes. A schedule doesn’t just give your baby a routine, but also you! So let’s take a look at the appropriate wake windows by age.
- Newborn – 1 month: Lots of naps, average wake window of 30 – 45 minutes
- 1 month: Multiple naps, average wake window of 1 hour
- 2 months: 4 naps, average wake window of 1 hour – 1 hour 15 minutes. You can read about 2 month sleep schedule in our blog.
- 3 months: 4 naps, average wake window of 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes
- 4 – 6 months old: three naps, average wake window of 1 hour 45 minutes – 2 hours
- 6 – 9 months: 2 naps, average wake window of 2/2.5 hours – 3 hours
- 9 – 12 months: two naps, average wake window of 2/2.5 hours – 3/ 3.5 hours
- 12-15 months: – 1-2 naps, average wake window of 3 – 4 hours
- 15 months and over: 1 nap, average wake window of 6 hours
These wake windows by age are just a guide. If your baby has slightly more or less sleep than this, there’s likely nothing to worry about. Contact a sleep consultant if you become worried about your baby’s sleeping habits.
All babies are different and have different sleep needs. Try not to compare your baby’s sleep to someone else’s. One baby’s wake window might be quite different to another’s.
ARE MY BABY’S WAKE WINDOWS RIGHT?
Your baby’s sleeping pattern will change regularly. You might wonder if they’re getting the right amount of sleep. If your baby has short naps frequently (catnaps), then you may want to try extending the wake windows.
Alternatively, some parents find that their baby is overtired or sleeping more than average. If this is the case, you may want to shorten the wake window and adjust sleep periods to their routine.
If your baby gets to sleep easily at nap times, then it sounds like you’re using the appropriate wake window! So keep doing what you’re doing and enjoying awake time with your baby.
**Cate’s top tip! To avoid over tiredness keep your baby’s wake windows roughly the same length throughout the day. **
BABY WAKE WINDOWS BY AGE: ACTIVITIES
You can do so many fun activities with your baby before their next sleep period! For example, you may head outside in one of your baby’s wake windows. You might want to play some games in your baby’s next wake window.
NEWBORN BABY WAKE WINDOWS
Newborn wake windows are so short that there’s usually little time for activities. These wake windows include nappy changing, feeding and snuggles. If you do have some spare time, you may choose to sing a lullaby or read a short book.
3 MONTH WAKE WINDOWS
By the time you reach 3 month wake windows, you will have more time to feed and play. This is a great time to start getting to know your baby and discovering toys they enjoy.
At 3 months old, it’s a good idea to purchase a playmat for your baby. This allows them to develop their sensory skills. Often playmats have lights and sounds that your baby may enjoy.
Tummy time is also important at this age as your baby learns to support their neck while lying down. Tummy time can be completed on the playmat.
4 MONTH OLD WAKE WINDOW
“By the time your baby starts 4 month old wake windows, you’ll notice big changes in their development.”says Cate Hope.
“Tummy time is still very important at this age and can be achieved using a playmat.”, continues Cate.
Your baby will probably start to enjoy more books and lullabies, so taking time for these is essential. You’ll know which their favourite song is, due to their lovely little smile!
Four-month-old babies are often drawn to colours, lights and sounds. Age-appropriate toys that combine these elements will surely be a winner. Your baby will also enjoy heading out of the house, into the garden, or to the park. This gives them a new environment, new objects to look at and some fresh air!
5 MONTH OLD WAKE WINDOW
Your baby might nearly have the strength to sit up completely unaided; how exciting! They might also be getting more confident rolling around onto their stomach and back. All of these are fantastic developmental milestones to meet!
During a 5 month old wake window, you may choose to play some ball games with your little one. This involves placing a pillow behind them for protection and rolling the ball toward them. You will notice your baby developing their motor skills and grip as they try to lift the ball.
Babies at this age also love to play with crinkly toys and listen to songs. Your playmat is a great way to provide these experiences, so don’t put it in the attic just yet!
Heading outside can also be a positive experience for your 5 month old baby. Having a different environment and getting some fresh air can help to develop their skills during awake time.
7 MONTH OLD WAKE WINDOW
There are many fun activities to consider during a 7 month old wake window.
Babies of this age love peekaboo, and nursery rhymes. To encourage them to move around you could put a toy or ball in front of them, just out of their reach and help them pick it up.
Baby weaning typically begins at around 6 months old, so your baby is likely starting to enjoy some solid foods during awake time. Over time you can introduce your baby to more foods, flavours and textures. Finger foods, such as rice cakes, are a good idea at 7 months old.
8 MONTH OLD WAKE WINDOW
Time flies and all of a sudden you realise you’re having 8 month old wake windows! At 8 months old, your baby has come a long way. They might be sitting up and may even be starting to crawl or pull themselves up onto furniture.
You’ve probably started to understand their unique language, which involves lots of babbling. Developing their motor skills means they may begin to point at objects by the time they reach 8 months old. Pointing and babbling can help you to understand their language a little better.
You could play some music for them, songs can help them to learn new words, and they might enjoy a bit of dancing too! You’ll love seeing your little one join in with their own instrument during awake time!
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO BABIES NEED?
The younger the baby, the more sleep they need. Even waking up and having a feed can tire a newborn baby out. Newborn babies spend more time asleep than they do awake.
As we mentioned earlier, all babies need different amounts of sleep, and any schedules are a guide. You know your baby best and how much sleep is typical for them.
- Newborn – 3 months: 16 – 18 hours per day
- 3 months – 6 months: 14 – 17 hours per day
- 6 –9 months – 12 – 16 hours per day
- 9- 12 months: 12 – 15 hours per day
- 12 -18 months 12 – 14 hours per day
- 18 months – 2 years 11-14 hours hours per day
All of these sleep times include both night sleep and daytime naps. Some babies may need more or less than these times. As your baby grows, you’ll notice different signs that they are ready to fall asleep.
TIRED SIGNS DURING BABY’S WAKE WINDOWS
There are many sleep cues to look out for in babies. Of course, there are variations based on age, for example a newborn baby may close their fists and get fussy and cry (you can read more about newborn sleep cues in our newborn wake windows article) but here are some general signs to look for during awake windows.
- Generally struggling to stay awake
- Crying more often
- Being harder to settle when trying to fall asleep
- Being disinterested/fussiness
- Pulling at ears
- Jerky movements
- Eye rubbing
- Eyebrows go pink/red
The best practice is to keep your baby from getting overtired. We know this is easier said than done sometimes! An overtired baby can be difficult to settle. Of course, sometimes you will have a tired baby.
The best thing to do is get them settled and ready for the next nap as soon as possible. They may fall asleep easily or stay awake and need more soothing.
ADJUSTING YOUR BABY’S WAKE WINDOWS BY AGE
Many parents feel a bit overwhelmed when it comes to adjusting wake windows. The truth is that there’s nothing to worry about, and a lot of it is trial and error.
There are some signs to look for when it’s time to adjust the wake windows:
- Struggling to nap/nap strikes (stays awake when it’s nap time)
- Struggling to fall asleep at bedtime
- Baby wakes up more than usual/short naps
- Early morning wake ups
All these can signify that your baby is ready to have a little less sleep. At this point, you may want to adjust the wake windows.
HOW TO STRETCH YOUR BABY’S WAKE WINDOWS
If you choose to stretch wake windows, you should do so based on your baby’s sleep. To begin with, we would recommend adding 10 minutes to the wake window. This will give you a good idea of whether your baby can cope with a longer wake window. We want to hit the sweet spot when your baby is ready for sleep but not overtired. As your baby grows they’ll need to nap at different times of day.
Between 7 and 9 months old your baby will have a nap transition from 3 naps to 2. When you start this transition you might end up with an over tired baby, so add a power nap (10 minute nap) to break up the final wake window. This short nap can give your baby a little energy boost between the last nap and bedtime.
What happens if my baby doesn’t have a wake window routine?
If your baby is under 3 months old, don’t worry, thats perfectly normal. Once your baby is 3 months you could start to note down when they fall asleep and when they wake over a few days, there’s often a pattern there. Then start adjusting your baby’s wake time.
Sleep routines can be tricky; once you have perfected one, another one comes along. It becomes particularly difficult when sleep regressions creep in too. But don’t worry; regressions are temporary.
Our advice at this stage is to enjoy getting to know your little one and discovering their favourite things! Depending on their current age, you’ll have lots of time to teach them exciting new skills during wake windows!
Try to start with a routine that uses age-appropriate wake windows, and then you can see how your baby responds. As time goes on, you can adjust these wake windows to suit their individual needs. Remember that you’re doing a great job, and no two babies are the same!
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WAKE WINDOWS BY AGE?
Establishing and sticking to wake windows has so many benefits. These benefits apply to your baby and the rest of the family too!
Having sleep periods and knowing your baby’s age-appropriate wake window can help you to build a routine. A routine makes things easier for the family and teaches your baby when it’s time to sleep and wake.
While having a routine is good, it’s also important to adapt to your baby’s needs. For example, you might find that they are more tired on some days and therefore need more sleep.
AVOID BEING OVERTIRED
Having a routine in place can reduce the chances of your baby becoming overtired. If your baby is overtired, then it’s quite likely that you are too.
New parents are often told to sleep when the baby sleeps. This can be difficult if your baby is overtired and fighting sleep. This sleep pressure can lead to parents feeling stressed about the baby’s wake window and sleep. Try not to feel disheartened because you’re doing a great job!
UNDERSTANDING YOUR BABY’S WAKE WINDOWS AND NEEDS
Whether this is your first, second or third baby, chances are they’re all different. All babies have different wants and needs, and knowing their routines can help you recognise the cues for their wants. This helps you bond with your baby and allows them to have better naps and great sleep!
SUPPORTS SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT
A sleep goal for many parents is to have their baby sleep through the night. Giving your baby the chance to develop a routine and create healthy sleeping habits can support this.
To promote sleeping through the night, some parents introduce a dream feed. A dream feed involves waking the baby up slightly to feed them while they are half asleep. This can work well for many families and allows both baby and parents to have a better night’s sleep.
GOOD SLEEP TIPS
The best sleep tip we can give is to develop a bedtime routine. This should typically begin 30 minutes before bedtime. The routine may involve fresh pyjamas, milk and some cuddles. You could read stories or some babies love a massage.
A bedtime routine can promote a night of good sleep and sweet dreams for your little one. It may also encourage them to sleep longer.
We hope this article has been helpful for you to learn more about wake windows by age. Speak to a paediatric sleep consultant if you have concerns regarding your baby’s sleep. Sleep is essential for your baby to learn and develop new skills.
What to Expect, Wake Windows by Age: Timing Baby’s Naps for Better Sleep, May 2023
Takingcarababies.com, Wake Windows and Baby Sleep, May 2023
The Baby Sleep Site, Wake Windows by Age Chart: Help Your Baby Sleep Better With The Right Schedule, July 2023