How to Follow Your Baby's Awake Windows for Better Sleep
The first year of your baby’s life often feels like one big nap attempt.
Trying to figure out when your child should be sleeping and for how long, can seem like a complicated math equation-leaving parents frustrated and confused.
At about four months, your child’s sleep cycle will start to develop, and you will (hopefully) start to see some patterns emerge in her sleeping habits. This is when you can really start to think about implementing a sleep schedule that helps keep the household running smoothly.
But even though you may set an “ideal” schedule for your baby’s sleep, it is often challenging to stick to a consistent schedule each day since there are so many factors that play into when your child sleeps.
This is why it is important to follow both a schedule and awake windows, adjusting as needed. And while you shouldn’t set a schedule prior to four months, the great news is you can follow awake windows at any age.
What are awake windows?
Awake windows are just as they sound; the time your baby is awake between naps and nighttime sleep. Each child, based on his age, has a threshold of time that he is able to stay awake depending on where he is in his development.
The reason we talk about this so much in the sleep world, is because of the impact it has on your child’s ability to fall and stay asleep.
If you put a child down for nap or bedtime, past her threshold, you run the risk of having an overtired baby, which leads to a slew of other issues. Likewise if you put your baby down too early she may have trouble falling asleep if there hasn’t been enough sleep pressure built up.
Here are our recommended awake windows by age
Newborn- 30 minutes to 1 hour
0-3 months- 1-2 hours
4-6 months- 2-3 hours (except morning window which may be 1.5)
7-9 months- 2.5-4 hours
9-12 months- 2.5-4.5 hours
12-14 months- 3-4.5 hours
14-18 months- 3-6 hours
How to adjust awake windows
As I mentioned above, following awake windows is just part of the equation. If your baby is four months or older you still want to have a schedule that you are working off of, which will likely be adjusted slightly day to day.
Based on night-time sleep and the length of naps, you’ll want to adjust awake windows which will then shift your child’s schedule.
If you’re following a 7-7 schedule with your 5 month old, your child will likely wake for the day around 7am and first nap will be close to 9am. If she sleeps a solid nap (which I consider 1 hour or more minimum), you can plan on putting her down for her next nap about 2 hours after she awakes from her morning nap. So in this case 12pm.
However, if your child only sleeps 30-45 minutes (only 1 sleep cycle), you’ll want to shorten that sleep window a bit so you don’t have an over-tired baby on your hands. My general recommendation is to attempt a nap 1 hour from the time you get your child out of the crib if she slept 45 min or less.
The key to shifting awake windows is to follow a pattern based on your child’s unique patterns and sleepy cues.
It can feel a bit confusing to navigate at first, but once you start to follow both a schedule and awake windows it will start to feel more natural.
It is also important to remember that your baby’s sleeping patterns are constantly changing within the first year so try to give yourself some grace if you sometimes miss the optimal window or heaven forbid you miss a nap!
Remember that even slow progress is progress and consistency is key. Trying to change your child’s schedule too often for fear that it isn’t working is only going to make it more challenging for your child.
If it becomes frustrating or overwhelming, you can always reach out for help. Our goal is to support you and guide you along this beautiful journey.