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The Secret Behind Baby Wake Windows

May 14, 2021

What are baby wake windows? Why are they so complicated? And the most frequently asked question: “why won’t my baby follow them?” Not only are baby wake windows frustrating, but they’re actually quite misleading!

Baby wake windows are the average amount of time a baby is awake between naps or nighttime sleep. But your baby isn’t an average baby! In a world full of babies, they are an individual bit of perfection that doesn’t fit into one box. So to quote a famous pirate, baby wake windows are “more like guidelines.”

Now that we’ve defined baby wake windows, let’s break them down into information we can actually use. 

 

Baby wake windows by age

AGE WAKE WINDOWS
Birth to 12 weeks 60 to 90 minutes
I3 to 4 months 75 to 120 minutes
5 to 6 months 2 to 3 hours
7 to 14 months 3 to 4 hours

This baby wake window table shows typically how long you can expect your baby to be awake broken up over a 24 hour day. If your 3-month-old baby wakes up at 7:15AM, then you could expect them to be ready for a nap anywhere between 8:30AM and 9:15AM.

 

Using baby wake windows

So why isn’t your 2-month-old staying awake longer than 45 minutes? And why is your 15-week-old baby refusing to fall asleep after 120 minutes? Don’t worry! Rather than seeing baby wake windows as an expectation, see them as a possibility. Every baby is different and the amount of sleep needed varies widely from the newborn stage, to 12 months, and beyond. Most newborns sleep in periods of 2-5 hours and will sleep anywhere from 12 to 18 hours a day, in a 24 hour period. Adults need a wide range of required sleep to feel their best, so why would babies be any different? 

Your baby is still learning so learn along with them: make sure you’re following their cues and allowing for flexibility. If your baby is wide awake when their wake window is coming to an end, go with it. If your baby is showing sleepy cues way before what typical wake window data tells you, go with it. Only your baby knows when they are tired or happy to be awake so follow their lead. 

When we try to stretch a sleepy baby to stay awake for what we think their full wake window should be, we start a cycle of sleepiness that is hard to come back from. Contrary to old beliefs, a sleepy baby will not sleep better, and keeping a baby up later will not help them sleep in. In fact, it does the exact opposite! Exhaustion and being overtired is the perfect recipe for a baby that refuses to sleep. 

 

Be realistic 

Remember that baby wake windows averages are just that: averages. And should be used only as a loose guideline. The truth is, every baby has different needs. And just like everything with babies, wake windows are subject to change. As your baby grows, adjust your expectations when things like teething, growth spurts, or illness throw off their sleep schedule. Instead of trying to force your baby into a statistical average baby wake window, get a customized sleep plan from Dream Lab that adapts to your baby’s needs and helps them develop on their schedule. 

Keep in mind that if your baby is sleeping well and is generally happy, there’s no need to closely follow the expected baby wake windows. As long as you’re reading your baby’s cues, you’re right on track. You’ve figured out the perfect amount of sleep your baby needs despite what that stranger on social media told you. Keep it up; you’re doing just fine!

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Author Info

Avatar for Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith is a Registered Sleep Specialist and Newborn Care Educator with specialties in Baby Sleep Training, Lactation Support, and Care of Preemies and Multiples. She has over a decade of clinical experience in sleep medicine offering guidance in Behavioral and Sleep Hygiene practices. Michelle is a mom of twin girls and a boy close in age. At one point she had three occupied cribs in her home and quickly realized how important it is to build healthy sleep habits in the newborn to toddler stages and how critical that can be for parents’ survival and sanity. She has chosen to focus her career on proactive sleep solutions for chronically sleep-deprived families.

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