Want to get your baby to sleep? Find the right balance between awake and sleep time so your baby will get the sleep they need.
Does your baby refuse to sleep even though you know they’re exhausted?
You put them to bed because they’re rubbing their eyes, but they immediately start screaming and won’t settle down.
Maybe you’ve held your screaming baby while frantically searching, “Why won’t my baby sleep?” on your phone.
Or perhaps you just fell apart and cried too. Because you were just as exhausted, and if the baby doesn’t sleep, then you don’t.
All these responses are understandable if your baby isn’t sleeping.
Sleep is extremely important for both babies and parents. If babies don’t get enough sleep, they seem to get fussier rather than sleep longer. If parents don’t get enough sleep, there’s no patience to deal with a fussy baby.
Trying to figure out how to get your baby to sleep can be exhausting when you’re already exhausted. But if you’ve ever Googled “how to get my newborn to sleep,” I bet you’ve come across the term “wake window.”
Understanding wake windows can unlock the secret to getting your baby to sleep better at nap time and at night.
So let’s dive into wake windows and how they can help you sleep better.
In this article:
- What are wake windows?
- Calculating your baby’s wake window
- Age-appropriate wake windows
- What to do during a wake window.
By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll be equipped with the tools to start figuring out your little one and using your baby’s wake windows to get your little one to sleep.
Because sleep is life, and having a well-rested family is the goal.
What are wake windows?
A wake window is the time your little one is awake from one nap to the next. I consider wake time from when you take your baby out of the crib or bassinet until you put them back down.
Everything that happens in between naps and outside of the crib or bassinet is included in a wake window. Feeding, playing, bathtime, etc., all take place during your little one’s wake window.
Wake windows are important because they affect your baby’s sleep quality and length. Keeping your baby awake too long can cause them to be cranky and unable to fall asleep. Putting them to bed too soon can result in a short nap because they weren’t awake long enough to get tired. When you correct the wake windows, you’ll see your little one go down for a nap easily and sleep for a good chunk of time.
How do I calculate my baby’s wake window? When does it start and end?
Your little one’s wake window starts when we take them out of bed and ends when you put them back down.
Sometimes it can take five to 20 minutes for your baby to fall asleep. That’s ok. Your baby is still resting and relaxing, and that is important. You don’t have to put them in bed earlier because you know they won’t fall asleep right away.
Along the same lines, sometimes your little one wakes up slowly and needs a few minutes in their crib.
Age-appropriate wake windows
Not too sure about how much time your baby’s wake windows should be? I’ve put together a chart that shows you an average time for wake windows based on your little one’s age. Most often, wake windows are shorter in the morning and increase as the day goes on. This means that when you wake your little one up in the morning until that first nap will be the shortest wake window of the day. The longest wake window of the day will be between the last nap and bedtime. This ensures your baby is tired and ready for a longer nighttime sleep.
Between 0-4 months, paying attention to your little one’s sleepy cues is important. While this chart is the average, some children need a little more or less sleep than others. If your child is overly tired, you might have to shorten their wake window.
Once your child reaches the age of two and takes just one nap a day, their wake windows will be quite long. The wake windows will also flip, meaning the longer wake window is in the morning, and the shorter one is in the afternoon. The first wake window should be between 5-6 hours, and the second one should be 4-5 hours. These wake window lengths will stay the same for as long as your toddler naps.
Here are the wake windows based on age:
What to do during a wake window.
You know how long your baby needs to stay awake between naps, so now what?
Are you wondering what to do with them during a wake window? Do you need some ideas on how to keep them entertained and awake?
Here are five ideas to keep them busy and maximize their development.
1. Tummy Time or Floor Time.
When your baby is little, tummy time is a great option to keep your little one busy. Once they’re on their belly, you have a lot of options to keep them entertained. Put a mirror or black and white cards in front of them to keep them entertained and looking around. As your little one gets older, gently rock them back and forth to work on rolling.
Once they’re sitting, they no longer need tummy time, but your baby still needs floor time. This gives them the opportunity to play. Arrange toys around them so they can crawl and investigate. Allow your child to explore the room safely. Both tummy time and floor time help your baby move, learn, and get exercise.
Feeding your little one also needs to take place during a wake window. If your little one isn’t getting enough to eat during their wake windows, they will wake up and want to eat at night.
Ensure that your baby is feeding frequently enough and isn’t distracted so that they’re getting full feedings. If you’re out and about, you might have to leave the commotion for a little bit to feed your baby in a quiet area.
3. Outside Play.
Have you ever heard the saying, “If your baby is fussing, play outside or in water?” It might sound like a silly phrase your Grandma would say, but it works. Babies need Vitamin D. Research also shows(1) that babies regularly exposed to the outside develop more brain synapsis than those who don’t get out. This means babies are not only soaking up the fresh air but their senses are also actively stimulated.
If there’s one thing you take away from that, it’s that babies who are outside sleep better. And that’s what matters, right? So, play on a blanket in the yard, swing on the swings, or take your baby on a walk.
4. Face-to-Face Interaction.
Babies need attention and interaction with other people. It helps them develop their language skills and provides stimulation. Close interaction also helps your little one feel safe and secure, making sleeping much easier.
You can get more face-to-face time by putting your phone away. When your baby is awake, play with them on the floor. Sing, count, and make silly faces and sounds. Eye contact and undivided attention is a great way to keep baby busy.
5. Free Play.
Being a parent doesn’t mean you have to entertain your baby all day long. They need some time to explore and entertain themselves as well. That doesn’t mean you have to put them down and walk away, but it does mean you don’t have to occupy them every moment.
Put baby on a mat with toys all around. Then lay near them and read a book as they explore, touch the different toys, and roll around. They know you’re right nearby, but they’re able to figure things out on their own.
Don’t worry too much about what you’re doing to keep your little one active. You don’t have to do each activity every wake window either. So don’t stress.
Try to fit things in as you go about your day. Sing to your little one when you change their diaper. Instead of driving to get coffee, put your baby in the stroller and walk. Pretty soon, keeping your baby active during wake windows will feel like second nature.
Do I have the right baby wake windows?
Finding the perfect wake window for your baby requires some trial and error. Not every single day will be exactly the same. Pay attention to your little one’s sleepy cues and use the wake windows as a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. You’ll know you’re doing it right when naps are longer, and sleeping isn’t such a struggle.
If you’re following the wake windows and your baby still seems to be having difficulty sleeping, I can help. Schedule a consultation with me, and we’ll work on creating a sleep plan that follows the wake windows and gets your little one back on track.
Say goodbye to sleepless nights and hello to well-rested days.