Newborn Wake Window: Syncing With Baby’s Sleep/Wake Cycle

If you have a new baby, getting enough sleep will probably be one of your top priorities. Newborns tend to sleep a lot during this stage, but it is not continuous. They have specific patterns of sleeping and waking.

What are wake windows? Wake windows are the period of time your baby is awake between times of sleep. They will be longer as your child gets older, but they will be short during the newborn phase. Your baby is still adjusting to the world and getting plenty of rest to aid all the growth and development that is happening.

Knowing a bit about wake windows will help you know what to expect in those early days of parenting. 

Newborn Wake Windows

Newborn wake windows help you predict how long your baby can be awake between sleep times without becoming overtired or fussy.

Newborn Wake Windows First Week

Your baby is going to sleep a lot during the first week of life. Expect your baby to only stay awake between 45 and 60 minutes before needing to nap.

During this time, you will be changing diapers and feeding your little one. Before you know it, your baby will need to sleep again.

The average wake window remains 45 to 60 minutes from birth through 8 weeks.

Newborn Wake Windows by Week

Factors That Can Affect Newborn Wake Windows

If your baby was born early, they may have different wake windows than a baby who was born at term. It’s important to consider your child’s adjusted age when figuring how long they can be awake without becoming overtired.

Health conditions can also affect your baby’s wake window.

Sleep regression, teething, and colic impact how often and how well your child will sleep, so take these into consideration as you are trying to calculate wake windows. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns. 

Wake Windows or Sleepy Cues – Which Is Better?

Wake windows and sleepy cues can work together to help you ensure your child gets enough rest. However, many parents prefer to prioritize wake windows.

The reason is that not all babies show sleepy cues at the same time. While one child may show sleepy cues the minute he’s tired, another may wait until he is overtired. At that point, getting a child down for restful sleep is difficult.

Babies don’t just go to sleep when they are tired. If they get too tired without being put down for rest, they go into a stress mode that makes good sleep nearly impossible. Using wake windows helps keep this happening.

Wake windows are more consistent, and they give you an idea of when your child should be tired. You can start the nap or bedtime routine before your child is completely exhausted.

Benefits of Following Wake Windows

Following wake windows helps ensure your child does not get overtired. When a child stays awake for too long, the overtired state can lead to crankiness and make it harder for a child to sleep. It may also lead to shorter nap times.

Wake windows can also help you plan your day. Though things can change with an infant, knowing your child’s wake windows gives you some idea of when your little one will be resting so you can take care of other things or get rest for yourself.

Effects of Ignoring Wake Windows

Ignoring your child’s wake windows will leave you with an overtired child who doesn’t take long enough naps and may depend on you to get them down for every sleep.

When your child is put down during a wake window, it’s easier for him to put himself to sleep without needing sleep props. Miss the wake window, and your child is likely to be too cranky to rest well on his own.

When To Start Following Wake Windows

You can start following wake windows as soon as your baby exits the womb, though the first week may be a bit difficult because your baby is still going to be adjusting to life outside of the womb. 

Do Wake Windows Include Feedings?

Yes, you will feed your baby during his wake window. In fact, feeding, changing a diaper, and some eye contact and play may be all you get in before your child is ready for another nap, at least for the first two months.

How To Find the Right Wake Windows for Your Baby

You can follow a guide to determine the wake windows of babies at certain ages. However, your child is unique, so these guides will only be suggestions.

You will learn the right wake window for your baby by getting to know them and observing what works and what does not.

Track when you put your baby down for a nap each day, and make note of how long they slept and how much they fought the nap.

Learn your child’s sleep cues, but don’t depend on those alone to decide when they should rest. Within a few weeks, you should know whether your child has a short or long wake window and be able to accommodate their specific needs. 

Why Is the First Wake Window the Shortest?

Doctors and sleep professionals will tell you that the first wake window of the day is going to be your baby’s shortest. You might only have time for a morning feed and some cuddles before your baby is going back down for a nap.

This is normal, though there isn’t one reason for it. Just don’t let your child get overtired by making them stay awake too long after they wake up from night rest. It can throw off the sleep schedule for the rest of the day.

Why Does My Baby Have Short Wake Windows?

Every baby is different, and there are a variety of issues that can affect sleep. Your child may have a short wake window or a longer wake window depending on what they are going through with growth, development, or digestive issues.

You may also have to adjust your child’s wake window as he ages to ensure he is awake enough to get the engagement that he needs.

Should Wake Windows Get Longer Throughout the Day?

The shortest wake window will be the first one of the day, and the longest will be the one right before bedtime. In between, they will likely be pretty consistent in length, though you may notice them getting longer as your child nears bedtime.

Wake Window Before Bedtime

The wake window before bedtime is generally the longest, and this should make getting your baby to sleep at night a bit easier. This wake window will include feeding, changing, playing, and bedtime routine. 

How To Stretch Wake Windows

When it’s time to stretch those wake windows so your child will rest better when they are asleep, do it over time.

If you want to increase a wake window, slowly add 10-15 minutes to your baby’s wake window over the course of a few days. If they respond well, you can see about continuing to stretch the wake windows by small amounts over time.

Tips for Adjusting Wake Windows

  • Don’t make drastic changes all at once.
  • Follow your baby’s signs to see if the adjustment is working.
  • Be flexible, and make sure you are adjusting based on your baby’s needs.

Baby Wake Windows: What To Expect as Your Child Grows

The first year of your child’s life is going to be full of change. As your child ages, their wake windows will change.

Wake Windows for 3-Month-Old

Your 3-month-old will be able to hang with you fully awake for about 90-120 minutes. During this time, you will feed him, play with him, and change his diapers.

He may be trying to stay awake a bit longer than he did during the first couple of months, so you may have to stretch those wake windows to ensure he is truly tired when it’s time to rest.

Wake Windows for 4-Month-Old

The wake windows of a 4-month-old will look a lot like those of a 3-month-old, though your baby may be sleeping a bit better at night.

Wake Windows for 5-Month Old

A 5-month-old will be able to hang with you for two full hours before needing some rest. However, every child is different, so your child may not make it this long at every wake window.

Sleep regression may also make naptime harder for your little one at this time. Be patient, and know that it won’t last.

What To Expect

Being in tune with your baby’s wake windows can make sleep easier and better for everyone in your home.

AgeAverage Wake Window
Newborn (0-2 months)45-60 minutes
2-4 Months90-120 minutes
5-6 Months120 minutes at most
7-9 Months120-180 minutes
10-12 Months180-240 minutes
13-18 Months4-5 hours
1½-2 Years4-6 hours
2-3 Years6 hours or more
4-5 Years6 hours or more