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Understanding Your Child’s Wake Windows

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

Many new parents will quickly find that there’s a big learning curve when it comes to raising children.

There’s learning how to breastfeed or bottle-feed.

Figuring out how to navigate life with a newborn.

Differentiating your child’s cries due to hunger, discomfort, and exhaustion.

While these unknowns can be frightening to some, it can also be a beautiful experience – you get to learn alongside your child.

When I first had my son Gabriel, I had no idea what I was doing. I felt clueless.

Like many things, trial and error was my best friend. After struggling with his sleep, I knew I had to do something, so I did a lot of research. And that’s when I discovered practices like “wake windows,” “eat, play, sleep,” and waking your baby up at a set time each day.

Let me tell you, finding this information was life-changing.

I believe that when parents have the tools to help their children, especially when it comes to sleep, a new world can open.

Following wake windows sets the tone for how your day is going to turn out in relation to naps, your child’s feeding schedule, and bedtime, and it’s one of the foundational pieces when you’re wanting your child to sleep more independently.

Let’s get into what wake windows are and how they can be transformative for your child’s sleep.

What are wake windows?

Contrary to what some parents may believe, babies can only handle being awake for a specific amount of time in relation to their age.

If you keep your baby awake too long, you’ll have an overtired baby on your hands who may cry uncontrollably, protest sleep, wake more often, or be more cranky during the day.

Wake windows can help prevent that.

Wake windows are simply a guide to better understand your child’s age-appropriate sleep needs, and they can guide you as you move toward setting a solid schedule for your baby.

For many new parents, it’s not realistic to have a set schedule in the weeks following the return home with a newborn. There’s so much that’s already happening – trying to understand your baby’s hunger or sleepy cues, trying to balance life with a newborn, and trying to operate on very little sleep.

Additionally, because babies will feed on demand, it’s hard to create a predictable schedule with a newborn. However, as your baby grows, wake windows are the most effective way to transition your child into a predictable schedule.

The chart below shows the average wake windows for each age range. Remember, all children are unique and your child may have a different wake window range.

Age Wake Windows (Hours) Chart

Age (Months)

Wake Windows (Hours)

<1 months

0.5 - 1

1 - 2

0.75 - 1

2 - 3

1 - 1.5

4 - 5

1.75 - 2

6 - 7

2.25 - 2.75

8 - 9

2.75 - 3

10 - 11

3 - 4

12 - 14

3 - 4

15 - 18

5 - 6.5

19 - 24

6 - 6.5

As you’ll notice, each age includes a range of time for your child’s wake window. For instance, a 2-3 month old has a wake window of 1-1.5 hours. This means that throughout the day, they can handle being awake at any one time for 1-1.5 hours.

Why are wake windows important?

As I mentioned above, following your child’s wake windows can help ensure they don’t stay awake too long, pushing them into an overtired state.

At the same time, following wake windows ensures your child is getting enough awake time throughout the day, which is important for your child’s development. Just as an overtired baby may protest sleep and wake more frequently, an undertired baby may do the same.

Additionally, wake windows can help you know when your child will likely be ready for sleep.

When your baby is a newborn, you can usually watch for their sleepy cues: yawning (especially when the yawns are consecutive); staring off into space after being alert; rubbing their eyes; fussing and crying.

However, as your child grows, those sleepy cues aren’t always reliable. You may notice that after an hour-long nap, your baby will yawn 15 minutes later. This isn’t necessarily a sign that they’re sleepy, but could mean they’re needing more stimulation to stay engaged.

And when your child is a toddler, you can forget about relying solely on sleepy cues to indicate that they’re getting ready for sleep. When a toddler is playing and engaged with their toys, they aren’t very likely to stop on their own and tell you that they’re ready for bed. Instead, they’ll stay focused on the fun activities until they’ve reached an overtired state.

And that’s when they usually meltdown, indicating that they are beyond ready for a nap.

Wake windows are a tool to help prevent these situations. When you know what wake windows work for your child, you can put them down in their crib at just the right time and know that their bodies are ready to sleep.

How long should I follow my child’s wake windows?

Wake windows are great for every age, and can be followed from the time your baby is a newborn until they’re 2 years old. Around 1 year of age, many children fall into a pretty predictable schedule when they’re on one nap a day – they wake at the same time, nap at the same time, and go to bed at the same time.

When your child falls into a predictable schedule like that, then it’s fine to not focus so much on wake windows, and instead, to follow your child’s daily pattern.

I want you to remember that wake windows are a guide. They aren’t a rigid schedule that must be followed. Instead, they’re a tool to use as you work on ensuring your child is getting all of the sleep they need for their age.

Your child’s wake windows are one part of their sleep puzzle. If you’re struggling with your child’s sleep, or you’re curious about whether your baby is getting the sleep they need for their age, I have a free Infant and Toddler Sleep Chart to help guide you.

This is the only chart you will ever need throughout your child’s life. In fact, you can print it out today and refer back to it as your child ages, and you’ll have all of the information about their sleep needs at your fingertips.

You can download your Infant and Toddler Sleep Chart here. I promise, this tool will serve you for years to come!


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