What is a wake window & do they really matter?
A wake window is the amount of time your baby or toddler is awake between one nap and the next. In this time you would include feeding, nappy changes and play time! These wake windows are based on your baby’s developmental age.
Do they really matter? Absolutely, understanding wake windows is crucial for great sleep, It can mean the difference between an overtired baby that cat naps all day and wakes frequently over night, and a baby that goes down easily and is capable of sleeping longer stretches. They are also essential in understanding your baby’s hunger and tired cues and differentiating between the two.
Note; Its normal for the shortest wake window to be at the beginning of the day then expand as the day progresses.
When does a wake window start and how do you extend your babys wake window
I recommend starting your baby’s wake window as soon as you take them out of their cot/room environment.
The reason for this is if your baby wakes early for the day or from a nap (45 minutes or less), I recommend leaving them in their cot, as long as they are not crying and don’t need to be fed.
By leaving them in their sleep space for the remainder of the nap, allows them to (best case) fall back to sleep for additional restorative sleep, or (worst case) get some extra time resting in the dark even if they don’t fall back to sleep.
Signs that your baby is ready for a longer awake time
- They play when you put them to bed which then escalates to a cry.
- They protest as soon as you go into their bedroom or place them down in the cot.
- You start experiencing catnapping when you never used to.
Once you start experiencing any/all of the above over a few consecutive days, the best way to adjust your babys wake window is gradually. Aim to lengthen your baby’s awake time by 15-20 minutes every few days.
When do you stop following wake windows?
Once a toddler is between 3-4 years old, they can generally drop their daytime nap and are capable of staying awake for the whole day.
However, I do recommend implementing some “wind down time” generally around 1-2 pm for 1hr as this can help them rest and reset. This can include quiet activities like reading and puzzles, or even laying down to rest without actually sleeping!.