Updated: Aug 16, 2022
When I first became a parent, I had no idea the impact that sleep deprivation would have on me. I'm not here to sugarcoat it for you. I was a mess. Those first few months of having a newborn BROUGHT ME TO MY KNEES. You feel me on this, mama? My child wasn't sleeping. I wasn't sleeping. I had a breakdown.
In my fragile and exhausted state, I began learning about newborn sleep. It was from another sleep consultant that I first learned what "awake windows" were - basically, the time your baby is awake between sleeps. So, the time they wake up in the morning to their first nap would be their first window. The time they wake from their nap to their next nap would be their second window. If appropriate, the time to a third and fourth nap. And, finally, the time awaking from the last nap of the day until bedtime. There is a formula. An ever-changing formula. Below is a table that can help you sort it out, based on your child's age, the appropriate time awake before they need to sleep again, and the total number of hours of sleep they should be getting in a 2 hour period:
I'll be honest. It's a lot to consider and a lot to think about, especially when you are exhausted. I've been there and I feel for you, mama. So, if I can offer you this, and try to explain it the best I can, and I hope I can provide for you some relief.
Let's say you have a three-month-old. Your baby would fall in the 6-16 weeks category. A baby this age can handle about an hour to an hour and a half of awake time before needing to sleep again. The times in the chart are just averages, so your baby may need a bit more or a bit less. Let's say your baby wakes for the day at 7:00 a.m. Based on this timing, your little one should be put down for their next nap around 8:30, an hour and a half after waking up. Then let's say they wake up from their nap at 9:30 - you would plan to lay them down for their next nap at 11:00. Here's to hoping they take a decent nap now...2 hours and they wake at 1:00. You would now plan for their third nap to start at 2:30. They sleep another hour and wake at 3:30. You'd now plan to put them down for yet another nap at 5:00. This will be their last nap of the day, as it will cary them over until between. Your window for bedtime should always be between 6:00-8:00 p.m. Let's say they wake from this last nap at 5:45 since the last nap of the day is often a short one. You would then plan for bedtime around 7:15.
A common question I get regarding these awake windows is "Does the window start when my baby wakes up or when I get them out of bed?" I usually split the difference, since being awake in the crib is a non-stimulating and restful time. So, if your baby woke at 6:00 and you got them at 6:30, start the window from 6:15.
Over time, you gradually stretch the awake windows to meet your baby's sleep needs as they get older and mature. As a newborn, your little one will have 4-6 naps per day, and as these window stretch and your baby gets older, they will gradually drop naps. Once your baby gets to two naps per day, somewhere between 6-9 months of age, you can get them on more of a set schedule, and your brain won't need to do the math anymore - thank goodness!
If you haven't yet subscribed to my email list, make sure you do (click here), and you will get my FREE "Newborn Sleep Guide" that goes into more detail about awake windows that you can start using with your little one today!