Understanding your baby’s wake windows

Wake windows are a popular trend that promise parents can achieve a set schedule and longer stretches of nighttime sleep. However, wake windows have become a stress point for many new parents because it means that watching the clock suddenly takes priority over your baby’s sleepy cues. The theory is that if we make sure our babies are taking naps at the end of their wake window, we can avoid an overtired baby. This can put added pressure on parents to watch their baby and the clock throughout the day so they can make sure Baby naps by the end of their 2-hour wake window. But what if your baby suddenly refuses to nap at the designated time? Remember the sleep paradox? You cannot make your baby fall asleep—they fall asleep when they are ready to do so. If you stick too closely to wake windows you could find yourself trying every strategy you can think of to get your baby to fall asleep with no luck. If Baby is crying, their cortisol levels are rising, which perpetuates wakefulness and leaves you feeling like you’ve failed.

Wake windows are guidelines

Wake windows should only be used as a loose guideline. Wake windows are simply made up charts based on the average awake times for a sample of babies. Sleep is a developmental process for babies and each baby achieves sleep milestones at different times. Data can show the average wake window for your baby’s age, but your baby could land anywhere within that window or be completely outside of it altogether. Even worse, when you try to stretch out your baby’s wake window and keep them awake even when they’re tired you’re teaching them to fight their natural instinct to fall asleep when they’re tired. Have confidence in your ability to know what sleepy cues look like in your baby, and determine nap times based on your baby’s behavior instead of a wake window chart. A consistent bedtime routine and set bedtime will do wonders to help your baby learn what to expect and how to prepare for sleep at night.

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