In the last couple of weeks, I’ve spoken to a few people who have had some misconceptions regarding “wake windows”. One mama was following wake windows for her 10 month old when bio times would have worked better, and another mama didn’t even know about wake windows for her 8- week- old baby. As a result, both children were missing that sweet spot for sleep and not napping well at all during the day. So, I thought I would take a moment to discuss the difference between the two concepts and when it is appropriate to incorporate each of them.
Wake windows refer to the times that babies can be awake without the risk of becoming overtired. We use wake windows for newborn babies until they reach about 16 weeks because babies have not developed a daytime circadian rhythm just yet, and therefore, do not have any real predictable schedule. Respecting a baby’s wake window, watching for sleepy cues, and beginning a solid soothing routine are extremely important at around 6-8 weeks when babies are becoming more connected and more dependent on you to offer them the appropriate sleep times. Most parents do not realize that these wake windows are very brief in those first several weeks. For instance, an 8 week old wake window is only about 45 minutes which is just enough time to have her fed and diapered with a little bit of play before starting that soothing routine. As your little one edges closer to 16 weeks, she might be able to stay awake closer to 90 minutes, but again, watching your babe for sleepy cues plays a big role.
Bio times refer to the biologically appropriate times little ones should take their daytime naps once they develop their circadian rhythm. At around 4-4 ½ months, we start to see babies move into that solid 3- nap- a-day schedule, though some might need to hold onto the 4th nap a bit longer if naps are still short. It is important that your baby takes her first two naps of the day (usually occurring around 8:30/9:00 AM and 12:00/1:00 PM) in her crib as best as you can allow since motion sleep isn’t as restorative as non-motion slumber. But, have no fear, that 3rd catnap can be “on the go” if you have errands to run or places to be. And of course, an appropriate bedtime seals the deal with regards to having a well-rested babe going into nighttime.
So, whether you have a little one following wake windows or one who has moved into bio times, honoring his or her need for rest is imperative for building a healthy little sleeper. And mom and baby will be much happier as a result!