Optimal Waketime Lengths

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Baby wake times to get baby taking great naps. This post walks you through how long baby should be awake at each age and how to know the signs that baby is ready for sleep.

Baby yawning

One of the most important steps to establishing healthy sleep habits and getting your baby to sleep well is to have waketime length correct. It can take time to master, but I have put years of experience and many polls into posts to help you get there as fast as possible.

It might surprise you to realize there can be a wide variation of optimal lengths among babies. Below are some poll results from readers of this blog. These poll results really illustrate the fact that every baby is different. There are averages and there are most commons, but ultimately it is up to you to figure out what is the optimal waketime length for your baby.

Baby Wake Times

Your baby wake times are the amount of time your baby is awake between nap. Wake time will be from the time your baby wakes up until the time your baby goes back down for a nap or for bedtime.

Baby sleep is so dependent on getting this wake time length correct. Babies sleep so much better when their wake time length was correct. They will fall asleep easier and they will sleep through the sleep transition easily if the wake time length was correct. Your little one will make it through the sleep cycle and wake up refreshed.

That means naps will be 1.5 to 2 hours long and baby will either sleep through the night or wake up less often in the night. For that purpose, I have written this post to help you get wake time length spot on. This post will help you get your Babywise wake time length down.

What is Optimal Waketime Length?

Optimal means your baby goes down for a nap relatively easily without much crying. This is more applicable for younger babies or babies just starting sleep training.

Some babies cry more than others during sleep training. Sometimes the non-criers randomly have a hard time settling down. Many times this is related to over-tiredness and over-stimulation. Keep notes of waketime lengths and activities to see if there is a pattern with good naps and not-so-good naps.


Read: Gentle Sleep Training The Four S’s


Optimal means your baby takes the appropriate length of nap for the age and cycle length. If your baby is waking early, then she is likely awake too long before the nap and you will need to shorten the wake time length so baby has less time awake between naps. See Easy Nap Fix

Optimal means your baby goes to sleep rather quickly. This is more applicable to older babies who are past the sleep training process. If baby is falling asleep quietly and quickly, you know you have baby wake time length correct.

If your baby suddenly starts playing for long periods before naps, then you likely need to extend your waketime. Baby will need a longer wake time to help get in that extra stimulation needed before nap or bedtime starts. Even just adding 5 minutes can do the trick.

I often get asked how quickly baby should fall asleep. That can vary from baby to baby. Pay attention to what is a good length for your baby. I often found my babies would fall asleep in 5-10 minutes when wake time lengths were correct. The Baby Whisperer says it can take up to 20 minutes. For all of my babies, 20 minutes meant I had things timed incorrectly, but that might be a good length for your baby.

Baby yawning with text overlay

Optimal means your baby wakes up from a nap and is happy. Granted many babies (especially newborns) wake up crying because they are hungry, but once you feed your baby, she should be a happy baby. Many babies will get fussy as the next nap approaches, which is fine.

Optimal means your baby can focus during playtime. A well-rested baby can focus.

Optimal means your baby is able to maintain waketimes happily throughout the day. This does exclude any witching hour times of day. Evenings are often a fussy time of day for babies even if wake time lengths are perfect. Typically, waketimes get longer throughout the day, not shorter. If waketimes are progressively getting shorter, then earlier waketimes might be too long. If you have a newborn, waketimes are typically about the same length all day long.

Read how to calculate baby wake time length here

Approximate Optimal Waketime Lengths by Age

How long should a newborn stay awake? Most younger babies (newborns) need a really short waketime. Also, most newborns are going to be quite similar to each other in optimal lengths. Newborn sleep schedules do not vary very much.

As the babies get older, more of a variation happens for baby awake time. Take my children for example. At 6 months, Brayden was at about 2 hour waketime while Kaitlyn was at about 1 hour. Two kids, same mom, two very different waketimes.

See my chart of common baby wake times in my post Cornerstone for Good Naps.

Baby yawning with text overlay

Also, the same baby has extremely variable waketimes. Morning waketime might be 1 hour while the final waketime is 2. So the time of day affects the optimal waketime length, also. Here are some numbers to consider:

How Long Should a Newborn Stay Awake

0-4 Weeks old: 55% of responders reported that 30-50 minutes was optimal for a 0-4 week old. An additional 18% (total of 73%) extends this to 30-60 minutes. This is the range I would say most are in. In this age range, I would shoot for 30-45 minutes. If your baby seems to need more or less, tweak it slowly. I would take notes of what worked and what didn’t. You can buy my pre-made book of logs to keep track of baby wake times. Click on the image or this link here.

 Chronicles of a Babywise Mom Book of Logs

4-6 Weeks old: Most responders (62%) responded that 40-60 minutes was optimal for a 4 to 6 week old. This is completely in line with what my guess would be for an optimal waketime length. If you have a baby this age, I would shoot for 40-60 minutes. Again, take notes.

6-8 Weeks old: Now is when there starts to be more of a variable in waketime length for a 6 to 8 week old. Most responders (79%) reported that 40-70 minutes was optimal. These are the numbers I would work with, also. My guess is that most will be able to do about 60 minutes. Again, take notes, adjust as needed.

8-12 Weeks old: 70% of responders found waketime to be best from 50-80 minutes for a 8 to 12 week old. This is also the time frame I would think most babies would fall in. If your baby isn’t one of them, don’t stress about it or force your baby to be otherwise. 11% were less and 16% were more. That means there are babies out there who differ.


Read: Sleep Begets Sleep? The Truth About Baby Sleep


How Long Should a Baby Stay Awake

3-4 Months old: 72% reported the optimal waketime was 60-90 minutes for a 3 to 4 month old. Once again, this is in line with where I think most babies would be. Kaitlyn was right at 60 minutes, but if I had to err it was better to err before 60 minutes. 2 minutes after would mean trouble sleeping. So for her, I chose 50-60 minutes. If I had chosen for Brayden, it would have been 60-70 or perhaps 70-80. Remember, these averages give you a good idea of where to shoot for, but each child is different and it is up to you to figure out optimal for your baby.

4-5 Months old: At this age, optimal really starts to vary with a larger gap from baby to baby. The poll results for this age group had most answers from 80 minutes to 2 hours. This is a large variation. At this age some babies are starting to stay awake longer while others are still holding on to their shorter waketime length. My guess is for most babies, 2 hours is too long for most in this age group. Most will be around a little over an hour to maybe 1.5 hours, but that doesn’t mean there are not exceptions to this.

5-6 Months old: Again, our optimal length is going to vary, and our poll results show it. Most babies can make it over an hour by now. The largest percentage in the results was 1.75-2 hours, at only 32%–obviously not a majority. My guess is most this age are really going to do best around 1.5 hours of waketime. Again, figure out what is best for your baby.

6-7 Months old: We now start to see more votes in a certain area. 64% of votes were in the 1.75-2.25 hours range. I would definitely agree with this as the most likely optimal waketime length for babies this age. Brayden was at 2 hours at this age, but Kaitlyn was still closer to 1.25-1.5 hours. I would say most this age can do about 2 hours, give or take 15 minutes or so. Note that when you drop that third nap, which ranges between 6-9 months for most babies, you will have one large chunk of time in the evenings when baby will be awake that is longer than the between naps in the day.

7-8 Months Old: The largest chunk of people say 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes is best for baby. I would definitely agree that this is true for most babies. But don’t ignore that about 18% needed less and 31 needed more. Both of my two older girls needed less. Brayden was at 2. At this age range, I would still stick with the 2 hours norm. This would apply to the first and second waketimes. Third will be longer–especially if you have dropped the third nap. If you are on a four hour schedule, you really don’t want to go beyond a 2 hour waketime because you want a 2 hour nap.

8-9 Months Old: I am still sticking to 2 hours as my recommendation for the first two waketimes. You want a two hour nap, so you can’t exceed a two hour waketime–unless you go beyond a four hour schedule a bit, which is fine so long as you still work in at least 4 feedings (which will mean you have at least one interval less than two hours). This poll had a lot of variation. The two largest categories at 22% each were 2-2 hr 15 min and 2.5-3 hr.

10-12 Months Old: For your 10-12 month old, you might be as short as 2 hours or as long as 2.5 hours.

Why the Variation in Wake Time Lengths?

All babies are different. Some babies need more, some need less. There is a wide range of sleep needs from baby to baby.

Some moms are wrong. I don’t intend to offend anyone. And I don’t mean that anyone outside the realm of my expectations is wrong. There are those extra sleepy and extra alert babies. But some moms will have answered what they thought was best and actually be getting it wrong.

If I were to do this poll thinking of Brayden as a baby and what I did with him as a newborn, I would have been way off. I kept him up much too long. I had his wake time length wrong.

Even with Kaitlyn, my second child, I think there were times that I kept her up too long as a newborn. It gets easier to tell the optimal length for moms as baby gets older. You know your baby better. You know the sleep cues better. You have a better idea of the sleep needs of your baby. There will still be variations, though, because as babies get older, their different sleep needs become more obvious, as I stated above with my two older children.

A Note On Sleep Regression

A sleep regression is when your baby’s sleep is not as ideal as it used to be. Baby might start taking short naps, taking a long time to fall asleep before naps, or crying before naps. Your baby might stop sleeping through the night or start waking early in the morning. There are many sleep regressions your baby will face throughout the first year of life and even through the toddler years.


Read: Sleep Disruptions You Will Face as a Babywise Mom and How to Handle Them


Sometimes baby is not sleeping as well because of something like a growth spurt. A growth spurt is not a sleep regression.

When your baby is having a sleep regression, there is really nothing you can do to solve the sleep issue. Even getting awake times correct will not end the sleep regression. Sometimes moms start messing with baby’s wake time length during a sleep regression and end up throwing the baby sleep schedule so off wack that once the regression is over, baby still does not sleep well rather than snapping right back into it.

If you are familiar with the Wonder Weeks, you can prepare yourself for sleep regressions. Read all about Wonder Weeks and how they impact sleep here.

The most significant of all the sleep regressions is the 4 month sleep regression. This one really causes a lot of sleep troubles for babies. This corresponds with Wonder Week 19.

5 to 8 months old is a sleep regression time, also. Read all about the common reasons for poor sleep in the 5-8 month old age range here.

Baby Wake Times Questions

Here are some common questions people have with wake times.

Should I wake my baby in the morning?

Yes. Wake your baby up at a consistent time each morning. This helps set a consistent sleep schedule each day.

What time should a baby go to bed?

An ideal bedtime is around 7-8 PM. Then you will start your day the next day around 7-8 AM. There might be some night feedings in between depending on the age of your baby.

Starting and ending your day helps with the daily schedule, which helps you get waketime length correct each day.

Wake Time Length Worksheet

Be sure to check out my free Wake Time Length Worksheet to figure out if you should extend wake time or not.


Waketime Length Conclusion

As you are trying to get baby to take great naps and sleep through the night, be sure to figure out the best amount of waketime for your baby. Once you have that down, baby’s naps and night sleep will be amazing!

Optimal Waketime Lengths. How to get your baby to take great naps. This post walks you through how long baby should be awake at each age and how to know the signs that baby is ready for sleep.

Other Posts to Help you Figure out “Optimal”

Some were linked above, but I will link all of them here also.

Valerie Plowman

You can find all of my videos to help you with your parenting difficulties on YouTube. Follow here Chronicles of a Babywise Mom YouTube

Frequently Asked Waketime Length Questions:

  • Ruth Lee said…
    My name is Ruth Lee McLain and I have two boys. Hudson just turned 3 and Landon is 6 months. I have been trying to follow the BabyWise program since Hudson was a baby and it has been so helpful. I wish I had written more down so that I would remember how to do things with Landon. 🙂 Landon is down to 4 feedings a day, but I am struggling with nap times. He is waking up between 6:30am and 7am and then he eats every 5 hours: around 12 for lunch, 5 for dinner and then 9:30 and down for the night. About how much wake time should he be getting? I have also been concerned that I might should start putting him down earlier at night, but I would like your thoughts. I would appreciate any advice. 🙂

     

    Plowmanators said…
    I agree with writing down–you don’t realize how much you will forget! As for waketime, that is going to have to be something you will need to figure out for him. At that age, my daughter had waketime for 1 hour, while my son was 2 hours. Since you are on a longer schedule, you might even be able to go longer; however, I think 2 hours would likely be your max for a six month old. I would start to put him down for bed earlier and see how he does. Earlier bedtime is always nice 😉

  • Todd and Noelle: Could you (or anyone else reading) give me an idea of average waketime lengths for a 5 month old? I have tried putting my son down earlier, AND keeping him up longer…nothing is consistently working. He is taking up to an hour to fall asleep, and sometimes waking after just 45 minutes. I have a 2 year old who would get very overtired and not sleep well in her first few months of life, after that she could handle longer waketimes and they did not seem to disturb her sleep. My youngest has always been extremely laid back and happy – a great sleeper until several weeks ago. I am trying to keep feeding times consistent as I mess with his naps. Any advice on average waketime lengths would be great!~Noelle

    IzzysMama: Noelle, these are times I found listed on another website…maybe they can help. My daughter’s wake time is not as long as what this says it should be for her age, so as with everything else I just remember every baby is different and use this as a general guide.Newborn 50-60 mins1 month 60 mins-hour and 152 months 1 hour and 15 – 20 mins3 months 1 hour and 20 – 30 mins4 months 1 hour and 45 – 2 hours5 months 2 hours – 2.25 hoursLate 5 months/early 6 months 2.25-2.5 hours6.5 – 7 months 2.75-3 hours. Some are getting more.8 – 10 months 3 – 4 hours. Some are getting more.11 – 12 months 3.5 -4.5 hours. Some are getting more if moved early to 1 nap

    Plowmanators: Some information I have lists 45-75 minutes for a 5 month old. At that age, Kaitlyn did 1 hour. I think Brayden was closer to 2 hours, though I don’t remember for sure. From what I have heard, I would say 1-2 hours is more accurate for a 5 month old. In calculating waketime, consider your schedule and nap length needed. If you are on a 3 hour schedule and baby takes a 2 hour nap, then you have 1 hour waketime. If baby takes 1.5 hour nap, you have 1.5 hour waketime. Even on a 4 hour schedule, the shortest a nap should be is 1.5 hours, and up to 2.5 hours. If baby is a 1.5 hour sleeper, that would give longest of 2.5 hours waketime between wakeup and nap one and also nap one and nap two. If nap three is dropped at the time, then you could have a longer waketime period in the day (up to about 4.5 hours). However, the youngest you drop that third nap is 6 months. Good luck figuring out the right waketime for your baby! Each baby is so different, so take these numbers and consider them, but don’t be concerned if they don’t match up with what your baby really needs.

    Plowmanators thanks Izzysmamma for your input!

    IzzysMama: You’re welcome, although your estimate of 1-2 hours sounds more accurate then the list I gave. I had a question about picking your naptimes w/o sleep ques. How did you decide what time worked? Was it just trial and error.

    Plowmanators: It was a combo a few things:1-knowing how long she should be sleeping (the ranges)2-knowing her sleep type. She is a sleeper, so she has always slept on the longer end of the spectrum.3-then trial and error. Taking the first two into account helped shorten the length of time trial and error went on. But it repeats itself each time she needs to increase her length time.

    Todd and Noelle: Thanks Izzysmama and Plowmanators! Hopefully we will find our groove soon before our entire household is run ragged! 😀

    Gabby: My 5/12 month old usually naps on the shorter end of the length they should be, but we are still on a 3 hr schedule. He is usually awake about 1 – 1/2 hours, except in the late afternoon when his nap is usually a 45min power nap. Hope this helps.

  • LEM: I have a question about trail and error for waketimes. If you try to shorten you LO’s waketime for one of his naps and it doesn’t fix your issue does that mean that wasn’t the solution? Or do you need to keep at for a few naps? In other words, how many trails do you need to do in order to conclude that it did/did not work? I think I need to play with my 12 week old’s waketime.

    Plowmanators: I would give it a few days to try it, then try something else. I think in many cases it will be fixed pretty fast, but you just never know. It is a good idea to give it a few tries before moving on.

  • Brynn: I have a nap question. My 2 month old little boy is having some issues. We tried your quick nap fix yesterday morning and it worked awesome. He slept for two hours and I had to wake him up from both naps for his feeding. But when I did the exact same thing for his afternoon naps he only slept for 20 minutes and no matter what I did he wouldn’t go back to sleep. Do babies need longer waketime in the afternoon? Do you have any suggestions on how to get him to sleep better and longer, especially for his last nap before bedtime? Sometimes he can soothe himself back to sleep but he doesn’t seem to be able to soothe himself back to sleep, he is just wide awake! It is really messing up his bedtime too because he gets over stimulated. Any help would be awesome!

    Plowmanators: As they get older, they definitely need longer waketimes later in the day than earlier in the day.Also, expect that last nap to only be 30-60 minutes. That is totally normal.

Need help with naps? Get my eBook here to get baby taking great naps: The Babywise Mom Sleep Guide

The Babywise Mom Nap Guide for great naps

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