How Long Should a Newborn Be Awake Between Naps

Find out how long your newborn should stay awake between naps. Get awake time down perfectly and find out how many naps your newborn should take.

Mom with newborn baby

Finding your newborn’s ideal awake time is vital for getting a solid sleep schedule and make sure your baby is getting enough daytime sleep.

Figuring out the perfect waketime length is tricky. If you read through my newborn summaries with McKenna and Brinley, you will see that their waketime length changed and changed often. This is very common for baby sleep with newborn babies. So not only are you trying to figure out what is perfect, but you are trying to figure out where a target is that moves from day to day.

Where Do You Start? 

When searching for that ideal awake time between naps, start with what is “normal” for “most” babies. 

There is a reason most babies fit into a certain time frame–it is best for most of them. That means there is an excellent chance that is best for your baby. 

Page 130 of On Becoming Babywise suggests 1-1.5 hours of waketime for your newborn. If you see my post on Optimal Waketime Length, you will see that 55% said 30-50 minutes was optimal for a 0-4 week old.

I found optimal awake time for a newborn to start out well below an hour. I shoot for 30-50 minutes. I then extend it as needed. As the baby gets older, waketime length will get longer.

Also, not every wake time length of the day will be the exact same. 

Morning (the first of the day) is typically your shortest once baby is all settled in and on a predictable routine. Some babies will have the same wake time length all day long, others will vary.

When you are working to figure out waketime length, start by focusing on the first one of the day. Try different wake time lengths until your newborn falls asleep and sleeps well for naptime. 

You will want to watch for signs of sleepiness (also known as sleep cues). Not all babies are helpful with sleep cues. Some do not show sleepy signs well, if at all, when they are tired. Sometimes the sleep cues actually mean baby is overly tired. 

Some common sleep cues include fussiness, eye rubbing, and yawning. You can read about these and others in my Baby Sleep Cues post

Once you have that awake time perfected, move on to the second one of the day. Start that one with the same length as your first, then adjust if needed. 

Continue this process for each wake time in your daily schedule. 

Writing this information down is very helpful to keep track of it all. I have a printable version of my Optimal Waketime Log that I used to see it all.

>>>Read: Newborn Routines: Sleep, Schedules, and Play

How Do You Evaluate Awake Time?

Awake time is the length of time baby is awake between each nap. As you are trying to find what is best for your baby, you will probably wonder what to look for. What are signs the length was good? What are signs it was not good?

Typically, if your newborn has a hard time falling asleep for a nap, she was up too long. 

If she sleeps but wakes early from her nap (and it isn’t because of a growth spurt or some other reason), then it is also usually that the newborn was awake too long. 

In most cases, if a newborn does not nap well, the newborn was up too long.

As your baby gets older, if she takes a long time to fall asleep but isn’t crying about it, then she was likely not up long enough.

>>>Read: How To Tell if Baby is Overtired vs. Undertired

Hitting A Moving Target

Once you nail waketime down, it will soon change. That is the hard news.

The good news is that the change is adding time. So at least once you have it down, you know to go up. 

When you can tell that it is time for you to add time to your baby’s awake time, add it slowly. I add only five minutes at a time when I add until we get it right.

Nap Schedules

It is important to know your overall goal with how many naps your newborn should get in a day. The number of naps can vary a bit depending on how often baby eats.

Your baby should follow an eat/wake/sleep pattern each day. So baby gets up in the morning, eats breakfast, has some awake time (awake time does include feeding time), then takes a morning nap.

Then your baby will continue that cycle all day. 

Your goal is for naps to be 1.5-2.5 hours long. The last nap of the day, typically the fourth  nap, is often only a one hour nap, but not always. It can be as short as a 30 minute nap or as long as 2-2.5 hours long. If your newborn needs a short nap for that one, do not stress out about it. 

Short naps are typically a sign that your baby’s awake time was not correct (although there are many things that affect how long nap will be; see the section below for more on that). 

A typical newborn nap schedule will look like this:

7 AM-Eat
8AM-First nap
10 AM-Eat
11 AM-Second nap
1 PM-Eat
2 PM-Third nap (afternoon nap)
4 PM-Eat
5 PM-Fourth nap (evening nap–often a catnap)
7 PM-Eat
8 PM-Bedtime
10 PM-Dream feed

If your baby takes a catnap for the evening nap, you will have an earlier bedtime. Conversely, a little longer evening nap will lead to a later bedtime.

Take note that a newborn typically has 4 daytime naps. If your newborn eats more often in the day, then you could have 5 daytime naps. 

What Else Is Important For Great Newborn Sleep

While getting wake time length down well is vital to successful newborn naps and nighttime sleep, there are many other important factors you need to be sure you are covering. You don’t want these factors waking baby up and leading you to falsely believe the waking is because of incorrect wake time length. 


Swaddling is a great way to help your baby sleep well. It ensures baby will not wake up early because of the startle reflex. Swaddling your baby keeps your baby feeling cozy and comfortable, also. To read more about the importance of swaddling and how to be successful with it, see my post How to Help Your Baby Sleep Better with Swaddling

White Noise

Using white noise will help your baby sleep better, also. This is especially true if you live in an area that is noisy or if you have other children. Read more in my post Benefits of White Noise for Baby Sleep

Pacifier Use

The pacifier can be a helpful tool and it can also be a prop that prevents baby from sleeping well through the nap transitions. If your baby wakes up half way through the sleep cycle wanting a pacifier, then it is interfering with sleep more than it is helping it. 


Your newborn needs to be comfortable during sleep. The room temperature, how your baby is dressed, a clean diaper…these are all things that lead to baby being comfortable and sleeping well. 

Sleep Routine

A solid sleep routine is very helpful in getting baby to sleep for long stretches for naps and for nighttime sleep.  Your bedtime routine and night routine can vary from each other or they can be essentially the same. 

Some good things to include are diaper change, swaddle, closing the blinds, starting your white noise, and reading stories. Once you have finished your routine, you put baby in the crib or bassinet for naptime or nighttime sleep. 

Having a sleep routine helps set the stage and get baby in a perfect state for sleep, which helps baby sleep better. 


Consistency is often underrated. Have a super consistent morning wake up time and bedtime. This will help you establish a solid sleep schedule and get good sleep habits set up from the beginning. Young babies and old babies both need consistency, but young babies need it even more than older babies. Older babies can be more flexible. 

Sicknesses and Medical Issues

If your baby is sick or has a medical condition like reflux, sleep will not be as solid. Reflux will make it so a baby cannot sleep as well, so if baby is not sleeping well and has a medical condition, that might lead to early wakings and it not be due to wake time length being off. 

Sleep Regressions

Fortunately, there are sleep regressions during the newborn months, but it is good to be aware of them because sleep regressions are a real thing in future months. Your first is the 4 month sleep regression, so watch out for that one. 

While there isn’t an official sleep regression, there is a witching hour. Not every baby has a witching hour, but for those who do, they will not sleep well. Witching hour can start at a few weeks old and can go until your baby is about a 3 month old. Read more about witching hour here. 

Special Considerations

Many young newborns will not have a waketime every single waketime of the day. They will eat, then go right to sleep. That is okay. See Adding Waketime to Your Newborn’s Day. This will help you figure out how to get your baby to have a wake time each day. 

Sometimes your baby will not sleep well because of overstimulation rather than simply needing a longer waketime length. See Overstimulation and Don’t Over Stimulate During Playtime


To sum up, as you work to figure out optimal waketime length for your newborn, keep in mind that many do not stay awake after a feeding for every feeding of the day, and that is okay. Start by having a 30-50 minute waketime. As you add time, add only five minutes at a time.

Related Posts

Newborn awake time between naps

This post originally appeared on this blog October 2011

25 thoughts on “How Long Should a Newborn Be Awake Between Naps”

  1. I am so thankful for your blog… I am commenting here bu I have been readng many of your posts on waketime and sleep. I just found your blog this past Friday and have ben reading like crazy! 🙂 We adopted our son and have had him since birth. About a week before birth I discovered Baby wise and read the book and htought okay I can do eat,wake sleep…makes sense. Yet once I started doing it I had so many question and the book was not detailed. We held him first weeks pretty much all the time, he selpt on us. We wanted to ensure bonding since he was adopted. After two week mark we transitioned to the crid, which went pretty well. He did great on the eat, wake, sleep through 4 weeks. He would go down for naps easily and usually stay asleep. Things went craxy the 5th and 6th week and we go all off track. Found out the end off the 5th week he had acid reflux. That took time to get under control even with med. So the 5th and 6th week he was off his eating and sleeping schedule because he would spit up s much and then be hungry and hour later etc. All the issues that go with reflux threw us off. The 7th week I attempted to get hijm back on schedule and created a new schedule for him. It was every 3.5 hours: 7, 10:30,2, 5:30 8:30, 11, 3ish am he would wake for feeding. He would stay awake about 1.5- 2.0 hrs and sleep 1.5- 2.0hours (it rotated pr cycle) Well, I feel horrible now but I create dthis schedule b/c he seemed so alert and awake etc. Yet, last week when we would put him down often he would wake 45 mins into nap. Not every nap but often and it was hard to out him down at night. So, after reading some posts I realized WOW I as giving him way to much wake time. So we are starting over this week, week 8, and starting CIO. I am not letting him do any more snacking or feeding after he has been fed b/c spitting up is not a big issue anymore. I am trying to watch for his cues to put him down and letting him. New schedule is 7,10,1,4,7(bed 8:15, 10,3) I am watching for wake time but trying for 1hr-80 min wake times and sleep 1hr 45 min-2hr each cycle. That is the "plan" BUT started today and alreday so bad. Not sure if it is healthy to let him cry so much??? I get CIO but what are the limits hwo much is too much? I think for him going in and pciking hi up in any way makes it worse. BUt here is the short of what happened. 7-8:04 fed and wake. 8:04 up down(Using sit method also he is swaddled)Was clearly drosy but when I put him down eyes wide open. I left. Cooed and looked around then 8:14 started gettng upset, tryingto break out of swaddle and fussing. CRying. Went in at 8:20 just offered paci. Took it. At 8;28 spit out paci and asleep. 8:42 woke but quickly fell back asleep. 9:15 Woke up wide awake crying!! I went in at 9:30 patted him said shhh. (Stopped when he saw me seemed to make it worse after I left) Continued t cry til 10. Then 10:00 bottle time. Took him a whiel to eat (10-!0:40) Some wake time til 10:52. Swaddled, Sit time, put down in cib at 11:02. Was out asleep. 11:05 opened his eyes wide awake! 🙁 Cried til 11:34 fell asleep( I had hope this may be working) 11:57 woke up wide awake. Cried til bottle at 1:00. Only time we went in was 12:20 to offer paci but he didnot want it.( I do not want to use paci but felt bad he was still awake. Thought it may help soothe him) REST IN NEXT COMMENT

  2. 1:00 bottle my hubby fed him, it took a while, then read him a story and rocked him(at this point we were both worried at howlittle sleep he had gotten) Did the swaddle and sit and put down in crib at 2:04. (we really did not have "play" wake time b/c he had not slept. Woke up at 2:36. AND CRIED……. Finally I was not sure what to do… let him cry but then I thought he has had SO little sleep he must be so over tired. Not sure if I did the right thing but picked him up and rocked him. He would dose off in my arms but when I put him in the crib he would be wide awake. FInally put him in th vibrator at 3:40 and he fell asleep and is now(3:50) still asleep. When I do pick him up to feed he does rub his eyes here or there and yawn but he is wide awake…..cooing and wants to stare at everything. Which suprised me considering how litte sleep he got. What do I do when he cries the most of the nap time and then the next nap and the next……is it bad to let him go that long without good sleep. Will he finally get the point or is it bad to let him go that long w/o the sleep. Also, should I go back to 3.5 and do 1.5 of wake 1.5 of nap? PLEASE help. I know sleep is SO important. Sorry for the long post thought it would best to give you the whole picture. THANK YOU!!!

  3. Sorry another ?? In the overstimulation blog… When doing CIO how can you decipher between he is crying b/c we missed his window and he is over stimulated (which at ths point if I understand correctly you should just put him in a swing or something to go to sleep) OR he is crying because he just wants you to come get him. Thanks again

  4. First I want to say thanks, I love your blog and it has helped me with many of my Babywise questions. I wanted to comment an affirmation to your post. I have a 7 week old. She was crying and fussy when I put her down for a nap and she wouldn’t sleep well. I noticed that she would squirm at the breast and kind of whine and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized she was doing this because she was tired. With my first when he was full he would pull off then I knew it was time for bed but with this one (my second) she will nurse until I take her off so I was nursing for an hour or more and she was getting over tired at the breast. Now if I limit her time at the breast and put her down for a nap before she begins to squirm she will go to sleep on her own perfectly happy and sleep a good 2 hours. Who knew that they could be eating too much! 🙂

  5. Babywise has worked pretty well for us overall… but I would say my biggest complaint of it is its suggestion to have 1.5 hours of wake time for babies 0-4 months. That's just crazy! One month olds shouldn't be up that long!!!!! In addition, the book has very little mention of the possibility of your baby becoming overtired! When my little guy was 0-4 months old, I would try to keep him up that long and slowly, over time, he became more and more overtired… which is what I believe caused his napping issues! And trying to figure out an optimal waketime on a moving target for a 4-9 month old (let alone a newborn) is nearly impossible! Once Nathan's nap issues started and he'd wake up 30 minutes into his nap, I had a heck of a time trying to adjust his waketime length to see if it would help his naps go longer. Lesson learned…. don't let your baby get overtired!!!!!Anyways, a suggestion for Tiffany… try a super early bedtime for a few weeks… like 5:30pm or 6:00pm (which sounds crazy!) It helped my son, Nathan (now 10 months, who also has reflux), catch up on missed sleep from poor naps during the day. I continued the early bed time until he was better rested and could handle a more regular schedule during the day and a more regular bed time (like 7pm). If your son still does night time feedings (or even evening feedings), you could try the early bed time and just let him wake up naturally for his evening and overnight feedings… then feed him and put him right back to bed until morning. Hope that helps your little guy catch up on some missed sleep! : )

  6. It's me again! 🙂 We found out Josh is allergic to milk so everything is A LOT better now that he is on soy and his tummy eels better. SO you can scratch most of what I wrote above. BUT I do have 2 questions…..First his consistant feed schedule is 7:30, 10:30, 1:30, 4:30, 7(8:30 bed) 11pm feed(he stays asleep, 3ish feed. He sleepg GREAT through the night usually only wakes a little around 3 or 4. His optimal wake time is 1hr 10 to 20mins.(He is 9 weeks now) The thing is he consistantly wakes up every 40 mins during day time naps. Sometimes he will go back to sleep sometimes not. WHAT do I do? #2 What do you dowith the eat wake sleep cycle when you want to go to feeding every 3.5 hours BUT your baby can only stay awake 1 hr 2o mins and takes only a 40min to hr nap?? That would mess up the eat wake sleep routine b/c it doe snot last 3.5 hours. THANKS for the help!

  7. Tiffany, for an 8 week old, I would say stay closer to being awake for one hour than two hours. Him waking up shortly into nap is likely a resulst of being too tired. But do always be positive he isn't having a growth spurt.For thoughts on the eye rubbing/yawning/etc see my recent post "upcited."I think you did the right thing by picking him up and helping him sleep later in the day that day. See my Newborn Sleep Hierarchy for more on that.You will have to learn to decipher his cries. Keep detailed notes and and over time you will come to recognize what is what. Good luck!

  8. Oh! Just saw your other comment Tiffany 🙂 Glad you got the milk thing figured out. I still think you should try a shorter waketime length. And I wouldn't go to a longer feeding schedule if he can't sleep long enough to make it at that age.

  9. While my first child followed the eat,play, sleep cycle perfectly, my newborn (6 wk old) daughter is a little more challenging. She eats every 3 hrs, but wants to stay awake until the next feeding, then sleep after the next feeding. (so 3 hrs awake, then basically 3 hrs asleep.) I have tried really hard to get her to nap during the first cycle, but to no avail (or maybe about 20 mins with a lot of rocking). Then I try to keep her awake after the second feeding even though she is ready to nap then. I spend so much time trying to get her to sleep in the right order- I feel tied to the bouncy seat! Otherwise, she just fusses and stays awake. Any advice?

  10. There are so many things it could be. Have you tried shortening the waketime length a lot. McKenna was bascially eating, changing diaper, and back asleep for a while. It is the shortest waketime of the day. Good luck!

  11. I wonder if you still are reading this Val. I am trying to troubleshoot my little man's first nap. He is 3 weeks old right now and sleeps wonderful at night. he will go from 8 bedtime and sleep around 7-8 hrs then wake, take bottle, and back to sleep, our wake time is usually 7:30/8. he will absolutely refuse his first nap. i have tried anywheres from 30minutes to 40, 50, and so on until about 1hr. never fails he will refuse to take this nap, he takes wonderful 2nd and 3rd naps usually sleeping about 2-2.5hrs each and then he catnaps for his last nap of the day which we are usually out and about because he would never nap at home. i find it better to take his catnap on the road. for the first nap of the day he is swaddled like he is for all of his naps, white noise, decreased stimulation. he is tired, he is yawning and closing his eyes but then pops them back open then closed then opened never taking a good nap. i have tried swing and even wearing him and nothing works so i have resorted to getting him sleepy and then putting him in crib as i have 2 other kids and i can't spend all day in room trying to put him to sleep. he will fuss intermittently but he never truly cries for long periods of time but he is still fussing about every 10-20 minutes. his eyes will be open as well. i am just trying to get some solid affirmation about cio at this point. i let him fuss and cry for all his naps and bedtime and he is so good about going back to sleep for the 2 middle naps and at night as well. why this nap when its supposed to be the best one? help me please, i have tried your forum but many people are in the same boat as i am lol

  12. OK, so I have a question re the optimal wake time. I have found that 1-1.5 is perfect fro my 11 weeks old. However, he only sleeps 30 – 45 minutes. So that leaves us with a 1 hr and 45 mins – 2.5 hour cycle depending on the day and my pedi said he's gaining weight well and should start eating every 3 hours. What do I do with that extra .5 -1 hour in each cycle?

    • Alexandra, this is late, but most likely with that short of a nap, that isn't the optimal waketime. Optimal means the amount of time to get your baby to go down happily and take a 1.5-2.5 hour nap.

  13. My son is 2 months old. Is itpossible his waketime is still just 30 min? He takes under 10 minutes to fall asleep, usually sleeps until the next feeding, and rarely cries going to sleep. It just seems so short for his age.

    • That is short for his age. Was he born early? He isn't terribly off of normal, but I wouldProbably try adding 5 min and see what happens

  14. My baby will be 9 weeks tomorrow and did great yesterday (we are brand, brand new to this) but today it's been a nightmare. He has woke from both naps after an hour and screamed bloody murder. I even went in and did pu/pd but as soon as I put him down he started in again. My husband said, that can't be good for him. But his normal nap time is 2 hours and he's been up for an hour before putting him down. Should I try feeding him at this point and seeing if that works? I don't know what to do!

  15. Hey ladies! I have a 4 week old at home and am having trouble and kinda confused on wake times. I started later in the game with my first so I'm at a loss. Our start time is 8 am and we are every three hours. It takes about 45min to an hour to complete a feeding. He is wide awake after the first feeding of the day. Thanks guys for the advice !

  16. Do you have info on preemie baby waketimes? My baby was born at 27 weeks and just came home from the nicu at 42 weeks. He isnt as sleepy as a typical newborn, although his adjusted age says he should be. When i lay him down awake after seeing sleep cues, he either stays awake looking around then eventually cries 30 to 45 minutes later until next feeding. I have tried an array of wake times to no success.

  17. Hi Valerie I’m not sure if you’re still reading this I sure have enjoyed your post and all the information we have a 3 1/2 week old and weeks one And Twowere great using the routine of the baby wise book. We went through a gross spurt that lasted about 48 hours at the end of week two and now baby is very fussy and fights going to sleep for his naps. I see your schedule suggested for newborns is it possible to begin that when he is only 3 to 4 weeks old and skip the middle of the night feeding all together?


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