Exclusive Wake-Time Formula – Your Missing Link For Great Baby Sleep

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A guest article by Angela Braden. Angela blogs at www.sciencemommy.weebly.com

Nap times go array when we miss the “sleep window”—that magic snippet of time in which baby is primed for la la land and will drift off peacefully (in the right environment). Perhaps you’ve seen your baby’s sleep window open—a glazed look, a yawn, or some agitated movements (depending on age)—but by the time you finished that bite of food, changed the diaper, and swaddled, that window had slammed shut on you! One missed window can set in motion a vicious cycle of overtired, short naps and more disturbed night sleep. Going by a strict schedule can be problematic too, because every night and every nap is different, (particularly in the first six months). You usually end up with a baby who’s overtired or under tired at the “scheduled” sleep time.

So should you watch the baby (for signs of sleepiness) or watch the clock in order to put baby to sleep during her sleep window? The answer is “both”, but here’s how: The heart of consistently successful “sleep window synchrony” (my term) is staying within an optimum “wake time” zone. (Wake time is the duration of wakefulness between sleep times, counting the time it takes to soothe your baby to sleep.)

Simply put, wake time is the single most powerful determinant of when your baby will need to sleep again! Knowing the best wake time will help you stay ahead of overtired like nothing else, because you’ll be ahead of those tricky sleepy cues too (some babies are just hard to read!).

Below, exclusively for The Baby Sleep Site, I’ve outlined my secret formulas for knowing when baby’s “wake time” is going to expire. The formulas vary by age, so look for your baby’s age range to know which number to start with, then “tweak it” with the factors that follow and you’ll have a nearly exact predictor of when your baby next needs to snooze. (You should still keep logs to optimize for individual differences, until you’ve got it down.)

Here’s why these formulas have proven to be golden in terms of avoiding healthy sleep enemy #1, overtired: They factor in the second most powerful determinant (in my opinion) of when baby needs sleep—duration of the last sleep time (age of baby is the first factor). Since babies through at least six or seven months normally have erratic sleep durations—some naps last 20 minutes, some 2 hours—we have to factor in duration or we’re shooting in the dark for that critical sleep window.

I discovered with my little one, and later through consulting for other mommies, that for young babies (particularly zero to four months), the duration of the previous sleep time, predicts the next wake time! After around six months, baby should be taking the full, one-hour-minimum, naps anyway (most of the time), so we can look more to the age-determined wake times, though duration can still be a factor.

The Wake Time Formulas

0 to 1 month – Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time, up to 40 minutes max.

Newborns are rarely awake longer than it takes them to feed and have a diaper change. If they don’t doze back quickly, they need our help to make sleep happen in time! Of course, if baby goes to sleep sooner, don’t try to keep a newborn awake for the full 40 minutes.

*Note: During what is often called, “the witching hour” (or in my case, full blown colic time) many newborns simply will not sleep for hours on end, despite your best soothing efforts. This doesn’t mean they don’t need to! This is the time to really take Nicole’s sleep-inducing tips to heart. Diligence pays and every bit of extra sleep you get out of baby during this time will help in the big picture, even in the long run, after colic has passed.

1 to 2 months – Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time up to max, 40 to 60 minutes.
During these months, the best rule of thumb is the duration of the last nap, since nap length is biologically a work in progress for babies at this stage. Plan to put back to sleep within one hour of wakefulness (or less if last sleep period was less). Lean closer to 40 minutes for colicky/sensitive babies, especially during the morning hours. (Also see “witching hour” note above.)

2 to 3 months – Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time up to max, 60 to 80 minutes.
At this age, if baby sleeps less than 45 minutes, you should immediately try to continue the nap (by rocking, soothing, etc.) to equal at least 45 minutes, but if your attempts are unsuccessful (as they often will be), simply calculate wake time by the sleep duration, instead of max time.

3 to 4 months – Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time up to max, 60 to 90 minutes.
Yawn or no yawn …cranky or not…. At 50 minutes or so (depending on tweaking factors below), begin your nap time wind down routine, aiming to have baby asleep within this range.

4 to 6 months: Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time up to max, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Baby usually has developed three somewhat predictable naps, but the wake time is still a more important indicator of the sleep window, than the “scheduled” nap.

6-8 months: Look for wakeful periods to begin to stretch to 2.5 hours without becoming overtired, provided that the naps are not too short. Nap duration is less of a factor now. The first nap of the day will still need to occur a bit earlier (within 2 hours).

*Note: Activity level now becomes a factor, because many babies are mobile. If your little one has had a very active wake time, you may need to tweak in the earlier direction 10 minutes or so.

8-10 months: Wake time – 2 to 3.5 hours. For the first two naps, wake time should be between 2 and 2.5 hours, so you’re starting with just one three hour period of wakefulness per day (the one before bedtime).This range depends greatly on whether baby has dropped the third nap (usually at 9 months). Generally, thereafter, the 3.5 hour wake time works (from the time baby drops the third nap) until baby drops the second nap between 14 and 18 months (approximately).

Tweak It Factors

Now that you know the range to shoot for, here’s how you can hone in on a more precise prediction of the infamous closing sleep window.

  • Time of day: As noted above, the morning nap (from the morning wake up) usually will still need to happen at the early end of the given range. The later time given applies to the longer period of wakefulness in the late afternoon/early evening.
  • Temperament/Colic or post-Colic: With colicky babies, always go with the shorter wake time and keep a log to pinpoint even further. Once colic has passed, at around 3 months for most babies, these sensitive little ones still need this shorter wake time, especially in the morning. The same applies to babies who are sensitive to over-stimulation (but may not be considered “colicky).
  • Quality and quantity of night sleep: Usually, if baby has a bad night, he will close his sleep deficient with the length of his nap, but it’s worth checking out Nicole’s night sleep totals and if your baby gets less night sleep and takes a short nap, move that wake time back to the shorter end.

Every baby is different, but the vast majority will fall within these ranges. (Most babies are also chronically overtired!)

This “Wake time formula” is the clock-watching part of knowing when to facilitate baby’s next nap, but it’s the antithesis of rigid scheduling. It gives you a starting point from which to log what works best for your baby, as regular naps develop.

Please let me know how these formulas are working for you!

Angela Braden is mother of Kian, 5 and Gianna, 17 months. She has researched and reported on wellness and lifestyle for a decade and a half and been published hundreds of times in national and international magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Health and Fitness, and Lucire (New Zealand). Angela served as a columnist and healthy lifestyle expert on TBS for 2 years. She swears her two babies are angels…but only when they’ve had optimum sleep.

©2012 by Angela Braden. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Angela Braden.

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91 Responses to Exclusive Wake-Time Formula – Your Missing Link For Great Baby Sleep

  1. Kristin says:

    @Nicole So, what you are saying that is even if my little guy wakes up before 6 am I should wait until after 8am for the first nap if at all possible? I think I could do this on the days I don’t work but not on the day care days. In an ideal world he would wake up at 7am and I know I could get him to daycare before 9!

  2. KT says:

    Angela, I think your formula idea is interesting. One place where it will fail, however, is for babies in the 4-6 month range who are short nappers and get stuck in a loop of being overtired (from the short nap) but undertired (from a short wake time). I had to stretch my daughter at 5.5 months to longer wake times because she was a chronic 30-45 minute napper. By stretching her to 2.5 hours max wake-time I was able to start getting one longer nap out of her. When I stretched her to 3 hours max wake time at 7 months (a bit longer than you suggest) because she started showing signs of being stuck in the under tired/overtired loop again, she moved to 2 naps of at least 1 hour each, and usually longer.

    I don’t know how many babies require forceful wake time stretching, and I think it’s tough to tell undertired and overtired apart, but it is one possible scenario!

  3. Kristin says:

    @Nicole or @Angela
    Ok, one more question and then I promise I’ll buy your mastering naps and schedule book. You gave a guideline for naps happening no earlier than 8am but do you have a cut off time for the start or end of the last nap of the day? For instance my 7 month old woke up from his last nap at 2:30pm if I waited the 2.5 hours suggested that would be 5pm. That seems to late for a nap but to early for bed time. I ended up keeping him up until 6 and gave him and early bedtime.

  4. Angela says:

    @Kristin, If he often wakes up before 6, I’d try to jump in and continue his sleep as night sleep – i.e.: rock him in a quiet dark room (or whatever soothing makes him sleep) until at least 6, even if he doesn’t go back to sleep. If he does (hopefully) go back to sleep, then you could wake him at 7, if you want to facilitate (wink wink) development of that 7:00 wake up time. this would help fit your work schedule better. That cut off time is tricky at his age because of the transition from 3 naps to 2. if he were taking long naps, he might be okay on just 2 and a 5:30/6 bedtime, but because of the short naps and early morning, he probably needs to stick to 3 naps for now. Plus, if you end up with a 6:00 bedtime, you can’t expect the 7 am morning wake time (which you need for your schedule), bc that would be over 12 hrs. unless he’s losing a lot of sleep during the night . . . There are a lot of variables and we’d really have to know all the details of the day and make each call on a day-to-day basis. But does this help you feel better about making that call? Let us know if you’d like more info on extending the morning sleep as i mentioned.

  5. Lindsey says:

    @Angela and @Nicole, thank you both. @Angela, just to make sure I’m clear, if she only takes a 20 minute nap, should I tell them to put her down again in 20 minutes? What if she won’t go down? They have a policy of no crying more than I think 5 or 10 minutes. Plus of course there is the factor of kids constantly in and out of the nap room. I should add they tell me she goes down awake but falls asleep within 2-3 minutes. A sign she’s overtired?

  6. Zamina says:

    Hi Angela (and Nicole) I’ve been using the wake time ‘formula’ since my girl was a few months, from reading this blog. Now at 19 months, I find her sleep windows quite inconsistent and we end up in the undertired/overtired cycle constantly. When can I and should I start sleeping her at the same time for naps and bedtime? Does pegging her nap time and bedtime help her sleep better in the long run and more consistently? I’d like to get her ready for some sort of care so it’s easier for others to look after her. Thanks.

  7. Kristin says:

    @Angela. Thank you! That is very sound advice. I usually get home from work at 4pm see the note from my child care provider that says he woke up at 2:30pm and think, “Now what?” Tuesday we tried for a later nap and bedtime but that didn’t seem to work as he had a sleepless night and woke up before 6 am any way. Last night was AMAZING! I got him to sleep about 6pm. He woke up an hour later and my husband soothed him back to sleep. I dream fed him before I went to bed and he slept almost all the way until 6am! This was ok for TODAY since I don’t have to work but I would still like to get him to a 7am wake up and 7pm bedtime if possible.

    I really wanted to try and follow your wake time suggestions for naps today so I tried to get him down for his first nap by 8am. I started our wind down routine at about 7:45am and had him in the crib by 8. But he tossed turned babbled, “talked” for 30 minutes (no crying just fussing) until I finally went in and rocked him to sleep which I don’t like to do since I know he can fall asleep on his own. So by the time he actually fell asleep his wake time was about 2hrs and 40 minutes. Your wake times make perfect sense to me but my guy just doesn’t show signs of being tired within those time frames but he obviously is since his naps are short and night sleep is sometimes poor.

    OK, sorry for rambling! You and Nicole give great advice. I love this site and am now convinced to purchase some of the products offered here!

  8. Angela says:

    @Lindsey, Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this. The duration part of the formula is meant for when you can’t continue the nap to 45m. My ideas was, while a lot of parents get frustrated with short naps and failed attempts at getting them to sleep longer immediately after waking from a short nap, it sometimes can’t be helped. Instead of feeling stuck or pushing through to the next nap time, the duration should be the wake time for younger babies. This gives us a way to succeed in helping baby, even when we fail to get the full nap.

    So, ideally, they should peek at her around 20 m and if she starts to wake, jump in and sooth, shush, whatever is the normal soothing method for her . . . and try to get her to sleep longer. It definitely takes some work, so I don’t know what’s possible there. Second best, as long as she’s not crying or distressed is to leave her in the sleep environment an additional 20m. Do they have white noise in the nap room – super important because of the in and out you described and really pure magic in most cases.

    If she doesn’t go back to sleep, and will not stay happily in the crib for the additional 20m, they should bring her out to play for a bit, but put her down early for the next nap. While she’s adjusting to the new environment and routine, do the best you can and try not to stress about it ; ) Yes, falling asleep that fast probably means overtired and if it’s been more than an hour since she woke, she’s likely overtired. If you can just fix that first wake time, the rest may fall in place with little effort on their part. A note on the crying policy – I’d even suggest that they don’t let her cry at all, at least for the first 2 weeks while she’s adjusting to a new place/caregivers.

  9. Angela says:

    @Zimina, This is actually the first time these wake times formulas have been published as I’m a guest blogger currently. These formulas focus on the first year. I’ll let Nicole respond to additional wake time information you’ve come across on this site for toddlers specifically. My formulas are focus on the first year. But at 19 months, if you have established consistent bedtimes and don’t have excessive night waking, you should be able to have scheduled naps, certainly. Let us know exactly what problem you’re having and maybe we can help.

  10. Angela says:

    @Kristin, thanks for the compliments. Glad you had a great night! Habit and getting circadian rhythm/habit working for you may outweigh strictly going by the wake time guidelines in your case. They are only a starting point. best to log and adjust according to individual results.

    Sounds like his body wasn’t sending sleepy hormones out because it isn’t used to 8 am as a sleep time ; ) changing his established sleep time is more easily done gradually, maybe by 15m at a time. I’d focus more on getting him to that 7am/7pm routine, then that first nap will be always be at 9. good luck! When he’s taking nice long naps, you may need to transition to 2 naps to preserve the 7pm bedtime. we can help you with that, too ; ) take care!

  11. Kendra says:

    Nicole, thank you SO MUCH for your very straightforward response. I needed that. So during the transition, his post-1hour nap wake time is more like 5.5-6 hours, is that just a non-ideal temporary reality, or should I really be putting him to bed at 5pm until his nap lengthens? And is it bad that we seem to be yo-yoing back and forth between 1 nap and 2 nap days, so his bedtime is rather inconsistent, or is that just part of the transition, too? Thank you so much, you’re the bomb!!

  12. Zamina says:

    Thanks Angela for your reply. My problem is that because I follow sleep windows, both nap and bed times are all over the place. Her nap is dependent on when she wakes in the morning and then her bed time is dependent on when she wakes from her nap – thus they are ever moving. Most recently after a 6.30am start to the day, @ 1130am she had a terrific nap, over 2hrs, this made the projected bed time 7pm. The next morning she decided to wake a 5:15am!!!! So then nap has to be in the realms of 1015am to preserve the right level of tiredness thus bed time is now potentially too long after her nap and to manage o’tiredness I have to put her to bed even earlier! Is this the right way to do it? I’m thinking at her age she should be able to sleep by the clock rather than me having to watch cues as such…. I just can’t seem to get her there as when I have tried it has backfired particularly if I keep her awake in the morning for more than 5hrs, to make it to the elusive midday nap. It’s so confusing…

  13. Angela says:

    @Zamina, Having a consistent wake up time in the morning will help stabilize the whole schedule. But yes, if he wakes up at 5, he’ll likely need to go down a bit early for that nap. Don’t worry, if you stay ahead of overtired, he’ll make up for the little night sleep with a longer nap. Nicole may want to respond as well ; )

  14. Julie says:

    My daughter is 7.5 months old and her “wakeful” period seems to be about 2.5 hours. She wakes up at 7, her first nap is at 9, lasting for 30-60 minutes. Her next nap is 2.5 hours after that . This nap can last anywhere from 1-2 hours. Her final nap is again about 2.5 hours later and then her bedtime is 7:30. My question is how will I know when she’s ready to transition to 2 naps. I wanted to try and experiment with her wakeful periods but am afraid to do so because of her tendencies to sometimes catnap.

  15. Angela says:

    @Julie, In your case, there are two things that will signal that she’s ready to drop the third nap – 1. when that first nap is longer, and 2. when the third nap begins to interfere with that all important early bedtime: ) (pushing it later than 7:30). In other words, If she consistently does not seem tired and fights sleep (much harder and longer than usual) for the bedtime and/or the third nap, you can begin transitioning to 2 naps, and an earlier bedtime. This will probably require the first nap to be longer to maintain the optimal wake times in between. Does that help?

  16. Kasey says:

    Angela:

    Since I read this, I started working on 2.5 hour wake times like we discussed and he’s going down a lot smoother and falling asleep without crying, or very minimal crying. So I think that helped. However, still 45 minute naps. I know he’s not hungry because I can feed him before a nap and still, 45 minutes. The only thing that had worked is interrupting his sleep cycle during his nap. This has been done successfully a few times for me but not every time. Such as today..he woke up 7:50. Napped within a few hours for nap one. Then 2.5 hours awake before nap two. But since he woke up later than usual (by an hour), I either needed to cut nap 2 very short and get him down for a nap for good timing before bed, OR try to make nap 2 longer and just put him to bed really early. So I tried the longer nap with the early bedtime. I went in after he was asleep for 25 minutes and woke him slightly. He ended up sleeping 1:25 minutes. Which kept him up a little longer than normal before bed but we put him down early. He was awake from nap 2 at 2:30pm and went to bed at 6:05. He went down like a breeze of course..but 3.5 hours awake is longer than your suggested 2.5. What would you do in this situation?! Is the time before bed typically longer awake?? Lately since we’ve done the 2.5 hours awake, naps have been easier BUT he’s been waking after and hour or so of putting him down. He never did that before. He also has been waking up around 4/4:30. He hasn’t nursed in the night since 3 months! So I know he’s not hungry. I’m a little confused here on what to do.

    Thanks!!

  17. Kasey says:

    ^^^^the first sentence should be smoother and easier for naps.

  18. Kasey says:

    Well, I’ll add that he woke up after 35 minutes at 6:40 and has been drying every since. If I go in and soothe him, he may stop for a second but then he keeps crying. I leave, give him 10 minutes and check on him again. It’s now 7:10 and he’s still crying. Not sure what the heck is going on here but I’m getting really frustrated.

  19. Kasey says:

    Another update..I went in and rubbed his back, patted, shushed, everything..same with my husband. We’d get him calm and to where we felt comfortable leaving again and he’d be ok for a while and start all over. We don’t do paci at night and I didn’t take him out. It took a full hour for him to go back to sleep. I’m wondering If he’s used to a 7:30 bedtime so 6:00/6:30 we’ve been doing feels like a nap to him now? We were doing 7:30 for a few weeks. 6:30 usually falls 2.5 after his last nap other than today. Would trying 7:15 be too late? I need to try something because he NEVER used to wake up like this before. Very confused.

  20. Kasey says:

    Side note..I have already purchased Schedules and Naps PDF.

  21. Julie says:

    Thank you Angela yes it does help. Her morning naps have always been on the shorter side so I fear we’ll be stuck on a 3 nap schedule for a while. I guess my fear is what if she never takes a longer morning nap? Thank you for your quick response.

  22. Angela says:

    @Kasey, Sounds like it’s too soon to go to two naps. The waking shortly after bedtime is classic overtired. Move the first nap up to and earlier time, with a shorter wake time after morning wake up. You said a few hours, it should be slightly less than 2.5, maybe even just 2 hrs. From what you’ve told me in earlier posts, the 2.5 wake time is perfect, but the first often needs to be even shorter, conveniently, this will leave more room for that 3rd nap. Try moving that first nap gradually earlier and log results over a few days . . . and stick with the three naps ; ) 45m each is fine. Glad the naps are going more smoothly in general, just fix that first one and you’ll be golden! let me know if you have any more questions.

  23. Kasey says:

    Angela–we usually do have 3 naps. Yesterday was a fluke because the 2nd nap was long (this never happens). So we didn’t have time for a 3rd. Today he had a 3rd nap @4:00, up at 4:45, sleeping before 7:15. His first nap was and usually is within 2 hours awake. He still woke up tonight.
    ??

    Even when bed is around 6:30, he wakes. Three naps is our norm and I just don’t see how he’s overtired with consistent naps throughout the day..unless it matters they’re only 45 minutes but he’s so happy. Wakes up smiling and cheerful. Either way, he still wakes up after that first 45min/1hr of bed. He may only cry for like 1-2 minutes, but he wakes up. Sometimes he needs help going back down.

    When should I expect these 45 minute naps to get longer?

    Thanks for the million questions am answers. I’ve done a LOT of work and research with sleep training and follow this page religiously, so it’s frustrating when I think I “know” what to do and it’s not working.

  24. Kristin says:

    Okay, one more question. Does the “wake time” mean the time baby is is awake from one nap and then exact time he falls asleep for the next or do you consider the time it takes for baby to fall asleep? I have been trying so hard to stick to the 2.5 hour wake time for my 7 1/2 month old because we were having trouble with short naps but this formula just seems to throw every thing off. I try and get him wound down and in the crib before the 2.5 hour mark but he spends 30 minutes rolling around, laughing, playing, talking in his crib. If he does fall asleep it has usually been about 3 hours since he woke up from his last nap which is how long I was keeping him awake before. When I kept him awake longer it would usually only take 5 minutes for him to fall asleep. Sometimes I need to go in an rock him to sleep because he wound himself up. Am I waiting too long to put him in the crib? I just feel bad watching him “play” on the monitor thinking this could be time I could be playing or interacting with him. His naps have not lengthened and by the end of the day he is a crabby mess! How long before the 2.5 hours mark do suggest winding down and putting in the crib?

  25. Kasey says:

    ^^^^ I feel the exact same way Kristin. I’m sure it’s good for them to have independent play time, but I feel bad too. I sometimes have to end up rocking him too because he gets all crazy and happy and hyper being in there. And if I put him in any sooner he is mad and upset because he’s not tired and won’t do our “wind down” yet.

  26. @Kendra I’m sorry it’s taken a few days to steal away some time to respond. I typically recommend bedtimes of no earlier than 6 p.m., if possible. So, while we shoot for 5 hours awake time, only sometimes would I put him down at 5:30 to 5:45 p.m. During the one-nap transition, this is one time that I do see successful early bedtimes as it’s very tiring, but some babies simply can’t sleep longer than 12 hours, so you can get into a perpetual early schedule, if you are too flexible. I do recommend continuing to be flexible with 1 vs. 2 naps, if you can. That typically makes the transition much more manageable for baby and eases the over-tiredness. Thank you for your kind words and you are so welcome! :)

    @Zamina Inconsistent babies can be challenging, I know. :) If a baby wakes at 5:15 a.m., we try not to start the day at that time. Of course, sometimes it can’t be helped. The goal would be to try to start the day at roughly the same time (i.e. no sleeping in too much) and limit any one given nap to 2 hours, too, at this age (until taking just one nap). We can’t make inconsistent babies consistent, but we can help them regulate their schedules a bit by setting up “guidelines” to follow. Common ones are lengths of naps or not having naps start before 8 a.m.

    @Kasey That’s great naps have improved in terms of going down more smoothly! Sometimes you can do everything “right” and babies do what they are going to do. You are doing a lot of good things here and your hard work will pay off. I like to share my mantra for this and that is: We can’t *make* our babies sleep. We can only provide the opportunity. All we can do is our best in terms of timing and the rest is up to him. As his central nervous system mature, he will likely lengthen his naps. A rare few do not lengthen naps until they transition to two naps, so you may have a little more time. Just keep working on it, but try not to drive yourself crazy. :) Continue to try to time his sleep correctly and give him time to go back to sleep. Sometimes, it takes some time for him to figure out how to go BACK to sleep after having slept a bit. They feel “done” sleeping and can’t get through their first sleep cycle. Hang in there!! He’ll get it!

  27. Anna says:

    Hello. Thanks for a greatly informative article. I have a 9 1/2 mo old baby girl. Before she was 8 mo she would take 3 naps and sleep all night long for more than 12 hours. At about 8 1/2 months her sleeping habits started changing. She started to cut out the 3rd nap but also began sleeping less during the night(sometimes only 10 1/2 hrs). Naturally, I started becoming frustrated bc now her naps were lasting only 45min each and she was sleeping less at night. Well my frustration led me to buy Nicole’s e-book and about a week later I read your article. With the advice from both of you I helped my daughter with her naps.She now sleeps an 1 1/2 hrs at each nap. While Im happy about that we are still having some issues with her wake up time. It’s a bit too early and I ‘m wondering if it’s because her last wake time in the evening until bedtime is too long. It’s about 4 hrs wake time until bed. Im wondering if putting her to bed earlier will help. I already tried a 15 min earlier shift and she stillz wakes early. Should I try to go another 15 min earlier? Sorry for the long comment. You guys are great! Keep up the good work.

  28. Emily says:

    Hello – this website is amazing first of all! I’ve used it several times to help out our son with his sleep habits. He is 6 1/2 months old now, and naps okay. Two naps a day 1-2 hours, sometimes 3. I noticed awhile back that he couldn’t be awake for more than 2 hours, and have been following that rule strictly. So this formula confirms my thoughts and will help me continue this. We do have to put him down when he is asleep, as he will not go down awake. He cries and will only settle for a bottle. I have two questions:

    Should we try for 3 naps? He typically goes down okay, takes 10 minutes of rocking or so before he will go down.

    We still “swaddle” him. He currently uses the Woombie, and will not go down without it. He sleeps fine in our arms, and in the carseat, but when we put him down, even with one arm out, he cannot settle. Even though we put him down when he is asleep. Should we discontinue the swaddle, even though he won’t sleep without it?

  29. Angela says:

    @Kristin, are you winding him down with a pre- nap routine that makes him drowsy before you put him in the crib? 15-20 mins. is good, but it depends on the baby (temperament, personality). It’s more about the sleep cues, than the exact length of time. Once the routine is strongly established, it could be as little as 10 mins., to get across the message and help him feel relaxed. watch him and log the wake time, wind down time, how he looked, and how the nap went and you’ll see how to tweak those variables. (note if he got overtired). Babies can actually act more hyper when they’re overtired – not saying that’s the case, just something to keep in mind in figuring out your perfect schedule. Also, remember the time of day affects the formula. The am nap should be closer to 2 hours wake time (sounds like you’ve got that down). If it’s a good nap, then the next wake time is probably close to 2.5. and if that’s a full nap you may be able to go the 3 hrs before bedtime, but if it’s going to be any more than 3 hours, you probably need the third nap. Those are the big picture points I wanted to make. To answer your question: yes, the wake time does include the time it takes to fall asleep, but if you get the morning nap consistent and feel that the wind-down routine is effective, and you still think he’s not tired until 3 hour wake time for one of the naps, then adjust accordingly. You may be right- he is close to 8 months, but the only way to know is get all the variables in place and log overtired results for a few days. I completely understand you not wanting to leave him alone in there for 30 minutes! tweak it forward a bit and see how it goes. One more nugget for you to keep in mind as you’re working on this, if overtired is a problem, it’s better to keep the additional nap, even if that means shortening the other naps! Your little one already has short naps, so doesn’t apply, but I tell you this so you won’t worry too much about the length of the nap (45 mins. or an hour is fine) and focus more on wake times and routine (possibly). does that help?

  30. Angela says:

    @Anna, I think we’re on to something here! Yes, moving the bedtime earlier may help. does she get cranky before bedtime or fight excessively or fall asleep really quickly? What time is bedtime with the 4 hr. wake time? As long as it’s not before 5:30, getting within that 3.5 hour sleep window would be ideal.

  31. Angela says:

    @Emily, so glad to hear the site helps you! Your little one sleeps up to 3 hrs for naps? Wow! How much at night? If he’s getting his total per 24 hours (about 14 hours) and you are able to stay within the recommended wake times, and most importantly, he’s happy and thriving ; ) then you’re fine with 2 naps! Sometimes at this age you have to play it day by day. E.g., if he takes long naps, 2 naps, but if they’re shorter, you may need to have 3. If you do need 3 to stay within the wake time that’s working for him, just be sure to keep the early bedtime. Does that help? Regarding swaddling, if it’s working for you, don’t worry. Do you have concerns with swaddling? If not, sounds like you’re doing great!

  32. Emily says:

    @Anglea – thank you so much for your quick response! You guys are awesome. He is sleeping from about 7:30-6:30am every night, waking up only a few times for his pacifer to be put back in his mouth. Just spoke to our daycare lady, and he’s been sleeping for 2.5 hours so far this morning! So I think like you said, we will stick to two naps, unless he has a rough day and doesn’t sleep for long.

    The concern I have about swaddling, is that he rolls over on his tummy at night. With the woombie, he can still use his arms, as the fabric is very stretchy. He can also hold his head up just fine, and has woken up on his tummy with his head lifted and arms pushing him up. I just worry that it is dangerious to put him in the woombie, if he rolls over. I am not worried about him sleeping on his stomach, because he is very strong and seems to sleep better that way. Do you think we should take him out of the swaddle immediately and put him to sleep on directly on his tummy? He rolls over and sleeps better that way, and refuses to go to sleep unswaddled on his back…

  33. Kristin says:

    @Angela Thank you so much! Your responses have been very helpful! I was wanting to purchase a package from this site but at this time can not afford it so all this free advice has been great. We will keep working on it, watching for sleep cues (I think he does get “hyper” and just seems like he is happy and having fun when he is overtired) and watching the wake times as well.

    @Emily have you checked out Zipadee Zip? We use this for naps and bedtime. I’m not sure if he really NEEDS it but it is a sleep cue for our little guy and he can move around in it. http://zipadeezip.com/

  34. Emily says:

    @Angela we haven’t…yet! We found that online recently, and are probably going to buy it soon! Thanks for all your help, you are awesome!!!

  35. Anna says:

    @ Angela Well she doesnt get very cranky or fussy she’s pretty much always a happy baby. Sometimes she will get fussy after her bath right before her feeding, but I think thats bc she’s hungry bc after she drinks her milk she’s fine and I read her a story and put her to bed awake, always! Some nights she falls asleep faster than other nights but on average I would say it takes her less than 15 min from the time I put her in her crib. Her bedtime used to be around 8pm when she was napping 3x per day, but with her 2 nap transition I saw that she couldnt stay up that late so I put her to bed @ 7:30, which meant she was asleep by 7:45pm. But then she started waking up early so I pushed her bedtime another 15 min earlier, which now is @ 7:15pm. So I guess my best bet would be to try for an even earlier bedtime of 7:00 pm and see what happens….right? Maybe that 4 hr. wake time before bed is still too much for her to handle..

  36. Angela says:

    @Emily, I have to say “ask your doctor”: ) but generally, if baby can roll onto his tummy and lift himself as you described, at 6.5 months, he’s fine on his tummy and yes, probably better to have his arms out. As @Kristin suggested, he may transition from swaddle to a sleep sack *Another idea – you could put him down on his side with a rolled blanket behind his back, this is often just as comfy to them as tummy sleeping! If fact, side position is one of the famous 5 Ss, that Dr. Harvey Karp includes in his amazing soothing formula – works because it’s a familiar, instinctively comfy position for babies. (Disclaimer – Dr. Karp was not applying this to sleeping, however, but soothing while holding) Still, experiment with rolled towel, blanket, or even a firm stuffed animal to prop him slightly to the side, instead of flat on the back. I find it’s also easy to transfer into crib into the side position, as the pressure of your arm is replaced by the blanket on his back. But, alas, it’s not recommended to put him down on his tummy, only okay when he gets there himself, technically.

  37. Angela says:

    @Anna, It’s so cute that babies with super easy temperaments seem fine even with a little overtired going on. This could be the case with your little angel. Yes, I would try a bit earlier bedtime and log results for a little while. Good luck!

    @Kristin, So glad to have been helpful! Thanks for sharing your journey!

  38. Nan says:

    Hi,

    my 10mo daughter sleeps 13-13.5 hrs totally-with 2 naps totalling 2 hrs n the rest night sleep–so acc to this formula she will b awake only 8.5 hrs totally,right? so what happens to the remaining 2.5 hrs??

  39. Virginie says:

    Hello Angela,
    My 4 months old son has today the following schedule:
    7am feed for 30 min- play time for 1 hour (wake time of 1 h and 30 min) – 8:30am sleep for 45 min until 9:15am – play time for 1 h 45
    11am feed for 30 min- play time for 1 hour (wake time of 2 h and 45 min) – 12:30pm sleep for 45 min until 12:15 pm – play time for 1 h 45
    3pm feed for 30 min- play time for 1 hour (wake time of 2 h and 45 min) – 4:30pm sleep for 45 min until 5:15pm – play time for 1 h 45
    7pm feed for 30 min, bath and then sleep from 8 pm for 3 hours
    11pm feed for 30 min and then sleep for 7 hours and 30 min (with a cuddle needed at 4:30am for 10 min to put him back to bed)

    According to your articles, he sleeps enough as he sleeps 12 h and 45 m in total – 10 h and 30 min at night and 3 times 45 min. However he does not follow your wake time tip of 75 min -105 min. Do not know how to keep his feeding schedule as well as applying your wake time tip, would you have a solution?
    Also, do you know why he everyday wakes up at 4:30am?

    I thank you very much in advance for your reply

    Virginie

  40. Angela says:

    @Nan, actually this guide is not meant to determine total wake time as nap length will vary. Only to help guide wake times between naps in order to avoid accumulated overtired.

    @Virginie, the 4:30 wake time is very common. It’s just biologically a natural time to wake slightly. Many babies wake all the way and cry for mom because they simply like to check in and make sure you’re still there. He could also be hungry, particularly if breastfed. Eventually, he will drop back off without needing you, but for now, you’re doing a wonderful thing for him with that cuddle – you’re building his security and his bond to you. The wake times are a bit long for his age, but seems to sleep well anyway. I hesitate to mess with this schedule, unless you think he’s experiencing overtired. If he fights sleep or gets cranky before each sleep time, you could move up the naps up and feed at the waking as normal, as you’d likely get longer naps. Make sense?

  41. A says:

    My son is is approaching 1 year. His awake time is still only 2.5 hours. Sometimes 3, but that seems to stretch it, especially if he doesn’t have sufficient wind-down time. Also, this is a routine rather than a schedule – all depends on what time he wakes up. I don’t know if him being “small for his age” leads to the shorter awake times. Should I try to keep him up later and/or institute more of a schedule? Our routine generally works for us, except that him talking and rolling himself to sleep calmly aren’t as common anymore – he often wants to be with me (albeit whimpering) right until the point at which he is ready to fall asleep.