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Wake Windows, Sleepy Cues and Naps OH MY!

Some words of caution before the goods, it is so important to tune into your baby and look for signals and signs while using the clock as a relaxed indicator of your babies needs. Watching your babies face, the moves and sounds the make, and their moods will always be a better indicator of their sleep needs than the clock.

What are wake windows?

A wake window is a term that is not evidence based but is used to describe the time your baby is awake in-between sleeps. Wake windows change a lot within the first few months. While they may be helpful in tacking your babies daytime sleep, it is important to keep an eye on their temperament and mood to determine your babies unique window. Following a strict schedule is rarely, if ever, recommended. That is where sleepy ques come into play. Note: Infants will usually be ready for their first nap shortly after waking up for the day because sleep pressure is still high from the nighttime. The first wake window might be the shortest and the last wake window the longest.

What are sleepy cues?

Sleepy cues are just a signaling to their caregiver that they are getting tired. The more you get to know your baby you'll start to notice their signs of getting tired and ready for nap. It is a learned skill of observing our babies. Sleepy cues are unique to your babies personality and temperament. Most commonly are listed below:

Early Cues

Not making eye contact

Spacing out

Decreased movement

Red eyebrows or eyes

Glossy eyes

Jerky movements

Ready For Sleep Cues

Late Cues

Keep in mind that your baby might show some or none of these listed above. They might never have red or flushed eyebrows but will stare of into space. You can keep a log for a few days to see what you notice and if it is working for your family. If they are going to sleep easily and waking up happy then you probably got it right! The art of parenthood is observing and getting to know them. You got this!

What is overtiredness?

In the business of life sleepy cues will sometimes be missed leading to an overtired baby. Overtiredness occurs when a baby has been awake too long for their age or temperament. When this happens it might be difficult to get them to sleep. Since our bodies work in a homeostasis process, it builds sleep pressure, so if we stay up too late our bodies get a rush of cortisol, a stress hormone, that keeps us up. It's our bodies way of thinking since we couldn't sleep we have to stay awake. Overtiredness is bound to happen a couple times, do your best to stay relaxed and get baby a nap. If your baby is in an overtired loop their wake windows might be shorter than expected. Do anything that works - nurse to sleep, get into a dark room, contact nap or motion nap.

Using wake windows + sleepy cues + watching your baby (hopefully will) = a happy, well rested baby. Please know that this is a "sleep science" and that you are not a failure if you baby does not follow this to a T.

“Sleep is not a state that you should try to force a baby into. It’s better to set conditions that allow sleep to overtake baby and that make self-settling and lengthy sleeping easier and more attractive to baby” (Sears 2005).

What about naps?

Naps can be tricky for many parents since every baby has a different sleep total need.

In general, between 0-4 months, babies won't have a well developed pattern. They might take some 20 minute catnaps and other naps might be over 2 hours. Some days they might take 7 naps and other days might take 3 or 4.

By 6 months, when their circadian rhythm has started to mature, most babies nap 3-4 times a day. Often when we google we'll find charts that tell us how baby "should" be napping by a certain age. The truth is, there are so many factors that determine their ability to nap and each baby and family have different needs. That's why it's important to follow your baby's cues and follow their lead when it comes to napping.

Sleep total averages are over 24 hour period. The National Sleep Foundation has a recommended, average, and not recommended range for infants to 2 years. This is helpful to put into context with the length and number of naps.

The average of naps per day per baby varies. It highly reflective on their sleep need and temperament.

If you feel stressed or anxious about your babies sleep, take a step back. I would try understanding your own feelings and attitude about their sleep and what needs you are needing to meet for yourself, before you look at your baby’s sleep schedule. I know it sounds odd but many times, not always, we are stressing to get our littles to sleep so we can do xyz.

“If you can accept the normalcy of your newborn’s patterns, and if you can listen to your baby and not your clock or your older sister, motherhood almost always gets to be a whole lot more fun.” Sweet Sleep, P.62

If you leave with anything go with, understand that your baby has unique needs. Know you are NOT a failure. You are the best person to parent your baby. You got this.

sending support,


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