Are You Keeping Baby Awake Too Long?

Are You Keeping Baby Awake Too Long?

One of the most commonly held baby myths is that, “babies will sleep when they are tired.”  Life would be simpler if it were true….but it’s not. Helping your baby fall asleep, figuring out when they need to sleep, and making sure they get enough sleep is pretty much the bane of every new parent.

How long should your baby be awake?

Newborn babies generally sleep a lot (according to Dr. Weissbluth newborns average between 11 – 18 hours of sleep per 24-hour period). However baby sleep is generally broken up into 7-8 “naps” varying in length from 15 minutes to 4-6 hours.

Most newborn babies (under 8 weeks) can’t stay awake very long (I sometimes refer to this as a baby’s “window of wakefulness.”) Although it varies by baby, most newborns can stay awake no longer than 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Some may not be able to stay awake more than 30 minutes at a time. This is generally the maximum amount of time you want your baby to be awake at any point throughout the day.

So hypothetically this means that if your newborn baby wakes up from a nap at noon, she will need to go back down for another nap around 12:45. Assume she takes a 30-minute nap and then wakes up (now its 1:15 pm). Then she would be ready to take yet another nap at approximately 2:00 pm.

As babies get older their window of wakefulness (maximum time they can stay awake) gets longer, the naps generally get longer, and the number of naps they need gradually decreases and becomes more predictable.

How do you figure out how long your baby should stay awake?

A few newborn babies will fall asleep after a certain amount of time no matter how hard you try to keep them awake. Some babies will give very good clues that they are tired so you can settle them down to sleep as soon as they look a little glazed over, rub their eyes, yawn, etc. Some will stay awake far longer than their bodes can handle. You’ll know THIS is your baby if they stay awake for 1.5 hours or longer and then have a grand mal meltdown.

You’ll know you’ve figured out how long your baby should stay awake when she falls asleep really easily. If it’s a struggle to help her fall asleep (assuming something like hunger, tummy gas, etc. isn’t preventing her from falling asleep) you’re either trying too soon, or you’re trying too late.

As a general rule you should use the guidelines in the table below. I know you’ve been told “all babies are different” but in my experience almost ALL babies fall within these guidelines. Thus if your baby is vastly off the grid that I’m suggesting here, you probably have an overtired baby on your hands.

Baby Age Time between Naps Nap Duration Number of Naps per Day
Birth – 6 weeks 45 min – 1 hour 15 minutes – 4 hours  4-8
6 Weeks – 3 Months  1 hour – 1 hour 45 minutes  30 minutes – 2 hours  3-5
3 Months – 6 Months  ~2 Hours  30 minutes – 2 hours  3-4
6 Months – 9 Months  2-3 hours  1-3 hours  3
9 Months – 12 Months  ~3 hours 1-2 hours  2

Is Your Baby Awake TOO Long?

Most parents keep their baby awake too long. It’s the #1 most common baby sleep mistake. People might tell you, “My baby just doesn’t need that much sleep.” Um….no. Just because they’re not sleeping doesn’t mean they don’t need to sleep. If your newborn baby is awake for 6 hour chunks of time during the day you have a sleep problem. It’s OK, it happens to the best of us. But let’s acknowledge it and work on fixing it rather than assuming that your baby is just different.

Most babies will let you know they’ve been awake too long because they’ll become fussy and difficult to soothe. Very happy babies will sometimes throw us a curve by hiding the fact that they are overtired by remaining calm and happy even when they’ve been up for a very long time (1.5 hours or longer). However you generally don’t want to keep your baby up for long windows of time (regardless of how delightful they are) because regardless of their behavior – overtired babies sleep poorly.

So put on your baby detective sleep hat and play around with your window of wakefulness. Once you’ve figured it out you can pretty much use that as a gauge throughout the day.

How long will your baby sleep?

Anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours. Some pediatricians will advise you to wake up your baby for scheduled feedings for a few days/weeks after they are born (this is common with preemies or other babies that might need a little extra love and food for a while) but once you get the green light from your pediatrician, you generally shouldn’t wake sleeping babies.

Should your baby be kept awake longer after longer naps?


How long your little one can stay awake should remain relatively consistent throughout the day (the one exception to this rule is during the Witching Hours – see below.)

What about “Cat Naps”?

Little babies are notorious for nodding off for a few minutes here and there. The most common complaint is that they’ll fall asleep for a few minutes while nursing but then wake right up again when the breast is removed. Was this a real nap? Or do we wait for another hour before trying to put them down again?

Every baby is different but as a general rule, anything ~10 minutes or longer constitutes a REAL nap. Meaning if your baby falls asleep while nursing and then hangs out there for 10 minutes (lets face it we all do this from time to time) you will likely need to wait for an hour (or whatever your baby’s window is) before trying to put her down for a nap again. Similarly if she falls asleep for 10 minutes on the way home from the mall, you will have to wait an hour to try to put her down for a nap.

Some babies transfer well from the car well – they can be removed from the car while sleeping and continue to sleep happily in their car seat which is now sitting in the living room. If this is your baby, lucky you! If not you have two choices:

  • Accept the occasional car “cat nap” as part of life.
  • Plan for the car “cat nap” by bringing a nice latte and magazine with you. When your baby falls asleep in the car, park somewhere comfortable, leave the car running, and enjoy some quiet time while she sleeps.

What is the “Witching Hour”?

For most babies the Witching Hour(s) fall somewhere around 5:00 – 11:00 pm. This is a time of day where babies are generally fussy and will stay awake for a longer period of time. Thus it would not be unusual to have a newborn baby who is awake but generally unhappy from 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm. After this long window of being fussy and awake, most babies will then have their longest period of sleep (2-4 hour for a baby who is only a few weeks old, 3-6 hours for a baby who is 1-3 months old).

This is generally the ONLY exception to the window of wakefulness. So if you find your baby fighting sleep in the evening, it may simply mean that you have found your witching hour. While this can be exhausting as most parents are running out of steam at this time of night, it’s totally normal.

If, however, you find your newborn baby staying awake for 2-3 hours at a time at other times during the day, she probably needs additional help falling asleep or there is some unknown factor which is keeping her awake. Don’t be too quick to assume that “your baby is simply different” or that “she needs less sleep.”

Note: You can find an overview of baby and kid sleep by age here. It includes the average amount of time babies can stay awake between naps. At the bottom of the post you can download a printable version to keep as a cheat sheet. How cool is that?


  1. Help! I really think I’ve had enough. My little one is no longer little as such as she’s 9.5months. We’ve struggled with naps and sleeps which feels like forever! We have had big changes ofovinf house which made an impact originally. Ok…so she used to only nap after having a breastfeed. Now she no longer wants a breast feed naps never happen in the cot. She just screams and I have tried cry it out for an hour and then give in. I reverted to the pram or car for naps which was working but now she just screams in them. Sometimes like this morning she wakes early and was up at 5:30 but has just screamed and refused to sleep in all 3 options (cot/car/ pram) and its 11! She did this yesterday and eventual passed out on me for 1.5hours at 11-12:30 but then refused to have an afternoon nap. Consequently our already bad nights of wakening atleast twice was made worse with an additional cry out. She does go off to sleep at bedtime well-ish (between 7-7:30) do atleast we have that! Also a recent thing for her is refusing the breast so I’ve been offering formula instead so don’t know if this has an impact. Sorry for my ramblings but any advice would be much appreciated!
    Thanks Emma x

    • Definitely see your pediatrician to get help- an exhausted parent isn’t the best parent (but we’ve all been there). The formula could be giving her tummy aches, have you tried an easily digested formula?

  2. I keep reading not to let your baby become overtired and to listen to their cues, but I can’t find any advice on HOW to get baby to sleep when they give these cues. How do we get a baby who have these daytime naps to prevent over tiredness??
    I also feel there is conflicting advice (not on this site but many different things I’ve read) about daytime napping. Should the baby be in their room/a quiet place to nap? Or in a louder, more public place to help them distinguish day from night? Please help. I am confused, tired, and dealing with an overtired baby.

    • -Once they give the cues, start your soothing routine (dim lights, white noise, swaddle, sing, whatever you do) and put them down.
      -They should definitely be in a quiet place to nap. The loud ‘public place to help them distinguish day from night’ is for awake/activity time during the day.

      • I have a 6 week old baby. After she gives sleeping cues (usually after about an hour of being awake), I start our nap time routine (dim lights, give pacifier, cuddle her, sometimes sing/read to her), then I put her down. What do I do when she starts crying after I put her down? If I pick her up and walk around the house shushing her, she’ll usually calm down, then I try to put her back down while she’s awake but drowsy. But majority of the time she’ll wake and start crying again when I put her down. Do I just keep doing this cycle until she stops crying? Today we went through this cycle 5 times before I finally gave up and let her fall completely asleep in my arms. She’s fine at night when she wakes to nurse, it’s only a problem for daytime naps.

        • This sounds perfectly normal for a 6 week old. Swaddle her if she likes that, put on some white noise, and don’t feel bad about needing to get her sound asleep before you put her down. In the next few months you can work on putting her down when she’s drowsy. But most 6 week olds need to be rocked/nursed/held until they’re asleep for naps.

    • We struggled with this. Had a lightbulb moment when I first read this site in desperation at 6 weeks. My daughter took one long (3 hour) nap at about 2pm and no others from about 8:30 am to 9:00 pm. And woke every 45 minutes at night. We realised we had to get daytime naps sorted first – and started recognising her sleepy cues ( for her rubbing eyes and “tired” cry.) But to get her to nap? Seemed impossible. We started to keep a close eye out on her at about the times suggested in the table as time between naps. Then as soon as she seemed tired we pushed her in her pram or put her in a sling and rocked her, anything to get her to sleep. We found she would accept a dummy (pacifier) from 5 weeks after total gagging refusal before this, and that was our secret weapon. From a baby who screamed rather than slept in the car or pram with patience and a dummy she would. I set myself a target of one week to get her napping better in the day to try and help her nighttime sleep. It took about ten days to get her napping about twice a day. Since then she now falls asleep fairly easily in her pram for her naps if I time it right. She has gone from one massive nap to 3-4 shorter ones ( 4 if her late morning one is a short one and she needs to fit another in to get to bedtime) and it suits her much better – she’s a much happier girl. It may have helped that after a week we started working on her falling asleep in her cot not on us. I remember crying reading “put her down drowsy but awake” and that seemed mythical. Alexis gave me hope by not guilt tripping me that I had to do that immediately with a newborn, which in turn meant I felt I could tackle it. I did it at my mums house so there was someone to take her so I could nap in the day between feeds so that I had the strength to do it. And instead of cuddling her to sleep I lay her in her cot and patted, shushed and intermittently cuddled her back to calm. The dummy helps there too! It took 90 mins EVERY feed the first night and 45 mins every feed the second and 5-10 the third. And she really didn’t cry too much, more sad grumbling interspersed with crying. But it helped her to fall asleep at nap times and after night feeds, which revolutionised my life as I could put her down after a feed and go back to bed instead of holding her till she was deeply asleep then trying to put her down and more often having to start again. It means I’m awake about 30 mins average each feed rather than 90. She’s still a rubbish sleeper (wakes 4 times a night for feeds at 4 months and sometimes for dummy reinsert ions on top of that) but I am sane and can actually smile and do some things in th daytime. I need to tackle the dummy next, but waiting to go to mums again next month! Am hoping that will help her to go back to sleep without needing me to feed or settl her in tonight. She manages fine on her own to go to sleep first thing at night without us in the room – but not if her dummy falls out! Have courage mums of th world, if my baby can improve so can yours.

      • A tip that worked for us when eliminating the pacifier. We tried everything but this is what worked like a charm: Take scissors and trim a bit off the end. It’ll feel mostly the same to the kid and they’ll still use it. Wait a few days, trim a bit more off. Continue to trim a small amount off every few days until the pacifier is still available but doesn’t feel at all the same and they discard it on their own.

        • I’m confused. Trim the pacifier end that goes in their mouth? Wouldn’t they be sucking in air then?

          • Yes that’s what I mean. I understand your concern. My son did not seem to swallow the air. It just seemed to make the tip collapse and it didn’t feel right to him.

        • I read not to do this with nipple shields because the cutting the silicone can leave sharp edges.

  3. Hi there, I am a working mom , with a 4 month old son, who is BFing. He sleeps pretty well at night, 8ish to around 3am then to 6-7am. My problem is nap time during the day. I try and have the baby sitter follow a schedule, so I can feed my son right before I go to work and I right when I get home at 4:30. So she is suppose to feed him around 10:30 and at 1:30. Problem is that when she puts him down for a nap, he tends to sleep over 2 hours and misses his scheduled meal times. Eventually this led to him not sleeping well at night so I asked her to wake him up if he went over an hour past his feeding time or had been sleeping for over 2 hours. He is back to sleeping okay at night, but it has been a month now and she is still having to wake him to eat. Is this okay, or should I just let him over sleep? I thought by now he would have adjusted!

  4. I am going to kindly disagree. Some babies do need less sleep than others- that is on most websites. My baby is sadly one of those babies, but he is so happy and content all of the time. He does not show a single indication that he is tired – and I’ve researched a lot of them. He is 9 months now and is up for 6-7 hours at a time. He is sleeping a total of 12-13 hours a day. Most sites say the average number of hours a 9 month old needs is 14, but that babies can fall 2 hours above or below. However, to get this amount of sleep, the baby literally needs to be awake more than 3 hours at a time. I also think that newborn babies will sleep when they are tired if given the opportunity and they are in a calm, safe environment (like snuggled with their mom). When they are older they seem to need more effort made. this “modern” idea that we need to regiment and dictate every area of a new baby’s schedule is kinda ridiculous. If we would just do what came naturally and followed our instincts we all would be happier, more well rested with happier babies rather than coming up with rule after rule to try and dictate their schedule.

    • Well it seems like you’ve found a solution that works for your family which is really what we’re ALL trying to do. And that’s awesome!

      But as others will likely read this I do want to point out a few things for clarification:
      – Most 9 month olds cannot stay awake longer than 4 hours max. What happens when they’re awake for longer stretches is that the sleep pressure continues to build and cortisol levels rise. Now not all babies give outward signs that their cortisol levels are rising – some babies are just extremely pleasant and adaptive. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. And typically elevated cortisol leads to less sleep because it’s a stimulant.
      – Also I take issue with the hint that I’m suggesting that parents dictate every area of a baby’s schedule. Truthfully I think I make fairly flexible suggestions here. The reality for many families is that babies won’t just nod off to sleep when they’re tired and the whole “They’ll sleep when they’re ready” chestnut has sent many a family down a bad path. So while your baby in particular has responded to this approach, I would wouldn’t criticizes others who have done things different because the vast majority of babies WON’T just nod off when they’re ready and assuming that they WILL leads to chronic sleep deprivation all around.

      • Thanks alexis my baby is definitely one of the ones you describe – letting her dictate when she slept led to very little sleeping! And she really needs to. We don’t have a fixed schedule as such but she has regulated herself into one. You absolutely can be responsive and flexible for a baby and still encourage them to nap. My daughter needed to be taught HOW to fall asleep when tired. Following my instincts and doing what came naturally was absolute failure! Thanks, I totally agree with you and love your site.

      • Well…

        One day is well, everyone can survive this.

        One and a half days, your health is at low risk, well… Starting to pose risk to your brain health, cause sleeping helps your DNA to repair itself.

        Two and a half days, hallucination can happen, like smeared vision… You will have difficulty doing your job, and it’ll be hard to think out of the box.

        Four days, this can be like blurred vision and like that. Well… Some people feel headache at this stage, as well as serious health risks.

        Seven days, death.

        For sleep:

        10 hrs- Well awake.
        09 hrs- Good enough for a hard job like mining.
        08 hrs- Standard for most people.
        07 hrs- For early work at the dawns.
        06 hrs- Makes you feel a bit drowsy.
        05 hrs- Minimum to play PC, and have clear vision.
        04 hrs- Minimum for most people.
        03 hrs- Minimum for me.

  5. I realize this article is a couple years old, so I hope it’s still notifying you of comments!!

    I have a question which will likely make lots of mamas want to punch me in the nose, and I totally get that! My 2 month old sleeps really well at night, anywhere from 8-10 hours, with a couple of 11 hour nights thrown in here and there. I don’t know how this is happening (other than constant prayer for a good sleeper the whole time I was pregnant), but I am NOT complaining. My question is, does this change the amount of time she needs to nap, or lengthen the time she should go between naps? She’s not very consistent with her naps, and they are often only 30 min or so. I am glad to trade day time sleeping for the peaceful nights, but I don’t want to be keeping her awake too much during the day if she needs more sleep.

    • I still get notifications of ALL comments, but jump in on old posts far less frequently 😛

      No this doesn’t change anything. So if your 2 month old can only comfortably stay awake 1.5 hours between naps, that shouldn’t be stretched out because she’s a champion night sleeper.

      PS. Enjoy the fantastic night sleep! I would take that over chunky naps any day 🙂

      • I have a question…I am trying to get my 4 month old on a napping schedule. He “sleeps when he wants to” because I have allowed that but I see that that isn’t working. When I put him in his crib for a nap he screams bloody murder. (Today is the first day of our “new routine”.) I assume this will eventually subside? Also, can/should he sleep wherever he sleeps or should I consistently put him in his crib regardless of the temper tantrums? He sleeps so well at night but his naps leave a lot to be desired.

  6. Hi Alexis,

    First, I LOVE your site. It has made me feel so much better about my son’s sleep! I do have a question about short naps and wake times. My son is 4 months old and still only naps for around 30 mins at a time. He seems tired based on his cues after around 1.5 hours (or less) most days. This means that we often have 5 short naps a day. A typical day will be naps at 9, 11, 1, 3, and 5. He will occasionally surprise me with a 45-50 minute nap and they are coming more frequently but still are not the norm so it’s hard to drop that late nap if we want him in bed for the night later than 5:30.

    He sleeps from about 7pm to 7:30am with one or two feeds in the night. What I’m wondering is whether I should push him past his obviously tired cues during the day to get to only 3-4 naps a day as this is what I read is appropriate for his age. It does seem harder to get him down when I stretch his wake times but I’m struggling with the 5 naps a day. Or, should I be putting him to bed earlier until his naps consolidate (please, oh please God let them consolidate!).
    Any advice would be so appreciated! Thank you!!!

    • PS: he can pretty much put himself to sleep with minimal shushing at this point after a few weeks of pick up/put down. Not sure if this is relevant but wanted to mention it just in case.

    • I have a similar issue with my 5mo old. He was sleeping like a dream for a couple months, but has slowly regressed to waking up a couple times, and most recently up every hour. He often takes 4 naps because his naps are 30 minutes and in order to make it to bedtime without keeping him awake too long, that seems to be what happens. What I had been doing to combat this was putting him down at 5:45-6 if his last nap ended at 3-3:30 and waking him to feed him at 7-8 and putting him down for good. I suppose almost like a dream feed but earlier. Should I simply put him to bed at the 6pm time for good? I try to go 2-2.5 hours between naps so we can minimize the number of naps but he is always 32minutes on the dot.

  7. Great advice. But please look into positional asphyxiation. One should never leave a newborn napping in a car seat. It can (and sometimes) does lead to death. Please, please stop advocating for parents to put their children at risk. It’s not worth another minute of quiet.

    • I’ll grant you this 3+ year old post could use some updating based on more recent research. The amendment would address preemies and very young babies where positional asphyxiation is a risk. But for healthy full-term babies older than a few weeks old, the occasional car nap (for most) is simply something that will happen. I’m not advocating for them because they want a another minute of quiet, but because if you’re traveling with children in the car, they’re going to happen.

  8. Thank you for this article! After just one day of intentionally putting my 10-day-old down for more naps, she slept much better last night. I hadn’t ever heard of “overtired” so it was all very helpful. My question is whether or not feeding time is included in the time between naps. Right now, as we’re still getting used to nursing, my little girl can take 45min-1 hr per feeding. If the window between naps is about 45min – 1.15hr max, this would mean putting her right back to sleep after she’s done eating. Is this correct? Thank you!

  9. My son is 7 months old. On a sleep schedule, but no matter what time we get up the morning he wake up and STAYS AWAKE till 6 In the freaking morning!!! I put him down before he falls asleep and he does just fine, but sure enough in the middle of the night he wants to play and gets mad and screams when I ignore him. I’m so tired. Every thing I’ve read is for babies waking up all through it the night but why I’d my child up literally alllll night?, his naps are completely normal

  10. My son is 7 months old. On a sleep schedule, but no matter what time we get up the morning he wakes up at 1am and STAYS AWAKE till 6 In the freaking morning!!! I put him down before he falls asleep and he does just fine, but sure enough in the middle of the night he wants to play and gets mad and screams when I ignore him. I’m so tired. Every thing I’ve read is for babies waking up all through it the night but why I’d my child up literally alllll night?, his naps are completely normal

  11. Just wanted to say thanks for this article. My daughter is 11months now and we were struggling with her not sleeping (quite happily) anywhere near the recommended amount, and naps were very difficult. When I read your article and realised that she should only be staying awake 45mins at such a young age, the change was almost instant!

    I have found myself referring to it throughout the year to check if I should be changing the awake times throughout the day and it has served me very well!

  12. I am so glad I found your website! This is all extremely helpful information and very entertaining! 🙂 My baby is 15 weeks and I have learned very quickly I know nothing about babies and sleep. I read the 90 minute nap solution book, and so we have been putting him down every 90 minutes after he wakes up, which seems to be working fairly well, and I think he’s starting to get used to that schedule. However, his naps are still not that long, so as a result, he’s still taking 4 naps, and usually a later one at around 5:30/6:00 (depending on when he woke up from the last one). When should we start dropping this nap and moving bedtime up to an earlier time? Right now he goes to sleep at around 8:30/9:00ish. Thank you for your help!

  13. I just want to thank you for the information. I found it so hard to find anything about sleep and how much my little one needed. He was sleeping so much and that honestly made me very worried. I have a much better grasp on his mood now and thanks to your chart I know that he is fussy because he needs to go down for a nap. Thanks so much 🙂

  14. Hi! Thanks for the article. However, your numbers don’t add up. For instance, in the table you list:
    9 Months – 12 Months ~3 hours 1-2 hours 2

    That’s 2hours * 2naps = 4 hours of sleep per day. So 20 hours of awake time per day!?!? I don’t understand those numbers at all. Are you saying my 9 month old should be awake 20 hours a day?

    • Yes your 9 month old should be awake 20 hours a day. That’s a totally reasonable interpretation of the information in that chart.

      THAT or it’s talking EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT NAPS. That in additional to the 2 naps there will be ~11 hours of night sleep.

      But if keeping your 9 month old awake 20 hours a day is working for you, who am I to judge?

      • What’s the difference between “nap” and “sleep”? Seems like the same thing…?

        • Nap sleep is significantly different from night sleep. It’s driven by a separate biological process, tends to fall primarily during daylight hours, is made up of short chunks of sleep (30 minutes – 2 hours) vs. a long stretch of ~11 hours (which may be interrupted by brief arousals and/or feedings).

          So nope – not the same thing.

          • OK, so my 6 week old typically sleeps:

            12:30am – 3:00am
            4:00am – 6:30am
            9:00am – 11:00am
            3:00pm – 5:00pm
            Assorted other 20 minute periods of sleep elsewhere.

            Which one(s) are “naps” and which one(s) are “sleep”?

            • Your 6 week old does not yet have an established circadian rhythm because he’s too young. So he has no night/nap sleep, he just sleeps in random chunks distributed around the day. His sleep WILL consolidate into day/night sleep soon. There is not much you can do to accelerate this process but manage light exposure – bright sunlight ideally during the day when he’s awake and keep the lights dark/dim when he’s awake during the night. That + time will help him consolidate into a long chunk of sleep generally from ~8PM – 6 AM. You’re close to getting a 12 AM – 6:30 AM chunk which will likely be step #1 towards this consolidation.

  15. Can anyone offer me some advice? My seven month old baby girl has just started lengthening her daytime naps. She wakes around 7am, naps from 9-10.30/11, then can stay awake for 2-2.5 hours, so goes down around 1/1.15. She wakes at 2.30/2.45 which is perfect becuase all this fits around the school run.
    However, after 2.30 I was getting her to nap in the buggy at around 4, to get her to bedtime. Since her naps have lengthened she is not interested in that nap at all but then has to get to 6.30 at the earliest for bed (I can’t put her down earlier or her morning nap would get earlier and be over the time we are going to school). Which means a four hour wake time. So now what she does is goes down with the dummy at 6.30/7, then wakes at 7.45 and cries until 9.30. We are finding this really hard; nothing seems to help – dummy, cuddling, rocking, feeding. I’m pretty certain she is overtired. So my question is this – do I give her a nap at 5pm and move bedtime later until she is mature enough to stay awake longer? Or do I just keep going with two naps and hope she matures soon enough so that she she doesn’t learn any bad habits?

  16. Hi Alexis,

    Thank you so much for your post! I am a very tired first time Mom and your guidance has been super helpful. I’m also hoping you could help me with a current sleep issue we’re having with my 8 month old. We had him perfectly sleep trained, but he began crawling & pulling himself up on things last week and everything changed. He still sleeps well during the night (6:30 or 7pm – 6:30 am) and he’s supposed to nap at 8:30, 12:30/1:30, and possibly at 5:00 depending on how long nap #2 lasted/what time he woke up.

    We are at this place of losing the 3rd nap, which makes him super fussy before bed and has been a difficult transition for us. The bigger issue however, is now he suddenly cries hysterical when you put him in his crib and immediately stands up when you walk out. He pulls himself up and is standing/trying to get out of the crib that I can’t get him to sleep. For example, he needed a nap today at 3:30 after being up for 3 hours and showing signs of being tired (yawning). Blinds are drawn, white noise on, etc. but he won’t sleep. It’s been over 40 minutes of him either playing or crying. I know he’s exhausted, but don’t want to start the habit of holding him until he falls asleep. At what point do I go in there? He’s been up since 12:35, it’s now 4:10 and he’s in his crib just screaming. Any advise you could share would be greatly appreciated and so helpful. 🙂

  17. As an update, I thought you should know my son cried until after 4:30. He was in his crib for over an hour, at which time it was too close to bedtime to nap. He went to bed without issue at 6pm, but had been up since 12:35 and was super fussy the last hour he was up.

  18. I know this article is a little old, but I just want to say I’m so happy I found it. My three month old recently began fighting sleep, but I didn’t really pick up on it right away. I just assumed she was getting older and going to be awake more. Now I know why she’s gone from a normally content baby to a grumpy one…she must be over tired. Your sleep chart is so helpful, and I’m putting it to use asap. Thanks!

  19. Hi,

    I have a 7 month old who was a great sleeper as a baby. He’d sleep anywhere from 7-11 hours. We put him down when he’s awake and it takes him about 15 minutes to fall asleep, but he’ll sleep for 7 hours and then wake up to eat. Then go back to sleep until 6 a.m. My question pertains to sleepy cues. I’ve done my research over and over again. I know what the sleep cues are. My son tends to rub his ears a lot, yawn sometimes (not all the time), get fussy, eyes glaze over, stare for long periods at stuff, etc. When he was a baby, I’d put him down as soon as he yawned and he slept for 1 1/2 hours solid. Now, it’s like I don’t even know my own child’s sleep cues. He has all of the above. I thought rubbing his ears meant he was teething or had an infection. Nope. Took him to the doctor and he’s healthy. Because he doesn’t yawn every time, I assumed rubbing his ears meant tired. No, he just plays in his crib. He started off into space earlier so I soothed him and tried to put him down. Again, he just played in his crib for 10 minutes. This has been going on. I just don’t get where I’m going wrong. But he can start rubbing his eyes, ears, the whole bit 30 minutes after he wakes up, and I know that doesn’t mean he’s tired at 7 months. Yesterday, he let out a big yawn and immediately went to sleep. But that doesn’t happen all the time. He started rubbing his eyes earlier so I put him down. He napped for 45 minutes and woke up happy as could be. What gives?

  20. Hello,
    My baby will be 7 months on July 4th. She was born a month early. She was healthy and didn’t need any assistance. I have been very adamant at getting her down for her naps within the window so she is not overtired. She seems to only be able to stay awake for 1hr 30 in between naps. I know the books say babies should be able to stay awake for 2-3 hours. Should I be concerned about her wake time? Could it be because she was born early? Thanks for your help!!

  21. I’m not sure if this is still checked. My 9-week old refuses to sleep in his crib during the day, no matter what I try. I’ve tried darker room, lighter clothes, warmer clothes, putting him in the crib asleep and awake, pacifiers, music.. no matter what the longest he’ll sleep alone is 20 minutes and when he wakes up he’s completely inconsolable, even if I pick him up. He’s normally a happy baby but I’m losing my mind trying to figure out a way to get him to sleep on his own for naps (overnights are usually fine, he’ll sleep from 7-5:30 with 2 feeds in between and usually goes back down fine afterwards). It’s been over a month like this and he gets overtired from not napping so by the end of the day I’m exhausted and he’s just unmanageable. The only advice I’ve been given is just ride it out but I can’t live like this anymore, and neither can he. Please help!!

  22. My 7 month old daughter simply won’t sleep. No matter how much I try she just doesn’t sleep and I’m at my wits end. We bedshare because that’s the only way I actually get some rest and I sill breastfeed her. She’s an extremely alert and active baby (and I mean extremely and high needs as well) and sleep has been a challenge for us since day one. She will only sleep if I nurse her and won’t allow anyone to put her down. I try to put her down a little before her sleep cues and about 2 hours after her last nap, that is if she naps. Some days she naps real well but sleeps horribly at night, and other days she naps horribly and sleeps well at night. And some days she doesn’t nap or sleep well and other times she naps and sleeps well. Her sleep is very unpredictable. I feel like its somewhat my fault since our schedule recently has been unpredictable and since I’m a photographer and work different hours she stays up past her bedtime and will only sleep with me. I don’t want to wean her yet and she just recently refuses to take the paci (which she used to always take). I don’t feel comfortable with crying it out (it only excites her more really). I’m just not sure what to do anymore. Should I be stricter with getting her down for a nap? Should I try crying it out again? I would really like it if she would allow others to put her down also. Please help a desperately sleep deprived mother.

    • Vanessa,

      Assuming your child is healthy (full term, no neurological issues, etc.) chances are what happened is that she WAS a challenging/high needs/colicy baby. Studies suggest that these high needs kiddos sleep on average ~1 hour less per day then the average so the first few months are A BEAR. However this ends around 6 months so if it’s continued PAST that, it’s likely because:
      a) You’ve gotten locked into bad behaviors and
      b) Kiddo is chronically sleep deprived

      When somebody says “extremely alert and active baby” my spidey sense starts to tingle because 9 times out of 10 I read that as a kid who isn’t sleeping enough.

      And clearly YOU are her sleep association. You + nursing. This is why she won’t sleep for anybody else. It’s not that she WONT it’s because in her mind she has no awareness of HOW TO DO THIS because she’s never been taught. Ditto for naps.

      I would read the stuff on my website (really the whole site is dedicated to people in your exact same situation) –
      – lock in on a consistent bedtime. If work gets in the way find a 2 week window where you can be 100% consistent. Bedtime same time every night. Make sure she’s reliably awake ~3 hours prior to that set bedtime.
      – Do a bedtime routine that’s not just nurse + cosleep. Make that consistent as well.
      – After you’ve locked in THOSE 2 things, it’s CIO time. Full commitment at bedtime.

      Do what you need to to make naps happen but make this change at bedtime. If your goal is her in HER bed then commit to that – no nursing at bedtime, her sleeping in HER bed. NO PACI. No nursing NEAR bedtime. Yes she will be upset with you – this is a big change and change is HARD. But if you can do this for 3 nights you’ll see things dramatically improve!

  23. My 10 week old boy is having a really hard time staying asleep for naps during the day. Generally speaking, he goes to bed around 7 pm (bath, bottle, books, bed) and sleeps till 4 am. He gets another bottle and straight back to bed without any issues. Then he gets up around 630 am and we snuggle for a bit before his next bottle at 7ish am. From there it’s a 4 hour feeding schedule. On the days that he gets a good nap (1-2 hours plus) in between 11 am and 3 pm he sleeps so well at night. It’s the days that we struggle to get him down for a nap that we have issues at night. How do I help him settled down during the day? We have his room blacked out, rock him, read stories, sing lullabies and yet he fights the urge to sleep. But if I’m out running errands with him he sleeps in the car seat the entire time and even once we are home. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  24. How long should a baby sleep at night. Say if I put my four month old to bed at 6.30? What time is acceptable to be waking up in the morning? I read somewhere that babies only need 10 hours during the night whick means 4.30 in the morning (which he does wake around then. I feed him, but have trouble getting him to sleep again after that, he’s all smiles and giggles)
    I also read that you should keep babies bed time not to late. 4.30am wake ups are just not acceptable to me. Does that mean I should put baby to bed at 8.30pm to get him to be up for the day at 6.30am?

    • There is a huge range of normal duration for night sleep but I would say that 10:5 – 11.5 is a common range. Most babies are done or close to done after 10 hours so yes an early bedtime generally leads to an early wake up. However most babies WON’T sleep past 6:30 AM so you may only be able to move the needle so much. You can try gradually pushing bedtime back and see what happens.

      It may work. OR it may lead to baby being awake too long before bed (being overtired). Or it may lead to no movement on the 4:30 AM front which means the 10 hour night becomes 9.5. Experiment!

      • Sorry Alexis, silly question, but do you count the 40-1.15hours of being awake into the child’s feeding time also? For example my bub (4weeks old) can take up to an hour to have a decent feed some days. Are you then saying that I should be putting her straight down for a sleep every time? At what point will she get stimulation for development.

  25. Hi, thank you so much for your website, I was struggling with the witching hour and what I thought was a build up of wind but now realise it was over tiredness!
    Just some advice please, my son is 6weeks on Sunday 7th Aug, he used to have bath around 730, bottle at 8 and go pretty much straight off to sleep, waking at 1 for a bottle and 6. Since I’ve upped his milk to 5oz he has a bath around 8 and then bottle, finishing around 9. However now he doesn’t settle and is awake until 1030/11 and has his witching time then. He still goes five hours and wakes at 2 for next bottle. How comes is doesn’t settle now after bed? Is he having too many naps during the day? (Typical day of naps is around 4 with the last one being around 730) should I keep him up at this time instead?
    Appreciate your advice!! Thanks so much

    • Forgot to add after his 6am bottle goes back down till 930 but it’s a rem kind of sleep with him waking and settling himself a few times

  26. Hi Alexis,

    I’ve been struggling with an overtired 12 day old (this just started a few days ago). I was wondering – in your calculation of awake time – does that include her feedings?

    • Ok so my daughter is 2 weeks now. After 2 rough days this week with long boughts of being awake I discovered your site & we had two really good days. Today, after she fed at around 4:30 pm (and after 3 great naps earlier), she just wouldn’t sleep. I don’t know if I tried too soon or too late. I feel like it was too soon and then extended into being too late. It’s now been almost 5 hours awake! Basically I’m having trouble identifying exactly what her window is – I feel like it fluctuates and she really doesn’t give much in the way of tired cues. She goes from pretty much content to fussy. Any advice??

      • Also, any tips for what to do if she does go past her window and gets over tired? At that point it seems like no amount of soothing can help.

  27. So my nearly 3 week old has the big 3 hour stretch of awake time in the early hours of the morning, last night it went from 11pm until 2am. Other nights from midnight ’til 3am etc and it varies. Is this normal and is there anything I can do to help change this? This is usually followed by a 5:30am wake up and then sleeping after that second wake up for a big 3-4hour stretch. Should I be taking the advice of the Save Our Sleep book and waking baby up at 7am and then 3 hour feed intervals from then on? Opinions and advice on this would be greatly appreciated!

  28. Hi
    I’m confused by conflicting advise about newborns not being able to settle themselves yet comments on your site clearly disagree with this. My 6 week old won’t settle without feeding or rocking / swaying to sleep and then only settles for naps on me during the day, I can transfer to swing chair but doesn’t stay asleep much longer than 20mins more so could someone advise what the first step to getting him to self sooth to sleep would be?
    Also, I think he is currently experiencing a growth spurt as much more restless & was going 7pm – midnight & then waking every 2-3 hours (3am feed has always been a nightmare to get back to sleep) until 6/7 but the last few nights has woken every 2-3 hours from 7 until 6am, I was already pretty shattered but now exhausted as it has coincided with my husband returning to work!

    I think if I could get him to settle himself day time naps & the night time may improve & I could get more than 3 hours sleep a night! Sorry for the rambling message!

    • I’m not sure what you mean about newborns being able to settle themselves and this site disagrees.

      Very few 6 week olds will be able to fall asleep independently. So if that’s what you mean by “settle themselves” then yes, MOST 6 week old babies will need you to PUT them to sleep via rocking, nursing, feeding, cuddling, etc. Then they will need copious soothing (in the form of swing, swaddle, white noise, paci, etc.) to STAY asleep.

      If you’re giving ALL the soothing and your child still wakes up every 2-3 hours at night, it may just be “because.” 6 weeks is notoriously the WORST time for sleep 🙁

  29. Hi Alexis,

    My 10 week old has never been good at napping during the day and we’ve been having an awful time with him becoming overtired. After he’s been awake for about an hour, he makes signs that he’s tired and so I immediately begin his nap routine. Rocking him to sleep is the easy part: he falls asleep quickly in my arms, but either wakes the instant I put him in his crib or swing, or he only naps for about 5-15 min before waking and screaming. I try all manners of soothing him to no avail, until I rock him once more and repeat. He’s exclusively breastfed and still nursing every 2 hrs, so this dance usually continues until he’s now awake because he wants to eat, and then the whole cycle starts over again. This has resulted in several days where he has been wide awake for 9-12 hrs, with only 2-3 catnaps in between, lasting only about 10 min each. I’m at my wit’s end because I spend all my waking hours trying to get him to sleep, the whole time knowing that he’s already overtired and headed straight for a meltdown. His pediatrician told me snidely that this is happening because I shouldn’t be rocking him to sleep, but I know from experience that if I don’t rock him, he won’t even nap for those few crap naps! Knowing that he is running a several hour deficit on sleep, I will immediately try to get him back to sleep after these 10 min crap naps. Could this be my downfall though, and maybe I’m only making the problem worse by trying to force him to sleep before he’s ready to? Even though he’s obviously so overtired, should I instead be keeping him up for his normal hour of wake time after he wakes from one of these crap naps? I will appreciate any advice you can give! And thanks for writing these articles…They’re extremely helpful!

    • I’m in exactly the same boat as you. I really don’t know what to do. I am also rocking my one and even let him fall asleep n using just so he gets am extra 20mins. Just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. Xx

  30. Hello!

    My 4mo. was perfectly happy in her basinet. She would sleep 10 hrs without waking up. We have transitioned her to her crib/room. We started with taking naps in there and recently moved to sleeping in there. She slept wonderfully the first night but every night since she has woken up crying. She does this at least twice. Most of the time she just needs her pacifier and she falls back asleep. How do we get her to sleep straight through the night again?

  31. I am a brand new mommy with my first. My 6 week old is starting this new routine with waking up around midnight, 1 am and staying up until 5am to 8 am. She’s usually wide awake that whole time, except the last 2 hours she is over tired and fussy. I have to go to the extreme most of the time to get her to sleep when she is extremely tired. However, she’s impossible to sleep anywhere besides on my chest. She’ll sleep a good 2-4 hours on me, if I place her in her bassinet she’ll wake up screaming and unable to go back to sleep or will sleep very little and wake up screaming. I’ve also tried her bouncer and it is the same result. She seems to sleep majority during the day.

  32. Hi! I’m confused with timing going from 3 naps to 2. My almost 10 month old still takes 3 naps. He wakes at 6, is tired and sleeps an hour at 9, is tiredand sleeps another hour around 12:45, and has a cat nap (30 mins) around 4:45 and goes to bed 7:45. I have had no success in stretch In-N-Out his naps. He wakes up at an hour like clockwork. So I see you say max awake time is 3 hours – but if he drops evening nap and only sleeps one hour at morning nap (3 hours after wake up) and 3 hours after that (which is basically what he currently does) that would have him awake from around 2 to 7:45! Nearly 6 hours! I don’t see how he would make it! Any ideas?? Thanks!

  33. My baby from 9 months is waking up earlier from his afternoon nap, does it mean that i have to put her down earlier in the evening? Because I am scared that she is awake at 5:30 instead of 7.

  34. See here for my conundrum:

    Our 17-day-old had a 2.5 hour meltdown this afternoon that we finally tackled by taking both kids for a walk in the park. Later I was reading this article and saw this quote:

    “Some will stay awake far longer than their bodes can handle. You’ll know THIS is your baby if they stay awake for 1.5 hours or longer and then have a grand mal meltdown.”

    I asked my wife, “when did she wake up last?” “45 minutes ago,” she said. “Well, according to this Precious Little Sleep article we should probably try to get her in bed in the next 15 minutes.” I went into the bathroom, and in the time I was in there she started another meltdown.

    So I suspect she has a 45 minute window. That would explain her current pattern of wake up, eat for 30 minutes, burp for 20 minutes, then immediately have the most epic of meltdowns.

    Anyway, she’s in the gliding sleeper on high speed with the white noise turned up and bathroom fan on, lights out, arms swaddled, paci in, and she’s peacefully and quietly not sleeping. Every 5 minutes or so she calls out to me to come put the paci back in. *grumble* *grumble* *sob*

    So moving forward we’ll attempt to nap her 45 minutes sharp after her wake-up time, at least until the 6 week mark.

  35. My son was a great sleeper until 7months (he started getting teeth). From then it has been an endless series of sleepless nights. I’ve tried everything and nothing is working. He is now 15months. He “wakes up” between 4:30-6:15am. I can’t get him on any set schedule. How long should he be awake between naps? I used to put him to sleep 3 hours after he wakes, but then he started to fight his second nap. I was told to try and do one nap a day. So now he is awake for 5 hours at a time, but only napping for 1 hour. He is sooo tired by the end of the day, and then doesn’t sleep at night and wakes up super early. Some nights it seems he has nightmares because he wakes up screaming while half asleep. Other nights he seems to have terrible gas. I am so confused and so tired. Please help

  36. My little one is a 4 weeks old and has stretches of 3+ hours of being awake during the day. She’s not fussy, but clearly tired. I guess she’s one of the happy babies that just stays calm! But she becomes very stubborn about going to sleep, and it can take a long time to get her to sleep. I’ve been wondering if there are ways to help avoid these stretches. Do you think a quiet room and less stimulation would help with this? Or should I start trying to put her down sooner?

  37. My 6 week old does not like to nap during the day and will try to fight nap times. She will finally go down for a nap early evening and want to sleep for 3-4 hours. Should we not wake her? Will this late nap effect sleeping at night? Any tips for helping her nap during the day? Help!

  38. Hello,

    I wish i was aware of the fact that some babies dont sleep on their own. You need to put them down with a routine! My lo is 12 months now. I sleep trained her and she sleeps great. My question is does the awake time between naps change?

  39. Hi,
    I realize this article is old, but I didn’t have a baby then and I’m needing help now ;). I agree with this article and am going to pay close attention to my LO’s naps during the day. He is 9 weeks and everything started off great when we brought him home and then severe acid reflux kicked in… he is breastfeed and we have started him on medicine, but I’ve taken dairy out of my diet and that has helped and starting to take soy out as well. My problem is this… when he couldn’t sleep because of the pain from the acid reflux I would just end up holding him completely upright against my chest. I would end up sleeping sitting up in a chair and making sure he was in good positioning and couldn’t fall or anything… this was before we knew it was acid reflux and before we got medicine. Then when he got medicine I could tell he was doing better and I knew the way we were sleeping wasn’t the safest… so I’ve been getting him back to his bed . This has been a struggle because he wakes up so quickly in the bed vs being on my chest… so how do I transition this? Right now the only problem I can see is his reflux still isn’t great so after I feed him I have to hold him in the upright position on my chest for atleast 30 mins or it all comes up. So he’s sleeping on my chest during that time obviously. And then when I lay him down he sleeps in his bed for like 40mins to an hour. This is both during the day and at night. So I’m not sure what to do but I know I’m exhausted but I’m trying really hard. He eats every two hours during the day… which is amazing considering he was eating like every hour when he was in major pain trying to suck his way into comfort but it was only making it worse. So if you have advice on what I need to do with baby who has severe reflux while transitioning this sleeping so it’s healthy and good for him that would be great! Thanks for having this article.

    • Amber,
      I’m a first time mom, so I’ll be the first to admit I’m learning as I go. Have you considered raising the head of the crib/bassinet where your baby sleeps? Put some old books or bricks under the legs of the crib/bassinet so that your baby’s head is slightly elevated. There are plenty of images on google, I’m sure. My son is 3 months old now, and he spent 100% of his sleep time in the rock n’ play. I didn’t know that I would come to love/hate that thing. That may be an option for you, since I’ve heard they are helpful with babies that have reflux. My son is getting too big for the rock n’ play, so I ended up having to raise the head of his bassinet with books, since he was used to sleeping on an incline. Good luck with your sweet baby. I hope you find something that works.

  40. In two minds having read this. It’s certainly INFORMATIVE as an article but I’m sorry to say it’s definitely not helpful. So according to you, we have a sleep problem, as my 2 month old can and will stay awake for 3-5 hour chunks. What you do not do, at any point, is offer any constructive advice on what one should do in this case? I can spend the prescribed amount of time playing with, changing and feeding my daughter then winding her down but she simply will not nap. I can try rocking her, putting her down, whatever but she doesn’t fall asleep!

    • Good morning! Alexis DOES offer plenty of constructive advice on how you can help your new baby sleep- just not right here in this specific article (but lots of advice in the comments).
      Check out:
      Plenty of HELPFUL, FREE advice. Good luck!

    • Ah nothing warms the cockles of my heart like people who come visit my totally free resource chock full of concrete advice to tell me how dissatisfied they are.

      Do I not offer any constructive advice? I beg to differ. This site/podcast/book is full of constructive advice. I get it – you’re tired and looking around to find it is hard. But it’s there. I promise.

  41. Hi Alexis,

    First of all, thank you SO MUCH for the *free* advice you’re offering on this site. I’m not sure why people are taking issue with you since they could simply go to a different website…

    Anyways, I am a first time mom of a 7 week old and I am exhausted. I feel like her sleep is getting worse. Well, we started off this journey by making the classic mistake of keeping her up all day to sleep better at night. That clearly did not work–and then I found your site and Handel’s Hallelujah chorus played in the background. She naps pretty well during the day, but her naps are all over the place: sometimes 30 mins, 45 mins, 2 hours, 4 hours and anywhere in between. She’ll sleep on my bed, in her crib, in her stroller, in a Baby Bjorn–really anywhere. Noise and light don’t bother her and I don’t attempt to keep anything quiet during the day. I try to keep her up roughly 1-2 hours between naps, as advised on your site.

    Okay so nighttime. She is great about going to sleep around 9 PM every night. No issues (though she does fall asleep on my chest). She will generally stay asleep for 3-5 hours. Great. Now here’s the problem. Recently, she has started waking up around 1-2 AM and then Not. Going. Back. To. Sleep. Last night, we were up for FOUR hours (which is longer than she is awake during the day). As much as I love being up from 1-5 AM, I am so tired that all I do is obsess over sleep. I used to be able to get her back to sleep in about an hour -1.5 hours. Then it started getting longer–2 hours, 3 hours, now it’s at 4. Once she does get to sleep, she’ll either sleep for 2-3 more hours in her crib and then wake up again, or come directly to our bed.

    I’m sorry for the long post, but in a nutshell: HOW can I narrow this horrendous window of being awake in the wee hours when all normal and reasonable creatures should be ASLEEP?

    Thank you so much,

  42. Hi there, just stumbled across your website, hopefully you can help me!
    My LO is 10 weeks old and doesn’t stay awake longer than 30 mins… I know he should be awake longer and I’ve tried stretching it (by 5 mins a time) out by changing activity, but it just ends in a meltdown. Is there something else I could be missing here? Or do you have any helpful tips on how to extend it out?

  43. Hi
    My LO(formula fed) is 2 months today and I dont know if he stays awake for too long. For example today he was awake from 1 30 to 10 pm. He had 2 short naps 15-20 mins. It is soo difficult, I really try to put him to sleep. Not trying to make him overtired but he just doesn’t want to sleep. Is that normal?


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