Knowing the Baby Awake Times theory is an incredibly effective way of ensuring you avoid overstimulation and a fussy baby, as well as ensuring your little one develops healthy sleep habits.
New parents are very often bombarded with information and advice about everything from the best type of birth to feeding, sleeping and everything in between. A lot of the advice out there is centered around routine. Routines are important for lots of reasons – for little ones, predictability is a source of comfort and security from which to grow and learn. For parents, routine is a practical way of having the best possible experience caring for your little one.
There is plenty of debate around strict routine vs zero routine parenting but for me, the science speaks for itself. Little ones need routine and it’s our job as parents, not to enforce routine with military precision, but to read our baby’s cues and respond accordingly.
I’m a huge proponent of a flexible routine anchored by baby awake times. The Awake Times theory is one of the cornerstones of the Baby Sense book and from the outset was one of the unique aspects of the Baby Sense Way. As an OT specialising in infants, I’ve witnessed the benefits of following baby awake times for both the baby and their parents.
Why does Baby Awake Times work?
Even though new parents are usually on board with the idea of a routine, they doubt their own ability to establish and stick to a schedule.
It helps to think about the fact that we all have ‘awake times.’ These are optimal times that we can be awake before becoming drowsy and falling asleep with ease. Also called our ‘circadian rhythms,’ you will probably notice that as an adult you can be awake and alert for about 6 hours before you could happily grab a siesta (if you had the time and space to do so).
Babies and toddlers have much narrower awake times. These periods lengthen with age but if a baby is not settled to sleep within the window period, they will become overtired. An overtired baby is more likely to fight sleep and to become dependent on strategies to facilitate sleep, such as rocking or feeding to sleep.
Baby Awake Times in a nutshell:
- Awake Times are the length of time between sleeps. In other words, the optimal time your baby can manage to be awake before needing a sleep.
- To measure your baby’s Awake Time, take note of the time they wake from their sleep and settle them to sleep at a time that is appropriate for their age.
- Use the chart below or on the Parent Sense app as baby awake times by age:
For more guidance on establishing a routine and sleep schedule, download the Parent Sense app. You will get a suggested routine and reminders for what’s coming up next to help you manage your little one’s day.