**Before I begin, it’s important to note that the following is intended for children whose daytime sleep starts to become organized – typically around 4+ months old.**
I’ve been trying to think of the best way to write this blog post, because it’s something that definitely hits close to home for me. When Colton was born, I learned about wake windows and assumed that was what everyone was supposed to follow. I focused so heavily on planning schedules for him that incorporated the exact windows of time that he should be awake, with only a 15 minute buffer. I felt like a mathematician – calculating different scenarios to figure out how to fit nap times, feedings, and bedtime into this carefully designed schedule. It was so time consuming and confusing. And you know what? After all of that, Colton was the worst napper! What was I doing wrong? I was following these wake windows exactly, so why wasn’t he napping well? It wasn’t until I started taking my Sleep Consultant courses with the Family Sleep Institute that I learned the answer. Using wake windows were not actually setting me up for success. Unpopular opinion, I know. But hear me out.
The thing we have to remember about our children is that they are not robots, they are human beings, and yes, human beings thrive on schedules, but they also thrive on biological rhythms. The best way to explain an ideal schedule for a child is to think about your own schedule. Most of us have a time of day we typically get tired, go to sleep, and we also have a time of day we typically wake up. We have developed these rhythms in our bodies by aligning our hormones and setting our sleep waves through repetition. We can even change these waves, but it takes some time, like when we shift clocks for Daylight Savings or change time zones and have jet lag.
This is the same for our children.
We want to catch their sleep waves, and just like adults, these waves typically happen at certain times of day, not after a certain amount of time awake. Just think, if you started taking a nap every day at 1:00 pm, after a few days, you would start getting tired around 1:00 pm each day… this is the same for your child.
For sleepy bears still taking multiple naps, there is a companion to aligning schedules with bio times, and those are sleepy cues. Our job as caregivers is to get to know our child’s sleepy cues, and paired with the time on the clock, base our child’s nap schedule off of that.
One of the biggest issues we see with wake windows is that if you push your child’s time awake past their biological sleep wave then we start seeing a child who is overtired, taking short naps, and is not getting the rest they need. Remember, keeping your five month old up for 2.5 hours between every sleep will not guarantee you a long nap… I personally have an 18 month old who takes his first nap barely three hours after he wakes most days and takes his second nap just a few hours after that! Definitely not aligning with the expected wake windows for his age range.
I wish I could provide you with the exact schedule your child should follow, but again, children are not robots. So, we really need to work together to figure out exactly what will work best for you and your family.
If wake windows just aren’t cutting it for your sleepy bear, like they didn’t for me, reach out and we can talk schedules!