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"Set Schedules" vs. Wake Windows

Sleep consultants, including myself, talk a lot about wake windows – we stress the importance of not allowing baby to get over tired while also emphasizing stretching them just a bit to build enough sleep pressure to help them fall asleep easily and stay asleep WHILE ALSO watching for sleepy cues.

Is your brain spinning? Mine is. And if you are a mom with a baby under 7 months old or taking 3 or more naps, this is your regular day to day balance. It is HARD!!!

Something magical happens when your baby turns about 6-7 months old – it is time to drop to 2 naps. AND, not only that, but you can now drop wake windows and go by a set by the clock schedule!! This can be so liberating for parents and families who are slaves to the wake windows.

What are Wake Windows?

Wake windows are the amount of time that a baby needs to stay away to find sleep for naps or bedtime easily and to sustain sleep for an appropriate amount of time (usually 1-2 sleep cycles or 45-90 minutes for babies older than 4 months).

When babies are brand new, they have VERY little awake stamina and as they grow, their stamina to be awake grows with them. It can often be difficult to nail down the right wake window for your baby so it takes a bit of trial and error to get it right (you know you’ve gotten there when baby consistently takes about 10 minutes to fall asleep and they sleep for at least 45 minutes).

What changes around 6/7 months?

The big change around 6 months is the fully developed circadian rhythm. The hormones in their body have come to recognize light and dark and emit cortisol and melatonin appropriately. As such, babies at this age are now capable of following predictable times to eat and sleep (and often, yes, poop!). Their body becomes more rhythmic. While this is a hormonal

system and occurs as part of the natural development, parents and caregivers can significantly assist this process along by creating an optimal sleep environment and setting your child to a clock schedule so they learn when it is time to sleep. Just like adults have set schedules (typically, at least?), your body starts to know when it is time to sleep and eat. When I was teaching, I had my lunch break at 10:15 a.m. and that is when I ate. I also went to bed at 9 p.m. This is what my body got used to and so on weekends or even longer breaks, My tummy was rumbling at 10:15 and giving major sleepy cues around 9 p.m. Bodies are pretty smart like that. Your baby at this age is no different. They are craving predictability at this point. And so, enter the set schedule!

The Set Schedule

Getting to the point when your baby is on 2 naps and ready for a set schedule means FREEDOM for many families. Because now you can better plan your day around your child’s schedule AND you can stop calculating the wake windows. This can be HUGE for mammas and families who are ready to reenter some sense of normalcy post baby.

In some way, the set schedule is based on a 3 hour wake window. But again, that may or may not a depending on naps and the day’s circumstances.

With the set schedule, you have +/- 30 minutes of flex time to stay “on schedule.” So you can use that flex time to adjust for short naps, early rising, or sleeping in. Keeping your baby on time as much as possible is important to regulate their body clock.

Example Schedules

When working with baby schedules, we typically work of a 12 hour day and 12 hour night, at least as a starting point (not every baby is a 12 hour overnight sleeper and that is ok! Both of mine were 10.5 hour sleepers over night).

The first thing you will want to identify in determining your baby’s schedule is their typical wake up time. This can be an average. The most common schedule is 7am-7pm so we will go with that here and you can adjust accordingly based on your child’s unique wake up time.

2 Nap Example Schedule (7-7)

7:00 a.m. wake up (anytime between 6:30 – 7:30 is on time – wake baby up no later than 7:30 to keep their body clock regulated)

10:00 a.m. Nap 1 (anytime between 9:30 – 10:30 is on time) Ideally this will be 90 minutes but will likely be 45 or so when you are starting out and/or when your baby is not yet sleep trained). You can use the 30 minutes flex time here if your baby woke up early or if they slept in

2:30 p.m. Nap 2 (anywhere between 2:00 – 3:00 is on time). Ideally this will be between 60-90 minutes. Ensure that your baby does not go over 3.0 hours of daytime sleep. As a consultant, I usually start with 3.0 hour max daytime sleep for 6 and 7 month old babies and reduce that to 2.5 max daytime sleep for babies 8 month and older. But every baby is different so you will have to see how your baby does!

7:00 p.m. Bedtime (anywhere between 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. is on time – use the flex time for shorter naps or a later shifted schedule). Remember, if 7:00 p.m. is your target bedtime, you are starting your bedtime routine at 6:30 p.m.

Otherwise put:

7 a.m. Wake up

10-11:30 a.m. Nap 1

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Nap 2

7:00 p.m. Bedtime

1 Nap Example Schedule (7-7)

7:00 a.m. wake up (anytime between 6:30 – 7:30 is on time – wake baby up no later than 7:30 to keep their body clock regulated)

12:00 – 2:00 p.m. Nap (anywhere between 11:30 – 12:30 is on time to start the nap and 1:30 – 2:30 to end the nap). Cap daytime sleep at 2.0 hours.

7:00 p.m. Bedtime (anywhere between 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. is on time – use the flex time for shorter nap or a later shifted schedule). Remember, if 7:00 p.m. is your target bedtime, you are starting your bedtime routine at 6:30 p.m. For older babies who have been on 1 nap for a while, you can begin stretching out this final wake window to a 7:30 bedtime).

What to Expect

Whenever you drop a nap, it means lengthening wake windows and IS A TRANSITION. It will take time for your baby to acclimate. It is important that once you start this, commit to it and don’t throw in the towel if it is messy. It will likely be messy for about 7-10 days until your baby’s circadian rhythm kicks in. Keep going. Do your best to not get impatient and fall back on shorter wake windows or 3 naps. Once you’ve identified that your baby is ready

for 2 naps (or 1), make the transition plan and don’t look back.You can expect your baby to be a bit fussy as their grow their stamina with longer wake windows. You can also expect that falling asleep for nights and naps may be slightly trickier – again, it’s a change. All of this is temporary if you stay consistent with your schedule and your baby will adjust.


I love set schedules for babies when it is appropriate to go there. Every baby is different and sleep is complex – there are other factors that may need addressing to determine if your child is ready to drop a nap.

One such factor is whether or not your baby is a fully independent sleeper (sleep trained or naturally) or not. If they are able to fall asleep on their own, this will go better than if they are not able to do so (partially because it is expected that they are sleeping well over night). If your baby is still relying on a sleep prop to get to sleep, I recommend you sleep train to assist your baby in regulating their body clocks and getting the sleep they need to thrive.

If you are wanting guidance on what to do and how to do it, contact me here for a free 15 minute evaluation call! Having someone take the guesswork off of my when I was needing help was LIFE CHANGING – so much so that I became a sleep consultant!! I offer a variety of packages to support families of all situations and budgets. We can have your baby sleeping through the night and taking regular naps usually within 2 weeks!

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