Baby Hints & Tips

Baby awake times: avoid an overtired baby

Tara, from the Gentle Sleep Specialists, turns our attention to awake times as an effective way of managing baby’s routine and avoiding an overtired baby.

Are you struggling with your little one’s sleep? Do you find yourself constantly trying to catch the slightest sign that your little one might be tired, only to put them down and watch a train wreck unfold? You’re not alone. Tired signs can be deceiving!

baby awake times an over tired baby It is not uncommon for parents to speak of utter confusion when it comes to picking signs their little one may be ready for bed. Infants and toddlers don’t always present the way we would imagine when tired. In some children for instance, yawning, rubbing eyes and whinging does not necessarily mean they’re ready for bed.  Then there are others who come across wired and hyperactive, finding it really hard to unwind – sleep seems out of the question by this stage! So I’d like to share with you how I work with my clients to bring about more peaceful settling times.

Lasting positive sleep habits and peaceful nights are achieved when your little one has the skills to self-settle. However, an important part of this is to have your support to learn these skills. When it comes to identifying tired signs, I encourage my clients to use awake times I that I believe are best suited to the age of the child. Thirty minutes before these times, start to observe your little one’s behaviour to see if you notice any tired signs or changes in behaviour or mood.

A guide to awake times

Please note – These awake times are based on a child who is taking proper naps and having reasonable sleep overnight. If your child is catnapping or waking a number of times overnight, these awake times may not be suitable.  Every child is different and there really is no one size fits all. However I find when I work with these awake times as an approximate guide and then take into consideration the child’s behaviours around these times, parents often find the timing to be right on cue!

Newborns 8 weeks old and under:

45 min – 75 min awake time

This time should include feeding.

8 weeks old and over:

60 min – 90 min awake time

If your little one is taking short naps, you might find 60 minutes is a stretch and that’s ok. I would rather you put your baby down more regularly than end up with an overtired infant. Some people find their children manage well with a greater awake time and that’s okay too.

4 – 6 months old:

1 hour 45min awake time

At 4 months of age, start with 1h 45min and then slowly work up (over a couple of months) to an awake time of around 2.5 hours as your little one reaches 6 months and older.

7 – 12 months old:

2.5 hours – 4 hours awake time

Around 7 months you may find your little one is still settling well on 2.5 hours awake time. As they reach 8-9 months, 2h 45min – 3 hours might be more manageable, and by 12 months your baby could be managing an awake time of 3.5 – 4 hours in between their naps.

12 – 18 months old:

During this time your little one might start showing signs they are ready to drop to one nap per day. I encourage parents not to rush dropping nap number two, and ensure that their little one is ready to extend their morning awake time until at least 10:30am. This way they are more likely to make it through to a reasonable bedtime (somewhere between 6pm and 7pm) without being exhausted.

I hope these baby awake times act as a helpful guide for you to understand when your little one may need to take a nap. Remember, every child is different, so it’s important for you to look out for the behaviour and mood changes that are unique to them.

Happy Sleeping!

Tara Mitchell

About the Author:

Hi all, Tara Mitchell here from The Gentle Sleep Specialist. As a paediatric nurse, qualified infant and toddler sleep consultant and mother, I have created a successful business that allows me to guide, educate and support parents to create healthy sleep habits with their little ones. I pride myself on the support my clients receive and my compassionate, caring nature enables me to build lasting rapport with the families I work with. Working one-on-one with families allows me to personalise plans and truly craft the best plan based on each individual child. I am passionate about my work and see the life changing results much needed sleep brings to the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the child and parents. Contact me today and let’s get sleep sorted! Find and ‘like’ me on The Gentle Sleep Specialist to receive updates with great advice on children’s sleep. Otherwise, contact me on 0404 987 982 or [email protected]

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  1. AvatarKristie says:

    My baby is 5 months old exactly and she sleeps for 40min every sleep during the day Iv tried all the methods she even self settles but does have a dummy she also doesn’t feed very well for some reason?
    she can go through the night without a bottle for a 8 hr stretch but does wake and needs resettling.
    The first morning feed at 7 you think she would be starving but she never is and sometimes takes the bottle but most times refuses I try to feed milk then after a hour her rice cerial then bed after 2 hours which is always easy to get her to sleep then the rest of day is offering bottles.
    I try to not give her solids if she doesn’t have her milk but she ends up being starving by the early afternoon and loves her food.

  2. TaraTara says:

    Hi, thanks for your message. In this case you can most probably thank the dummy for the 40 minute waking. Self settling is when a little one uses no external props and the dummy is one of the number one causes of cat naps. In terms of the milk and solids I would chat to your gp and I would also not reduce or restrict solids in order to give her milk. Some children are not huge on milk and gravitate more towards solids but I would definitely run it by the gp.
    Should you wish to know more or chat further feel free to send me an email [email protected]

  3. AvatarAnnelies says:

    Hi! I have a 5 month old. She is a self settler (I put her to bed sleepy but awake at 7.30-8pm every night) She sleeps til roughly 3-4am where she is awake for Aprox. 30mins for a feed. She then wakes at around 6.30-7am. Her morning nap is clockwork at 9am for about 40min but then she has a nap in the afternoons for around 2hrs sometimes more. Her afternoon nap is not affecting her night nap but is she sleeping too much? Also when will she no longer need a feed during the night?

    • Tara MitchellTara Mitchell says:

      Hi! No that’s not at all too much sleep. It’s great to see she is getting a good amount 🙂
      Anytime from 6-7 months when solids are completely in place they can go through the night if your milk supply is good (if breastfed) however some babes will keep one feed for sometime so dropping it will come down to a few nights work.
      Tara x

  4. hi my baby does not sleep till i feed him in the night and then keeps waking up for feeding every now and then in the night. he will feed little again turn and sleep then in some time again turn back to me for feeding. now i want to slowly start putting him to sleep without feeding. how do i do. please help.

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