The Big Secret to Helping Your Baby Sleep Longer
Updated: May 18, 2022
I’m going to let you in on a little secret surrounding your baby’s sleep.
Something that really shouldn’t be a secret, but it was certainly kept from me when I was a new mom, and I know from many of you too.
Knowing your baby's age appropriate awake window is fundamental to good sleep.
It was something that would’ve saved me a lot of crummy naps, night wakings, frustration, and self doubt if I had known this sooner. While we put a lot of emphasis on the negative effects of being tired on our babies (because we should!), we often forget about the personal damage that sleep deprivation can do for us as well. I can’t tell you how hard I was on myself in those early days when my little one just wouldn’t sleep and I didn’t know how to fix it. Night after long night started to wear on me, and I started to feel lost.
Hindsight vision is 20/20, right?
Okay, I know you’re just dying to hear my secret, so here it is!
What Makes All the Difference
The thing that made All. The. Difference. when it came to my baby’s sleep was Awake Windows.
Awake Windows are the typical amount of time that your little one can stay awake in between naps based on their age. Notice I said typical, because we know that babies aren’t one size fits all. But if you can nail these Awake Windows to what works with your little one, you’ll find that sweet spot where they can go to sleep a heck of a lot easier - which is what we’re here for, right?
Especially in the first 6 months of life (though it happens at all ages), babies are more prone to becoming overtired, and unfortunately this works against them when they try to sleep! Those Cortisol & Adrenaline hormone levels increase, making it more difficult to go to sleep, nap well, stay asleep throughout the night, or cause earlier wakings in the morning. None of these will help your little babe if they’re not getting enough precious rest!
What’s more, newborns and little babies aren’t always the best at giving off those sleepy cues to let you know they’re tired before things get real. Newborns especially can go from super happy to Meltdown City quickly, which makes knowing your Awake Windows that much more important!
You know I’m here to make your sleep struggles easier on you, so I’ve broken down the typical Awake Windows by age. Give these a whirl, and tweak a bit if needed.
Whole Night Sleep Consulting Sleep Reference Guide
Awake Windows are the key to making sure your little one is tired enough to happily go to sleep, but not so tired that it becomes a real struggle.
I’ve also got to mention that in addition to nailing those Awake Windows, there are other key factors that are your best friend when it comes to quality sleep for your little. These two pair better than a Cab Sauv and your favourite entrée, so you know it’s gonna be good!
Darkness - Keep it very dark in your little one’s room. Regular blinds don’t typically do the job during the day, but peep all the ways darkness will help everyone sleep longer, and snag a discount on my fave blackout blinds!
White noise - Drown out the barking dog, delivery guy, or usual house noise with a quality white noise machine.
Well fed - Just like Goldilocks, you want things just right. This means baby should be full, but not too full of course! Nobody sleeps well on a bloated (or empty!) stomach.
The other important thing is Sleep Pressure. Sleep Pressure is that desire to sleep, and it builds throughout the time your child is awake. As you can imagine, the older your little one is, the more sleep pressure is required to actually get them to sleep and stay asleep - hence why kids eventually drop naps. That sleep pressure builds up in the presence of light, so knowing your little one’s Awake Windowsis key. If you put them down earlier than they’re ready for (AKA, before enough sleep pressure has built), they might sleep for a bit, but it’ll be a short nap to say the least. Anything under an hour nap is considered “short”, and isn’t long enough for your babe to properly recharge.
Then, because they didn’t get a great nap, they’ll get tired again and give you those tired cues - whether subtle, or very direct as some babies do! And then you get stuck in that exhausting cycle of short naps...
The Dreaded Short Nap Cycle
Here’s where things get messy. Your child seems tired, so you put them down early. Then they have a short nap because there isn’t enough sleep pressure built up, even though they gave those sleepy cues. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
It’s the worst.
I might not become your favourite person because of this, but if you’re stuck in a short nap cycle, you’ve gotta push through it - it’s the only way out. The good news is that it’s only a couple of days, and everyone will be good to go again. Keep them on their Awake Window schedule and you’ll be back to 1+ hour naps in no time.
Once you’re through it, you’ll get them on a great schedule of solid naps, quality nights, and the Awake Windows to support that. It’s an excellent place to be!
The final piece to the puzzle is falling asleep independently. When baby doesn’t need your help to sleep, things go a whole lot smoother. If independent sleep feels like a dream, I know it can feel hopeless. Buuuut, I also know how to get to the other side! I’m here to support you through any sleep hurdle you’re facing, and I do it in a way that feels right to you as a parent.
Need your rest and sanity back? Who doesn’t? Every parent deserves to feel confident in being able to support their little one with sleep, and the first way to do that is to schedule your free call with me and I’ll show you how I can support you.
Getting your sleep back changes everything - from how you parent, to how you feel about yourself. You deserve it!