Optimal Wake Time (OWT) is key to consistent nighttime sleep!
Hey ff Fam,
If you follow @fullfeedings on Instagram, you have heard Ann say how important your baby being asleep by Optimal Wake Time is for consistent nighttime sleep. In fact, it may be the most important ingredient in infant sleep, although they are all important.
Optimal Wake Time (OWT), commonly referred to as wake windows, is the amount of time a baby should stay awake, not the amount of time they could stay awake. Yes, we know your little one can stay awake longer, but that doesn't always mean they should. When they stay awake longer than they should, their cortisol levels rise and they become irritable and fight sleep, and trust us you don't want that! We want to have your baby asleep by their age-appropriate OWT, and we generally recommend starting to rock your baby to sleep 15 minutes before the end of the OWT, so we don't miss it. This is how we can nail your OWT every time!
It's normal that you will have to help your infant and/or toddler fall asleep “on time”…and we typically recommend working with our age-appropriate OWT's first, and putting baby to sleep, even if they don't “seem tired”. This is how we help to avoid nighttime sleep disruptions due to over tiredness…
Consistency with your baby's OWT is key! Parents always think that they can't control when their baby falls asleep and think the task of getting baby to sleep by OWT is impossible, but please trust us, it's not! We want you to start by following the suggested daily routine (& OWT) on your age-appropriate monthly guide for your baby. NOTE: If you are using longer or shorter wake windows than we suggest and your baby is sleeping through the night, there is no need to change anything. Enjoy that rest!
If you are using the suggested, age-appropriate OWT for every cycle for several days and your baby is showing signs of being overtired (short naps, fussiness) then we would suggest shortening OWT by 5 minutes for all periods to see how that helps. You also may need to increase OWT by 5 minutes depending on your infants age. I know five minutes sounds crazy, but sometimes it's all infants need for longer naps and better nights. We completely understand that babies are not robots you can just turn off, but there are things we can do to help to get them asleep by OWT every time! It may not be perfect in the beginning, but as you continue to work on it, sleep starts to fall into place. If your baby is fully fed in every cycle and not sleeping too late in morning or sleeping too long for previous naps, having your baby asleep by their OWT should feel easy and simple…and get you those long naps we all want!
Now, keep in mind, too short of an OWT can also create problems for nighttime sleep. Ideally, we want your baby awake for the full OWT between all naps & want to avoid them falling asleep too far before their OWT. We want to keep OWT the same in every cycle (except for the last wake window before bed, which is always a unicorn) to help us figure out what is working and what isn't. Often, babies seem more tired before their first nap, but we want to gently stimulate them to stay awake for their full OWT, so we can keep the rest of the day and night going smoothly. If your baby is falling asleep too far before their OWT it can cause them to take a short nap or fight the next nap, even if you are trying to help them fall asleep! Too short of a wake window can cause an cause “too much daytime sleep”, because baby isn't awake long enough to ensure 12-hours of nighttime sleep is consistently possible, based on their age-appropriate total daytime sleep. This can cause night wakings and early mornings, and we definitely want to avoid those.
Some babies are more sensitive to their OWT than others. Some babies are unaffected if they go to sleep later than their suggested OWT, and others need to keep it tight, ensuring we don't miss the “window”. We know we are nailing the OWT when your baby is taking a full nap (most of the time), waking up happy and sleeping through the night. Following the OWT should make it easier to rock your baby to sleep and transfer them into the crib, or have them fall asleep independently. If you are able to rock your baby to sleep but can't transfer them, check your OWT. Sometimes being just a few minutes off can really affect how the naps go! Starting a few minutes sooner for the nap may be all you need to do…
You got this fam, even if it is tough in the beginning, stick with it and keep trying, one nap at a time! If you are a member of The Full Feedings Method® Online Program, check out the content on OPTIMAL WAKE TIME in the OTHER INGREDIENTS section of the program:
OPTIMAL WAKE TIME BY AGE – QUICK REFERENCE
And if you aren't yet a member, learn more about The Full Feedings Method® which has helped thousands of families achieve consistent nighttime sleep without crying it out or sleeping training!!
You've got this fam, and we've got you!