Moving out of the newborn phase and into the infant stage, your baby’s wake windows are constantly changing. This article will have the 3 month old wake window explained.
In the first two months, we see very short wake window lengths, often just enough time for a baby to eat, have their diaper changed, and feel sleepy for their next nap.
Newborns are truly in a feed, change, and sleep cycle. When we move out of the newborn stage, we see a baby become more alert, taking in the world around them. The 3-month mark is often when we note a significant change in the baby’s ability to stay awake longer than their newborn stage.
Bottom Line: 3-month-old wake window lengths range from 60-90 minutes, often with the last wake window before bed being closer to 120 minutes (2 hours) in length.
A 3-month-old baby requires a total of 15.5 hours upwards of 18 hours in 24 hours. Split between daytime naps and nighttime sleep. Ideally, we are seeing 10-12 hours of sleep at night with the remainder of sleep occurring over 3-5 naps per day. On average you would see 4-6 hours of daytime sleep.
If a 3-month-old baby sleeps well for naps, they are usually on a 3-4 nap routine. On the contrary, babies who are micro or short nappers will require 4-5 naps a day to achieve their total daytime sleep needs.
Expert Sleep Tip: the recommendation for babies born preterm is to follow their adjusted age regarding sleep needs.
Many parents are expecting predictability since they have moved into the 3-month mark but often we see inconsistent daytime schedules mainly during the first 4 months of life. This is due to the circadian rhythm which begins to develop around six weeks of age. Usually the circadian rhythm sets in somewhere between three and six months of age.
4 Ways To Support Your Baby’s Circadian Rhythm
1. Create some structure with a morning wake-up time
2. Focus on natural light during periods of wakefulness
3. Dim lights during the bedtime routine
4. Create a cave-like environment for periods of sleep
To help move towards a predictable routine, it is highly encouraged to start your baby’s day with the consistent morning wake time. That will allow the first nap of the day to naturally occur at a similar time since we calculate when naps start based on age-appropriate wake windows.
Additionally, I recommend capping naps to help prevent babies from sleeping during the day, allowing them a higher probability of sleeping better at night. Capping a nap at the two-hour mark is the best way to keep daytime sleep on target and maintain a consistent daytime feed routine.
Allowing natural light during periods of wakefulness will help a baby differentiate between periods of being awake and periods of when we establish rest. Receiving sun exposure during the day can help with the quality of sleep we achieve.
Since artificial light can impact the body’s ability to produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin required to feel sleepy, it is encouraged to dim lights during the bedtime routine. This can cue your baby that sleep is approaching. When a baby sleeps in a cave-like environment, the darkness helps support a proper level of melatonin which also aids in the quality of sleep received.
The most common wake window length to follow for a 3-month-old would be 90 minutes of wake time and aiming for a 90-minute nap. If your baby wakes up before the 90-minute mark, you can pause and see if your baby falls back asleep, this provides an opportunity for your baby to connect sleep cycles, allowing for a longer nap.
If after a few minutes your baby is still awake or becomes upset, you can provide the opportunity for your baby to fall back asleep in your arms. It is best to hold a baby in their room, leaving their sleep sack on, maintaining the use of white noise, and having the room blacked out. This will prevent you from switching rooms with the baby which can be stimulating and delays their ability to fall back asleep.
It is normal for nap lengths to vary in duration during this stage of development. If your 3-month-old deals with the 45-minute intruder, it means once your baby has slept 45 minutes they wake up and often struggles to fall back asleep on their own. With the help of mom or dad, they may fall back asleep and extend the 45-minute nap with an extra sleep cycle which ranges from 30-45 minutes.
Expert Sleep Tip: if your baby regularly wakes between 30-45 minutes into their nap, you can try a wake-to-sleep method. You would set your clock a minute or two before your baby naturally wakes up. Enter their room and gently arouse them, the idea is to slightly arouse your baby so they to connect into the next sleep cycle. This is not a guaranteed method but can work for a handful of babies.
3-Month-Old Sample Sleep Schedule
7:00 am – Wake Up & Feed
8:00-10:00 am – Nap 1 (2 hours)
10:00 am – Feed
11:15-12:45 pm – Nap 2 (1.5 hours)
12:45 pm – Feed
2:15-3:15 pm – Nap 3 (1 hours)
3:30 pm – Feed
4:45-5:15 pm – Nap 4 (30 min cat nap)
5:15 pm – Top Up Feed
6:30 pm – Bedtime Feed & Routine
7:15 pm – Bedtime
The example above uses wake windows on the lower end of average lengths for a 3-month-old baby. This sample schedule provides 5 hours of daytime sleep, age-appropriate for a 3-month-old baby. Some babies will be able to sleep a full 1.5-2 hour nap length and other babies will require assistance to sleep longer than 45 minutes.
7:00 am – Wake Up & Feed
8:30-10:00 am – Nap 1 (1.5 hours)
10:00 am – Feed
11:30-1:00 pm – Nap 2 (1.5 hours)
1:00 pm – Feed
2:30-3:30 pm – Nap 3 (1 hour)
3:45 pm – Feed
5:00-6:00 pm – Nap 4 (30-minute cat nap)
6:00 pm – Top Up/Snack Feed
7:30 pm – Bedtime Feed & Routine
8:00 pm – Bedtime
The above example allows for 1.5 hours of wake time before each nap, with a total of 4.5 hours of daytime sleep. Achieving a total of 15.5 hours of sleep in 24 hours.
7:00 am – Wake Up & Feed
8:00-9:00 am – Nap 1 (1 hour)
9:15 am – Feed
10:00-10:45 am – Nap 2 (45 minutes)
11:15 am – Feed
12:00-1:00 pm – Nap 3 (1 hour)
1:30 pm – Feed
2:15-3:30 pm – Nap 4 (1.25 hours)
4:00 pm – Feed
5:15-5:45 pm – Nap 5 (30 minute cat nap)
6:00 pm – Top Up/Snack Feed
7:15 pm – Bedtime Feed & Routine
7:45 pm – Bedtime
This sample schedule is for the 3-month-old baby who struggles to nap beyond an hour. This routine still provides 4.5 hours which is appropriate for a 3-month-old.
7:00 am – Up/Feed
8:30-10:30 am – Nap 1 (2 hours)
10:30 am – Feed
12:00-1:45 pm – Nap 2 (1.75 hours)
1:45 pm – Feed
3:30-5:00 pm – Nap 3 (1.5 hours)
5:00 pm – Feed
6:30 pm – Bedtime Feed & Routine
7:00/7:15 pm – Bedtime
The above sample schedule is best for babies on the higher end of wake window needs, close to 90-120 minutes before naps and longer before bed. This is also ideal for the 3-month-old baby that does take long naps with no issue and provides 5.25 hours of daytime sleep. This schedule is very similar to what I used with my daughter at the 3-month mark.
Expert Sleep Tip: Some 3-month-old babies can sleep through the night, as long as they are receiving proper calories during the daytime. Ideally, we would see a minimum of 5 full feeds during the day or 5-6 feeds from morning feed until the last feed before bed.
Understanding Wake Windows
A wake window is calculated from the time a baby wakes up from sleeping, the duration a baby can stay awake depends on their age and tolerability. For a 3-month-old baby, we usually see them requiring sleep anywhere between 60-90 minutes from when they woke up. To determine the best wake window length, you can pair the wake window with visible sleep cues.
You want to tune in when your baby shows level 1 sleep cues which include; red/pink eyebrows, staring off or zoning out, losing interest, or looking away from you. If a 3-month-old baby stays awake beyond 90 minutes before a nap, they likely will end up in an over-tired state. An over-tired baby will often become hysterical, arch away from us and even become rigid in their movements.
The last wake window of the day, leading up to bedtime should be the longest wake window length. This can range between 90-120 minutes in total. If a baby is put down for bedtime with too short of a wake window, for example only 60 minutes, they can treat bedtime as a nap. Sleeping for a short period and waking up, requiring another full wake window before being placed back down.
In the newborn days, we often see a bedtime occur after 9:00 pm and as a baby reaches the 3-month mark this will shift earlier in the evening. Usually, a bedtime between 7:00-8:00 pm is ideal for a 3-month-old and we often want to see the last nap somewhere between 5:00-6:00 pm, this will allow a full wake window and an age-appropriate bedtime.
A total of 10-12 hours of sleep is important throughout the nighttime, even if there is a period of wakefulness to have a feed. If your baby is waking up in the middle of the night and stays awake for well over an hour, it would be important to determine if they are oversleeping during the day.
Split nights can occur when a baby sleeps beyond what they need during the day, this impacts their sleep drive at night. Always reference total sleep needs and how much sleep your baby is achieving during the day to make sure we are balancing their sleep properly between daytime and nighttime.
Expert Sleep Tip: a 3-month-old will be on their way to rolling in no time, this is a great time frame to remove the swaddle and focus on using either a transitional sleep suit or a regular sleep sack. When babies can move more freely and access their hands, they can use this as a way to self-settle, by sucking on their fingers, fist, or thumb. Some babies simply like to have their hand(s) close to their face or stroke their head.
If your 3-month-old has rolled or is close to doing so, this is a sign they have outgrown the swaddle and due to safety reasons, you should transition them out of the swaddle as soon as possible.
3-Month-Old Sleep Struggles
As early as 12 weeks of age a baby’s sleep cycles can mature, causing increased frequency of light and deep sleep cycles. With this developmental change, we see wakings increase in frequency vs. the newborn stage. This is often characterized as the 4-month-sleep regression. Not every baby will have a shift in sleep cycles as young as 12 weeks however it will occur sometime between 12-18 weeks of age.
If a baby had success falling asleep easily at bedtime and now protests going down, this is a good indication the wake window length needs to be adjusted, it’s likely due to the wake window length needing to be extended. Whenever you decide to adjust a wake window it is encouraged to maintain consistency for 3-5 days before determining whether it’s working or not.
FAQs – 3 Month Old Wake Window Explained
Question: How long should a 3-month-old stay awake between naps?
Answer: You want to offer a nap to your 3-month-old anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes from when they last woke up. This will help avoid a baby from becoming over-tired but always provides a baby with a proper amount of wake time so they are ready to fall asleep.
Question: How do you know a 3-month-old needs wake windows extended?
Answer: A baby will become alert during their wake windows, take longer to fall asleep, and may take a short nap all of a sudden but wake up content. These are the main signs a baby is ready for a wake window adjustment.
Question: Do baby wake windows include feeding time?
Answer: Yes, the wake window includes the time it takes a baby to have a feed. It is best to feed a baby first thing upon waking up as this allows a baby to have the most amount of energy to intake a full feed and avoids the baby falling asleep while feeding. Often we are offering feeds every 2.5-3.5 hours.
Question: How long should a 3-month-old sleep between each feed?
Answer: Ideally we want to aim for naps to be anywhere from 1-2 hours in length and have 3-5 naps per day for a 3-month-old baby. Not all 3-month-old babies will be able to nap for 1-2 hours in length independently and may need some help extending nap lengths.
You are in the infancy stage with a 3-month-old baby on your hands, experiencing longer wake windows, the ability to go slightly longer from one feed to the next during the day, and a higher probability of sleeping longer stretches at night.
If you have yet to attempt naps within the baby’s sleep space such as a cot or crib, this is a great time to introduce these for daytime naps. The sooner we offer naps within their sleep space, the higher likelihood it will be easier for your baby to feel secure and comfortable within their cot or crib.
Not every 3-month-old will have the same wake window length before needing sleep but using the range of 60-90 minutes and pairing this with sleep cues will allow you to learn your baby’s individual needs.
Kayla is a mama of two littles, each born during the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to becoming a mom, she worked as a Registered Nurse for 12 years. Now as a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, she owns and runs Serenity Sleep Consulting full time.
After having her first baby, sleep deprivation hit hard. She was desperate for rest and knew she needed to focus on establishing a healthy sleep foundation. Kayla researched infant sleep and started to focus on what she likes to call Sleep Shaping. Her son went from waking every hour to sleeping 4-5 hour stretch, followed by 6-8 hours, and eventually 12 hours at 3 months of age. This method has turned into her signature service, it allows her to provide education and tools to help families with newborns. She also works with those who have babies 4 months upwards of 4-5 years.
We all function at our optimal level with a full night’s rest and Kayla loves to support parents in this journey!