how to put a baby to sleep

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Do you know how to put a baby to sleep? Chances are, if you’re a new or first-time parent, you are probably struggling.  There are so many “baby won’t sleep” scenarios!  Maybe they’re a newborn, or they’re teething?  Maybe they refuse to nap, or viciously fight sleep at night?  They could seem tired AF, but just won’t go to bed! Whatever the case may be, parents face many uncertainties when dealing with baby sleep.

What if I told you the problem could simply be solved just by watching the clock?

My Real Time Experience Learning About Baby Sleep

The first several weeks at home, I thought that babies just slept when they were tired and were awake when they wanted to play.  My line of thinking was far from correct and resulted in a psycho baby and a mom who had no time to herself. Sometimes I ended up with a newborn that had been awake for over 6 hours and was pretty upset about it.

Dealing with a cranky baby is bad.  Really bad.

You would think this baby just missed out on that super cute, Cyber Monday leopard print Rebecca Minkoff bag that Nordstrom let you put in your cart only to find out at check out that it’s already sold out.  Okay, so I’m still pissed about that incident, but seriously, as a first-time mom it took me awhile to learn that an irritable baby was usually an overtired one.

Eventually, I learned along this new momming journey that this cranky, overtired baby could be avoided by easily following something called wake times!

What are Wake Times?

Wake times are basically how long your baby should be awake in between naps and, ultimately, bedtime. Once you find that sweet spot, a baby will be easier to put down and may even take longer naps.

Wake Times Need a Sleep Ritual

In a previous article, I had mentioned how necessary a bedtime ritual, or routine, was to condition your baby’s brain to know when it is time to sleep.  The ritual can be short, and should be repeated every time you want your baby to sleep. Routines are important, but it is vital they’re also paired with a proper “wake time” window for your baby’s specific age.

For more information on the easy to apply sleep ritual I used to get my baby to sleep easier and better, check out my post here.

how to put a baby to sleep

How to Put a Baby to Sleep Using Wake Times

Following wake times is as easy as watching the clock and keeping track of when your baby wakes up in the morning and after each nap.  Once your baby is awake, you time out how long they’ve been up and keep them busy until the end of the suggested wake time.  These wake times vary depending on your baby’s age, time of day (adjustments for morning and evening naps described later), and their level of sleepiness (tired cues described later).

After I started following the suggested wake times, paired with a sleep routine, my baby started sleeping better and putting him to bed wasn’t a complete nightmare!

Here is the wake time chart* that saved my life and taught me how to put a baby to sleep easily. If I could buy it a drink, I would!

How Long Should My Baby Be Awake Before They Turn into a Pumpkin?

The Wake Time Chart You Desperately Need

Age Wake Time Window
Birth – 6 Weeks 45 – 60 Minutes
2 Months 60 Minutes
3 Months 60 – 1.5 Hours
4 Months 1.25 – 1.75 Hours
5 Months 1.5 – 2.25 Hours
6 Months 1.75 – 2.5 Hours
7 Months 2.25 – 2.75 Hours
8 Months 2.25 – 3 Hours
9 Months 2.5 – 3 Hours
10 Months 3 – 3.5 Hours
11 Months 3 – 4 Hours
12 Months 3 – 4 Hours
12 – 18 Months 3 – 4 Hours (2 Naps)
12 – 18 Months 4.5 – 6 Hours (1 Nap)
18 – 24 Months 5 – 6 Hours (1 Nap)
2 – 3 Years 5.5 – 7 Hours (1 Nap)
3 – 4 Years 6 – 8 Hours (1 Nap)

*The information provided for this chart comes from real time mom experience, and an AWESOME blog called

WARNING: Anything before or after the given time ranges shown above could result in an under tired or overtired baby. Both of which are difficult to put to sleep.  When your baby becomes tired, they will show you some signs such as yawns, rubbing of eyes, or hiccups. 

How to Adjust Wake Time Windows From Morning to Night

Your wake time windows can widen throughout the day.  Baby’s first nap is on the lower end of the wake time, and generally the easiest nap to put baby down for.  Whereas, the last wake time before night may be on the higher end of the wake time window, unless baby is showing tired cues listed above.

For example, if your baby’s wake time window is 45 mins to 60 mins, baby’s first nap will be 45 mins after last wake up, and the last nap or bedtime will be 60 mins. from last wake up.

For night sleep, follow the wake time from your child’s last nap.  The earlier to bed, the better, according to famed baby sleep expert, Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

If you have a preferred bedtime in mind, it’s okay to wake your baby up from their last nap, in order to hit that last wake time window correctly for bed.

Letting them sleep long for that last nap could result in a much later bedtime, but doesn’t mean they are going to sleep-in the next morning.  This lack of sleep results in less brain activity and development for your baby, and less time you may get at night to unwind by yourself or with your significant other.

Example of How to Put a Baby to Sleep Using Wake Times

Here is an example of how I apply wake times to my 6 month old’s schedule.

Example of My 6 Month Old’s Schedule Using Proper Wake Times
Sleep Wake Times
Wake Up for Day 7:00 AM
First Nap 8:45 AM
First Nap Wake Up 10:00 AM
Second Nap 12:00 PM
Second Nap Wake Up 2:00 PM
Third Nap 4:00 PM
End Third Nap 4:45 PM
Bed Time for Night 6:30 PM

Learning How to Put a Baby to Sleep Changes Your Life… For Better or Worse

So, will you feel like you’re always putting your baby to bed?  Yes!

Will this issue resolve itself overnight?  No!  Wake times and rituals take time and dedication.  As a parent, you must be patient whilst remaining persistent.  I dedicated a week to focus on naps and bedtime in order to condition my child.  In the long run, it paid off, but I didn’t do much outside of the house during that duration.

Will it also feel stressful rushing through errands in those first few months to make a wake time window? Uh huh.

Will older generations make fun of you saying things like “He’s going to bed AGAIN?”  “It’s it too early for sleep!”  “He isn’t crying yet, though!” Probably, as I experienced all of these comments over Christmas break with my family members.

But, will you also have a joyful baby and more personal time… OF COURSE!

So screw off Grandma, my baby is going to sleep whether you like it or not.

Now, it takes 10 minutes to put my baby to sleep.  He falls asleep on his own, no rocking or nursing to sleep required. My baby is also happier and more well rested.  One of the best changes- my husband and I get more time to ourselves at night, since there’s no crying baby to deal with.

Wake Times in a Nutshell

Want to learn how to put a baby to sleep that’s super easy to apply… just watch the clock!  It’s important to follow your baby’s proper wake times to avoid an overtired or under tired child that won’t sleep!  Paired with a sleep routine, patience, and consistency, your baby can be on the road to more shut eye and you on the road to more me time!