Whoever came up with the phrase “you should never wake a sleeping baby” really made my job a little harder.
It sounds so unnatural! Why would you ever want to wake a sleeping baby? Sleep is good for babies! Right? Plus a sleeping baby gives you hard-working parents a little downtime (to clean, nap, check Facebook, or insert whatever you like to do.) A napping baby is a win-win!
All of the above is true but there are indeed times when it makes complete sense to wake a sleeping baby.
Here are 4 good reasons:
Reason #1: To feed a newborn
Flashback to your time in the hospital just after giving birth to your bundle of joy. Remember the nurses in the hospital that said that the baby needed to eat every 3 hours and would wake you and your baby up so that she can have a feed? As long as your baby is growing, many pediatricians tell you that you don’t need to wake a sleeping baby after a couple weeks old, or at least once they bounced back to their initial birth weight. But, in those early days, many a baby have been woken for a feed during the day and night. Bring on the baby weight!
Reason #2: A newborn has day and night confusion
This is the first sleep challenge that many parents experience – a baby that is sleeping during the day and partying during the night! The quickest fix is to make sure that days are action packed with bright lights and background noise while keeping the nights dark, dull and quiet. Usually by the first couple weeks of life, this sleep challenge in resolved.
Reason #3: When your baby is on a sleep schedule
After the 4 Month Sleep Regression, sleep begins to consolidate and you may start to see sleep forming a rhythm. If naps are like clockwork for you and bedtime is a breeze, you are on a great sleep schedule! And to maintain that sleep schedule, you will want to keep naps within a certain range, especially when solidly on 3 or 2 naps. For example:
- you might find that a nap shouldn’t be longer than 1.5 hours for the second nap to occur on time
- to help naps form you may have darkened your baby’s room (using these blackout shades). Good news is that your baby’s naps are going long…maybe even too long.
- you may also find that the duration of a third cat nap is right around 30 to 40 minutes to get the right bedtime
- When you are on a solid 2 nap schedule and hovering around 13 months, you may need to cap the first nap at 1 or 1.5 hours or to get a good second nap
Reason #4: When naps are interfering with bedtime
Napping all day and not sleeping at night is no fun for anyone! There is absolutely a correlation between napping too long during the day and not sleeping enough at night, which can be uncovered creating a sleep log. A good rule of thumb after 5 months (if you are having sleep challenges) is to have a nap no longer than 2 hours and aim to have about 4 hours or less in total naps throughout the day while aiming to have 10-12 hours of overnight sleep.
How Can I Gently Wake My Baby Up?
Some babies wake up like a bear, others have no problem. Depending on how your child acts when they wake up, depends on how I suggest that you wake them. But, the best bet is to wake any baby as slowly and gently as possible. (I do not suggest door slamming or loud drumming!)
- Walk by their room a few times (even try stomping to see if that will do the trick)
- Open the door
- Gently massage your baby’s back
- Turn on the lights in the room or open the shades, but do not stay in the room
- Turn on music through your monitor or white noise machine
- Gently speak through the monitor
Once you actually wake your baby, it’s best to let her wake up on her own by giving her some space and quiet time. If she starts complaining, quickly get her and soothe her while she continues to wake up.
If you are consistently waking your baby up and she seems upset and groggy and other sleep concerns don’t go away, you may be better off trying a different strategy that does not involve waking your baby (ie: earlier bedtime or focusing or on age appropriate nap times).
Times when it’s completely OK to throw sleep rules out the window and you don’t need to worry about waking your baby!
1) Your baby is easy! It’s cool, you can admit it – Your 20 month old can have a 3+ hour nap and will still have no issues falling asleep for the same 11 to 12 hours overnight. Most of the people reading this are not in that boat so that’s why I suggest waking your baby to keep things on track. But, if you fall into the easy and flexible baby club, that’s OK, keep doing what you’re doing!
2) You have a sick baby! Sleep rules can go out the window when you have a little sicky! Your goal should be to keep your baby comfortable and well rested while not completely undoing all the awesome sleep work that you have achieved pre-sickness. It’s not uncommon for your baby to sleep more while their sickness kicks their system.
So, enjoy the down time while your baby is napping. But, when you’re in doubt, and your baby is sleeping too long, go ahead and try waking him and see how it works for you both. Then and only then, can you fully understand that “you should never wake a sleeping baby” is a myth!