6 Reasons to Wake a Sleeping Baby

Nothing on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The contents of this website are for informational purposes only.

You may have heard the old myth, “don’t wake a sleeping baby.” Well, we’re here to tell you to wake that munchkin up. It’s wise to do so gently. However, regardless, there are times when it’s necessary to regulate your little one’s routine.

Babies need a tremendous amount of sleep; however, they also need a schedule and to feel well-rested. Just like adults, tots can oversleep and feel thrown off as a result. Since they can’t regulate themselves, it’s important to monitor their slumber habits for them so they can feel their best.

Top Reasons to Wake a Sleepy Baby Up

There are a few reasons to rouse your snoozing babe, one being safety. If you find they've fallen asleep during tummy time and are sleeping on their stomachs, it’s critical to ensure they’re safe and move them to their back, which may wake them up.

Another reason is if they’re sleeping too long. Our little ones need a lot of sleep to grow, but too much can mess up their internal rhythm. Particularly while they’re still developing their circadian rhythm (the function in our brains which tells our body when it’s night and day), it’s wise to keep their schedules on track.

Further, keeping munchkins on a schedule in regards to rest can help in other aspects of their lives, like naps and daylight savings time adjustments. Below, we’ll detail when it’s crucial to wake a baby.

illustration of baby's toes sticking out from footed pajamas

Safety

In order to prevent SIDS, it’s essential to make sure your child is snoozing in a safe position. According to the AAP, they should doze on their backs on a firm surface. Once your little one can roll from tummy to back on their own, you can leave them to sleep on their stomachs if they get themselves into that position, but always place them on their back when they are initially put down for bed.

Circadian Rhythm Adjustment

Encouraging the development of a child’s circadian rhythm is important for developing a healthy sleep routine. Your circadian rhythm is the function in your brain that tells your body when it’s day and night, without which, you would struggle to be sleepy when it’s dark and awake when it’s light.

When our tiny angels are born, they haven’t yet developed this skill, so it’ll take some time before they settle into a routine, and they need our help to do so. Additionally, since newborns are so tiny and are growing at a rapid pace, they need to be fed frequently—and the same goes for sleep. This is why infants sleep and eat so much and at such a sporadic rate.

If your little one is sleeping long spurts in the day but only short periods at night, it might be time to switch things up. Instead of getting the deep rest that they need at night, they are getting it in the day. Wake them up after two hours in the daytime to get them on the right track.

Nap Management

We can all oversleep sometimes, and it can significantly throw off our days as a result. When it comes to our tots, this is an even greater reality. Sleeping too long can throw a wrench in the rest of your day and result in your newborn not being able to relax when bedtime comes around because they’re too rested as a result.

Be sure that daytime naps are no longer than two or two-and-a-half hours each, with the exception being once your baby is down to one daytime nap (then they can nap as long as they want as long as it doesn’t interfere with bedtime).

Keep a Healthy Nap Schedule

Feeding

When your baby is newly born, they’ll need to eat quite often—every two to three hours. Their bodies are small and will be rapidly growing. As a result, they will digest their food quickly and need more sustenance to fill their tiny stomach.

Newborns should be woken up every three-ish hours, even at night, until your pediatrician confirms that they are gaining weight well. After they okay it, your baby will likely wake themselves once they are hungry, so you can let them sleep for longer stretches if they want to.

If they are having trouble waking up enough to feed, remove a layer of clothing, change their diaper, or try some skin-to-skin. Consult your pediatrician if you are regularly having difficulty waking your newborn for feedings. An extremely sleepy infant can be signs of possible medical problems, and it’s always wise to check in with your doctor.

Long Napping

If your little one has gotten in the habit of taking long naps and it’s affecting their ability to go to sleep at night, you might need to wake them up. Naturally, babies require a lot of sleep, but too much can be just as bad as too little if not appropriately managed.

Transition

Many little ones transition to one nap a day around the 18-month mark. However, not all tots are the same, and some may need extra time to make this shift. However, if your child attends day-care, they may not have a choice. If this is the case, don’t worry, most do just fine anyways.

However, if you can offer them the choice, some kiddos will appreciate more time to transition to one nap. Many munchkins will begin to walk when they are around a year old, and this will require heaps of energy. If adults suddenly start doing more cardio, they’ll probably be exhausted too.

If you notice your little one taking these developmental leaps, they will likely need to stick with two naps if that’s an option. Exerting lots of energy can be trying for your munchkin, and having some extra zzz’s can alleviate their exhaustion.

Maintaining Sleep Schedule

Sticking with a schedule can help in a big way when it comes to slumber routines for children. Waking them up before their schedule gets thrown off is crucial to maintaining your routine. Letting your child know through repetition what to expect each day will allow them to minimize stress, and feel secure and relaxed in their daily activities.

A general routine can help with nighttime in that stability allows kids to calm themselves more easily and self-soothe to rest without as much hassle. Even for parents, having a plan or schedule can help mitigate anxiety and manage expectations while juggling kiddos alongside a career, family, and general life obligations.

Additionally, keeping with a routine will help when slumber setbacks hit when your kid encounters a sleep regression. When they experience a massive growth spurt, their sleep patterns might take a hit for a few days, and the ability to stick with a schedule can minimize disruption, making these challenging periods significantly less stressful.

mother wakes up baby according to schedule illustration

Long Nighttime Awakenings

Letting young children nap too long can also lead to longer nighttime awakenings. Unfortunately, when this happens, it’s often parents who are more put out than the youngster, as they typically have to be the ones who soothe them back to sleep.

These long periods of middle of the night awakenings happen because the child could have gotten so much rest during the day that they have an abundance of energy at night, and then they’re unable to go to bed.

Times When You Should Let Your Baby Sleep More Than Usual

Some youngsters are simply good sleepers and don’t need as much parental regulation. These types are often mild-tempered, “easy” babies. However, this isn’t always true. Every child is different, and you’ll just notice by trial and error.

They Have No Issues Falling Asleep at Bedtime

If your tot is a “good sleeper” and does not typically have a difficult time falling asleep when it’s naptime or nightfall, it’s usually okay to let these types sleep as they need. If your six-month-old can take a three-hour snooze during the day and still close their eyes with ease when dark rolls around, you’re probably good to let them snore as they please.

Baby Isn't Well

If your kiddo is sick, they’ll need all the rest they can get. This is a time when it’s essential to give your tot as much care, attention, and snuggles as they can take. When your little one is under the weather, they’ll may need additional zzz’s and nutrition to overcome their health slump.

Additionally, they may need extra emotional support. Your munchkin might be more cuddly or clingy as a result of their physical ailment.

How to Wake My Baby Up Gently

When gently rousing your youngster, it’s wise to keep in mind how you would like to wake up. Startling them by picking them up without warning might give them a bit of a jolt, scaring them into a panic.

Some good ways to go about this are rubbing their back gently, warming them up slowly to your presence. Additionally, you can open the shades a bit or flip on a light but leave the room, so they have some time to open their eyes before being stimulated. You can also speak softly through the monitor (here are some great options) and let them awaken to the sound of your voice.

If you are using a white-noise machine to help your baby sleep, turning it off will probably wake them, as well. The constant lull helps them sleep well, and once it is stopped, your babe will probably notice right away. Otherwise, try opening the door where light is coming through so that their eyes can take some time to adjust.

white noise machine for babies

FAQ

When should I wake my baby in the morning?

Typically, most babies will wake up between 6 AM and 7 AM. While it’s not critical that they fit within this time frame, you just need to make sure they’re getting an adequate amount of sleep for their age.

What is the ideal number of naps per age?

Most children need two naps until they’re at least one year old, and then they can transition to one nap a day. However, many tots appreciate two until they’re about fifteen months. But not everyone has the luxury of being home with their kids to let them sleep, and most munchkins will still be just fine with one.

Join Better Sleep Community

Have you joined our Facebook group?
Come ask questions in our awesome community that stretches around the globe. Build connections and make friends with folks just like you trying to sleep better.

JOIN BETTER SLEEP NOW ›

Conclusion

Figuring out your tot’s sleeping habits and molding them into a stable routine isn’t easy. However, with a few handy resources, you’ll be well on your way, and it’s never a shame to call for reinforcements if you need a break.

While infants aren’t a walk in the park, it’s a rewarding job. We’re confident that in keeping our nifty tricks up your sleeve, you’ll have your baby, sleeping like—well—a baby, in no time.

More Reading:

Sleep Advisor