I was always told to never wake a sleeping baby, but when I had my son I always woke him up. He consistently slept through the night from week 7 and one of the reasons why, I think, is because I never let him sleep more than two hours at a time by day. I also always woke him if I wanted him to be up! I have no idea if that’s what you’re supposed to do or not, but when I signed up for a music class, for example, I wasn’t going to have him sleep through it. This is clearly not for everyone, but it worked for my son and I.
But what do the experts say?
“Waking your baby’ might be three words you never thought should belong together – for most instances you are probably right in thinking this, however there are some occasions where waking your child is actually beneficial for their sleeping patterns in the long run,” says WeeSleep’s founder from CEO Janey Reilly.
Let’s take a look at five instances where it’s necessary to wake a sleeping child, as outlined by Reilly.
Your newborn has their days and nights mixed up
“It takes a good few months after your baby is born for them to settle into their circadian rhythm – also known as the sleep/wake cycle. This is their body’s way of telling them when it’s day and night. As they’ve been in the womb for a while they don’t actually know the difference between day and night and will often get the two mixed up causing restless nights and sleepy days. One of the best ways to get this cycle engrained is to monitor their nap times more closely to help them adjust.
Newborns will need regular naps and feeding, but try to shorten these naps slightly during the daytime and lengthen these naps during the nighttime. This could mean you need to wake them up gently if they are sleeping for too long during the day. Other tips are to make sure they’re in daylight when they are in their wake stage of the cycle, this will help them associate the light with daytime/waketime.”
Your newborn hasn’t fed in four or more hours
“In the newborn stage, they will need regular feed times in order to keep weight gain and provide them with the nutrients they need. In this case, if they are sleeping too long it’s good to wake them and provide a feed. It’s best to consult your doctor about how they are tracking their weight gain and if they need more feeding. Generally in the first six weeks, babies will need feeding every four or so hours. After the six week period, it usually increases to 5 or more depending on how well your baby is gaining weight.”
They’ve fallen asleep somewhere unsafe
“Maybe they’ve fallen asleep in a funny position that restricts their breathing or have fallen asleep on top of a toy. It’s best to wake them and reposition. They’ll have the best and safest sleep on their backs, with a clear space around them. Once all the hazards are out of the way they can have a good rest in a safe position. It’s also great for them to associate bed with sleeping, say if you have a toddler that has taken to falling asleep on the couch try and get them to move to their bed when they are ready to sleep or nap.”
Their naps are too long
“When they’re past the newborn stage and have settled into a circadian rhythm children can still naturally nap for too long during the day. When they sleep for too long in the day, you’ll find they have difficulty falling asleep at night.
Determining if a child is getting too much daytime sleep can be tricky and often parents cut a nap short when they really don’t have to. After determining if your child may be sleeping too much during the day, you may want to look at capping naps. Its not something we have to do often as we typically encourage daytime sleep but there are certain times where a little one may be sleeping a wee bit too much during the day causing issues with the night sleep.
There can be many other reasons that they aren’t sleeping well but looking at their nap times can be a good place to start. You still want to roughly be hitting the recommended nap time for their age bracket to ensure they are getting enough overall sleep.”
“Having a schedule of naps throughout the day helps with setting a good sleep routine with your baby. Making sure these naps are at a similar time each day will enforce when they should be sleeping and when they should be awake. You might need to wake your child in this instance if the timing is going to overlap with the next nap or get too close to bedtime. You want to make sure their naps aren’t too close to the nighttime sleep as they won’t be tired enough to actually fall asleep.
While in most cases you are trying to get your child to sleep, these instances above shed light on times when waking a child can actually be helpful to their sleep schedule. Along with having a good bedtime routine, good nap times, a dark quiet space to sleep combined with these tips above, you should be on your way to developing good sleep habits. Of course, every child is different and consulting with professionals is the best way forwards to developing good sleep habits.”