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Never Wake a Sleeping Baby: Myth or Truth?

After posting this on my Instagram page as a quick Myth Monday post, I realized that this topic needed a bit more space.

A common turn of phrase we hear as parents is ‘Never wake a sleeping baby.’ I actually agree with this phrase in most instances, but I do have some rare times I would recommend waking your child…

Before we dive into the times you would wake your child, let’s go over some common recommendations for waking your child and why I would actually advise AGAINST waking them.

Dream Feeds: Dream Feeds are a time in which you would put your child to sleep, then before you go to bed. The goal here is that you are getting out in front of that next feed and hoping for a longer stretch of sleep. I totally understand why parents do this- I did it at one point- but I would highly recommend skipping the dream feed and here’s why:

Your child’s most crucial, developmental sleep occurs between their bedtime and midnight. This is where we see your child’s non-REM sleep, the deep sleep without dreaming. This type of sleep is where your child is literally developing, growing, and changing. When you take your child out of their crib, jostle them enough to get them to feed, and then put them back down- you will be disrupting that crucial sleep. You may be able to do this feed without ‘waking’ your child but no matter what, your child’s sleep is being disturbed.

I would highly recommend protecting this early evening sleep and working towards any and all feeds happening after midnight to preserve this time.

No Naps Over 2 hours: There are many recommendations for not letting your child nap for over two hours; however, I would say- let them sleep! What you will find is that you wake your child at the 2 hour mark and they are crabby and not ready to get up when if you had left them that extra 15-30 minutes, they would wake independently and ready to move on with their day.

If you are following a biological rhythm schedule, aka naps at set times, just put your child down for their next nap at the same time. Don’t worry if they haven’t been up ‘long enough’- they needed that extra sleep and their sleep rhythms will carry them into that next nap.

Now here are some reasons I would actually recommend waking your baby:

Waking for the Day: Most children thrive on waking for the day at the same time everyday. This sets them up to follow their biological rhythms and fall easily into step with their naps.

I would recommend your child wakes for the day sometime between 6-7am. So if your child is still sleeping at 7am, wake them up! Get a good start to the day and fall into those lovely rhythms.

Nap Transitions: If you are starting to gather that your child is ready for a nap transition, then this could be another time to wake your child up. This will make nap transitions smoother and help you hold onto the naps until your child is truly ready,

For example, if your child is transitioning from 2 naps to 1 nap. If you start to notice their afternoon nap getting shorter, then you may want to consider capping their morning nap. Since their afternoon nap is the one we want to be left with after the transition, we would slowly cap that morning nap to preserve the length of the afternoon nap. This capping process could take several weeks and increase by 15 minutes at a time until you’re ready to get rid of the 1st nap altogether.

Newborn Feeding: Newborns eat, and they eat very OFTEN. During the day, you may be feeding your newborn every 3 hours, and you want to protect that schedule to make sure your baby is eating enough. So if your newborn is taking a long nap and approaching their feeding time, then wake them up! Feed them. They may be ready to go straight back to sleep, but at least you know they go the feed they needed.

If you’re wondering how often you should be feeding your newborn, I would highly recommend consulting your pediatrician or LBLC for more guidance.

Nighttime Wakes: In SOME cases, the amount of daytime sleep could be affecting your child’s nighttime sleep. This is NOT common and should not be your first assumption if your child is waking over night. If you have made sure your child is on an appropriate schedule, eating well, and being offered ENOUGH sleep, this could be a reasonable thing to consider.

If you’re thinking this may be the case- reach out to me- we don’t want to cause any overtired babies!

So should you ‘never wake a sleeping baby’? No. But you shouldn’t wake them unless you REALLY have to. Let that baby sleep! And don’t forget, sleep begets sleep. If they need the sleep, they will take the sleep.



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