Sleeping is all babies do, and there’s a good reason for it: they’re growing and developing. In fact, a newborn would spend about 16 hours per day sleeping. 

Sleep is vital for their physical and psychological growth. On the plus side, the human growth hormone is released while they’re zzz. 

So, in most cases, the answer to the question “should you wake a sleeping baby?” is no.

But it turns out that there are some instances when it makes sense to wake a sleeping baby. Here are five of those instances:

When your baby hasn’t eaten in a few hours

Newborn babies usually eat every one to three hours or 8 to 12 times every 24 hours. Frequent feeding is important for newborns as this gives them practice at sucking at swallowing. On the plus side, feedings are also crucial for gaining weight. 

As your baby develops, the time between feedings will start to get longer. On average, most exclusively breastfed babies will feed about every 2 to 4 hours. So, once your baby reaches a healthy weight and is feeding, peeing, and pooping regularly, she can sleep in for long stretches of time. You don’t have to worry about waking her up to feed as she’ll wake up herself when she starts feeling hungry. 

When your baby is dealing with day and night confusion

Day and night confusion in newborns is nothing uncommon. Your baby’s circadian rhythm is imbalanced and still not yet fully developed. In the first few weeks, babies live in a world of light and dark that’s completely opposite from what they were used to. 

As a result, your baby may sleep for long hours during the day and struggle to stay asleep at night. 

This can leave your baby feeling confused about when it’s time for sleep and when’s time for playing around. 

So, to help your little one understand the difference between day and night, you have to make sure she’s awake for a few hours during the day. Being awake during the day will help develop her internal clock and adjust to life outside of the womb. 

Limit day naps to two hours and keep her awake for at least 30 minutes to an hour after each nap to help reset her clock. 

When her naps are interfering with her nighttime sleep

You have to be mindful of your child’s awake time. Your little one should get sufficient awake time during the day so that she’s tired enough to go to sleep and stay asleep during the night. If she’s taking long naps or naps too close to bedtime, she may be tired enough to go to sleep but not enough to stay asleep for longer hours.

Don’t feel bad waking your baby during the day just because she’s sleeping terribly at night. Letting her take long naps will only reinforce the sleeping problem you have during the night. 

Instead, focus on solving her nighttime sleeping problem and then keep her day naps adequately balanced. As a general rule of thumb, your baby’s total day naps should not exceed three hours unless she’s still a newborn. 

When you’re in the middle of a nap transition

For most babies, the 3 to 2 nap transition happens when they’re between 6 and 9 months of age. Some children who have developed independent sleep skills and take long naps of about 1.5-2 hours may lose this nap earlier.

When making the 3 to 2 nap transition, you have to be mindful of your child’s awake time. Your little one should get sufficient awake time during the day so that she’s tired enough to go to sleep and stay asleep during the night. If she’s taking long naps or naps too close to bedtime, she may be tired of going to sleep but not staying asleep for longer hours. Her day naps shouldn’t be longer than 1.5 hours for the second nap to occur on time. 

The 2 to 1 nap transition usually occurs when the baby is between 12 and 24 months. At this age, toddlers need between 1.5 – 3 hours of nap time per day and 11-12 hours of total nighttime sleep.  

When your baby is sleeping in an unsafe manner

Although your baby might be a tummy sleeper, the safest position for her, especially during her first year, is when she sleeps on her back. Studies show that the risk of SIDS is greater when the baby sleeps on her tummy, but researchers aren’t entirely certain why.

One possibility is that the cause for SIDS is upper airway obstruction that can happen when an infant breathes his/her own exhaled breath. Back-sleeping is a safer option as it increases a baby’s access to fresh air and makes him/her less likely to get overheated.

With that being said, if you see your little one sleeping on her stomach during her naps or at night, make sure you switch her to sleep on her back. Babies can’t roll over or sit up on their own, which is why it’s important to always put them in the “back-sleeper” position when they’re asleep.

You can also help your baby by giving gentle nudges until she flips over on her back again. It’s also important to never shake a sleeping baby because it can be dangerous and lead to serious injuries like broken bones or shaken baby syndrome.

You shouldn’t worry about your baby sleeping on her stomach once she starts flipping over on her own. Once babies start flipping over on their own, that means that their brains are mature enough to alert them to breathing dangers. 

Final word

Let’s recap!

The five instances when waking up a sleeping baby are:

  1. When your baby needs to eat
  2. When you’re trying to fix day and night confusion
  3. When your baby’s naps are interfering with nighttime sleep
  4. When you’re in the middle of a nap transition
  5. When your baby is sleeping in an unsafe manner

If you feel like you’re not making some good progress with sleep training your baby, consider hiring a sleep consultant to take an in-depth look at your baby’s sleep history and help you with this. An experienced sleep trainer can make the process easier for both the parent and the child. Connect with us today and get a personalized plan for your baby. We’ll be there to guide you every step of the way.