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Should You Really Never Wake A Sleeping Baby?

Does it really matter if your little one’s afternoon nap lasts past four in the afternoon? Do you have to wake a newborn to feed them? These are just some of the questions new parents often have when it comes to babies and their sleep. And whether it’s from dotting grandparents or from your neighbour down the street, you’ll undoubtedly hear at some point “never wake a sleeping baby”! So, what are new parents to do?

We’ll be the first to tell you that prioritizing sleep is important. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you abandon everything and let your little one sleep whenever and wherever they want. Just as you work to ensure a safe sleeping environment, sometimes you’ll need to intervene to support your baby’s overall sleep.

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When Waking Baby Makes Sense

It’s more common for new parents to worry that their baby isn’t getting enough sleep, but getting too much sleep can also be a concern too. As such, intervening to help your baby thrive and help them build a strong sleep foundation can be the best solution in some cases.

Here are three instances where waking your baby may be the right thing to do.

1 – Helping your baby figure out their days and nights.

In their first few days, your little one may be more alert throughout the night and be sleeping their longest stretches during the day. While it’s very normal for a newborn to have their days and nights confused, this is one instance where waking them up throughout the day can help them better settle into day and night sleep patterns.

2 – Feeding your newborn.

In most cases, feeding a newborn every three hours in their first few days is recommended. It’s important for newborns to get back to their initial birth weight and to keep gaining weight at a steady pace. Letting them sleep through feeds can make it harder for them to get in all the calories they need. As such, it may be necessary for you to wake your little one throughout the day to support their recommended feeding schedule.

3 – To support their sleep schedule.

Around four to six months of age, your baby’s circadian rhythm will start to develop and you will likely begin to see a more predictable sleep schedule or sleep patterns. As their sleep naturally begins to consolidate, you’ll want to do what you can to support their sleep needs and maintain an age appropriate sleep schedule. For example, waking them to cap their morning nap helps protect that afternoon nap. For babies who still take a third cat nap in the evening, waking them after 30-40 minutes will help protect that early bedtime.

Napping too long during the day can lead to poor sleep at night. Once your little one is five months of age or older, be prepared to wake them from a nap if it runs longer than two hours. Overall, their daytime sleep should be kept to four hours or less so that you can still get in a healthy 10-12 hours of night time sleep.

Supporting Your Baby’s Sleep Needs

Babies change a great deal in their first year of life, and this fact applies to their sleep needs as well. Just as you adjust their nutritional needs and their development needs in the first 12 months, you’ll need to adjust their sleep needs too. Sometimes you may need to wake them to protect that night time sleep, other times, if they are fighting a cold, an extra-long nap may be just the thing to help. However, by aiming to maintain and support a regular and balanced sleep schedule most of the time, your little one will get the sleep they need, helping your whole family thrive.

Alanna McGinn
Alanna McGinn
Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Expert of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She is host of the ‘This Girl Loves Sleep’ Podcast and author of ‘This Baby Loves Sleep’. Alanna has established the world-wide brand of Good Night Sleep Site as being a #1 sleep resource for families and her and her team of sleep consultants strive in helping families (baby to adults) and corporations overcome their sleep challenges and have well-rested smiles in the morning. You can find out more about Alanna McGinn and how to work with a Good Night Sleep Consultant at www.goodnightsleepsite.com and follow Alanna and all her sleep tips on Instagram - @GNSleepSite.
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