Baby Getting Too Much Sleep? When You Should Wake a Sleeping BabyApr 26, 2022
Have you ever heard the phrase, “never wake a sleeping baby?” There seems to be a lot of varying opinions on this topic, leaving parents confused about whether they should or shouldn’t wake a sleeping baby in order to get their baby the most restorative rest possible. When I am asked this question, I firstly recommend following your gut.
In general, I say we should let our babies sleep because they probably need the rest! With that being said, if you believe there is a larger benefit to waking your baby than letting them sleep, then that’s what you should do. This is not a data-backed theory, but from my experiences after working with clients (and my own kids) over the years, this is just my opinion of what works!
However, there are two instances that I do believe it is important to wake a sleeping baby:
When You Should Wake Your Baby From a Nap or in the Night
1. Is Your Baby’s Nap Going to Interfere With Bedtime?
If your baby is taking a long nap, then chances are that they probably need the rest. But, if your baby is on a structured nap schedule, you follow wake windows and put them to bed at a consistent time every night, then a long nap runs the possibility of throwing the rest of the day’s schedule off. An unusually long morning nap might make it impossible to squeeze in any later, and necessary, naps and force your baby to be awake for too long before bedtime. If a long afternoon nap is on track to shift bedtime to be later by more than 30-60 minutes, you may want to consider gently waking them!
2. Does Your Baby Need to Eat in the Night?
It’s true that newborns really should be eating every 2-3 hours, especially in the first few weeks when it’s critical to help them gain weight appropriately. Eating this often also helps them differentiate day and night! If your newborn is taking daytime naps that are longer than 3 hours, you may end up having a baby who’s up and ready to party all night!
Since this is the case, I’m often asked, “When can I let my newborn sleep through the night?”
Personally, I never woke my babies in the night. However, if there’s a weight concern with your little one, you’d probably want to consider waking them to make sure they’re getting enough to eat.
So really, this is a good question for a pediatrician that can help you decide what’s best for your baby’s growth and development! If you and your pediatrician have determined that there isn’t a weight concern with your newborn, let them sleep!
What about the “Dream Feed”?
If you don’t know what a dream feed is, it basically means feeding a baby who is sleeping or waking a sleeping baby just slightly to feed them in the hopes of getting a longer stretch of night sleep that’s more aligned with when the parent is going to sleep. While this seems to have become a piece of “must-do” advice for baby sleep, I actually don’t recommend it! Here’s why:
- Through experience, I have found that waking and feeding a baby who may not be hungry can strengthen a feed to sleep association, or even create one that may not have existed otherwise! I prefer to allow babies to wake on their own when they’re hungry. In fact, when babies wake on their own to eat, I often see that they naturally wean their night feeds more quickly and sleep longer stretches throughout the night when they’re ready!
- If a dream feed is implemented, there’s going to be a time when it has to be removed (just like any other sleep association!). While this isn’t impossible to do, it’s easier to not start it all together; Never starting it means never having to remove it!
- And the truth is, they’re only minimally effective, if at all, as far as getting a longer stretch of sleep out of your infant.
Keep in mind though that if your baby has a weight concern, a dream feed may be recommended to increase weight or milk supply. In that case, always follow your doctor’s recommendations!
If you do implement a dream feed and it’s working for you, that’s great! There’s nothing “wrong” with it, it’s just not a requirement for baby sleep, nor does it guarantee your baby will begin sleeping longer stretches through the night like other tools I would recommend!
How too Much Daytime Sleep Affects Nighttime Sleep
Does your baby experience split nights? Split nights are different from other night wakings; They normally consist of just one waking in the night and can last up to 2 or 3 hours. Most of the time, your child isn’t even upset or crying, they’re just...awake.
If your baby does experience split nights, it’s possible that their naps could be the culprit! For instance, if your little one is a great napper and tends to take long naps that often interfere with their set bedtime, it’s likely that they are getting too much daytime sleep, causing a nighttime disruption.
In this case, I recommend waking your baby early from their nap to ensure it doesn’t interfere with the timing of their later naps or shift their bedtime too late into the evening!
If your baby experiences split nights but is taking SHORT naps, check out this blog for some tips on how to fix it!
Or, maybe your baby isn’t experiencing split nights, but wakes up every morning between 4 and 5 a.m. and won’t fall back to sleep (cue the coffee!). These early morning wakings could also be caused by too much daytime sleep! If this is the case, it may be time to drop a nap!
Not sure when your baby should be dropping naps? Download my FREE Sleep Tips for age-appropriate nap transitions, wake windows, & more!
Understanding your baby’s needs (including when they should or shouldn’t be woken up!) takes time! It can all seem overly complicated at times, and if you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides or schedule a call with me for some personalized support.
Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!
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