Top 8 reasons why you might want to wake a sleeping baby

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The age-old adage, “Never wake a sleeping baby,” is one all parents are told (and often!), but is it accurate? It seems logical to let them sleep, especially when your newborn is snoozing peacefully and you get one of those rare quiet moments.

However, in truth, there are instances when waking your baby will not only be necessary but beneficial. While seemingly counterintuitive, understanding the reasons behind waking your baby can help you make informed decisions about their well-being.

Let’s dive right into the reasons when and why waking your sleeping baby can be the right choice.

Here are 10 reasons why you should wake a sleeping baby to support their growth, promote better sleep, and aid their overall health: 

1. Regulate day and night sleep patterns

Newborns can’t distinguish between night and day as their circadian rhythm (internal clock) only develops around month five or six. This can be a challenge for parents as your baby might wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake!

One thing you can do to help the development of their circadian rhythm is to ensure they don’t oversleep during the day. Most newborns nap four to five times a day with 30-minute to 2.5-hour wake windows. 

Sticking to a schedule can help develop their internal clock or, in other words, associate night with sleep and daytime with wakefulness. As a result, you may need to wake your little one if they are oversleeping.

2. Preventing long naps

Understandably, if your baby oversleeps during the day, they will have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep at night. In other words, they will likely wake up more often at night or in the wee hours of the morning. This can be very hard on parents and prevent your little one from settling into an established sleep routine.

To prevent this, you might need to wake your slumbering baby from naps if they are exceeding the recommended time frame. Here is a guide on the ideal nap durations for your little one during year one.

3. Preventing late-afternoon naps

Most doctors recommend a 7 or 8 pm bedtime for babies. However, if your baby’s nap runs late (say, it’s 5 pm and baby is still snoozing), you may consider waking them so that the nap does not interfere with their nighttime sleep. Your baby will need to be awake and active to become adequately sleepy for bedtime.

4. Feeding

Babies sleep a lot, and because their tummies are so tiny, they also need to eat a lot more frequently. To grow at a healthy rate, newborns need to be fed anywhere between every 90 minutes to three hours.

If your baby is oversleeping, they might not get adequate nutrition, so it would be better for you to wake them up. However, it is best to consult your doctor first. If your baby maintains their growth curve, your doctor might recommend letting them sleep. Here is a baby feeding chart for year one for a complete guide on how often you should feed your baby.

5. To maintain their sleep schedule

Babies go through sleep regressions at various stages of development, these regressions are a sudden disruption in their otherwise normal sleep patterns. Sleep regressions are quite hard on your baby and you and can be brought on by several factors including but not limited to dropping a nap. If you’re trying to drop a nap, you might need to wake your baby to maintain their schedule.

6. Diaper changes

Usually, you would not wake your baby to change their diaper. But, if your baby has a severe diaper rash that needs to be cleaned, it may be a good idea to wake them. You should consult your pediatrician on the severity of the rash and whether or not waking your baby is needed.

7. Illness

Like for adults, If your little one is unwell, sleep can help with recovery. It is usually okay to let them sleep a bit longer than usual but no more than three hours during naptime or an hour after bedtime. Waking them to feed when unwell will ensure they are adequately nourished and hydrated.

For instance, Jaundice is a common illness, affecting six out of ten newborns. It is often not a cause for concern and goes away in a few weeks. However, it tends to make babies sleepy and less energetic when it comes to feeding. If your baby has jaundice it is recommended to wake them to feed every two to three hours.

8. To play

Newborn naps could range from 20 minutes to two hours, depending on your baby’s needs. If your baby’s naps are exceeding the recommended limit and they aren’t unwell, you should probably wake them up. While playing with a newborn is not the same as playing with a toddler, they still require awake time and activity to sleep restfully at night. 

Baby sleep is often complex and challenging to navigate, even more so when you’re being told not to wake your baby. However, as outlined above, there are several beneficial reasons why waking your baby might be necessary.

In saying that, not every baby is the same and what works for one might not work for another. Remember to always consult your doctor before adjusting your baby’s sleep schedule to ensure it caters to their overall health and fosters better sleep for them and your family.

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