5 Instances Waking a Sleeping Baby is Perfectly OK

When I was a first-time mom, I thought waking a sleeping baby is to be avoided at all costs. Babies should be allowed to sleep for as long as we can. It made sense back then because I would either catch up on sleep or do chores. 

Hence, the longer my baby sleeps, the more time I have to do what’s needed.

But my baby’s pediatrician told me it’s not always true. Yes, we should sleep when the babies sleep, but there are times we should limit their sleep duration.

Here are the instances you should wake a sleeping baby:


To Feed

Newborns lose about 10% of their weight the first few weeks of their life. The only way to help them gain more pounds is to feed them frequently.

Registered nurse, Elizabeth LaFleur, suggests about eight to twelve feedings per day. However, some babies sleep for a stretch of about three to four hours at a time. Sometimes even more. This means you can feed them only about six to eight times per day.

If this sounds like your little one, then you should wake her up to feed. Pediatric Sleep Consultant, Lucy Wolfe, suggests allotting only 1.5 hours for the first nap of the day. Others say it could be up to three hours at a time.

One way to know if you should go for 1.5 hours or 3 is observing her behavior. If she’s crabby throughout the day, you should probably take the longer stretch.

But note:

She should be at least two months old before you do this. During the first month, you can let her nap longer. But Cleveland Clinic suggests not going beyond five hours at a time.

At night time, however, you may let your baby sleep longer. This will help them distinguish daytime from nighttime. I’ll discuss more of this in the following section.

Feeding frequently and on schedule is beneficial for both you and your baby. For one, you will be able to produce more milk. Two, your baby won’t be cranky because of hunger.

According to experts, a crying baby is a late sign of hunger. So make sure you feed your baby even before she wails.

To Differentiate Day and Night

sleepy baby

Cleveland Clinic says newborns do not know the difference between day and night; hence, all these crying spells when we’re about to hit the sack.

For you to help them distinguish the two, you should wake your sleeping baby when taking a nap. (But remember to do this only when she’s at least 2 months old.)

But take note:

She should be given enough time to rest during the daytime; otherwise, you’ll have a cranky baby at night who won’t go to sleep.

Wolfe suggests 1.5 hours for each nap then snip it each time it goes beyond that. It should balance the daytime and nighttime sleep just right.

Also, you may add these:

  • Make nighttime sleep dim even during feeding. On the other hand, keep the daytime sleep ambiance as is. 

  • Do not have stimulating interactions at night when feeding. Reserve that during the day.

To Transition to One Nap

There will come a time when our little ones will nap only once a day. It usually starts after their first birthday.

This may sound less nap for you in daytime as well, but don’t worry. Transitioning to one nap per day means both of you can have an undisturbed sleep at night.

As you transition, you should learn how to let your baby nap and wake her up at the right time. Experts suggest slowly getting rid of morning naps and sticking to afternoon ones. You may prod her to nap around lunchtime, given that she’s full. Then when you wake her up, ensure there are about four to five hours before you tuck her in again at night.

For example:

If your bedtime is 8:00 PM, you have to make sure she’s awake by 3:00 PM. 

Following this routine will establish a sleep schedule, which is also beneficial for your baby’s natural body clock.

To Sleep Through the Night

sleeping baby

In relation to the previous sections, waking a sleeping baby is OK to help her sleep through the night. In fact, it is necessary.

If she’s below one year old, you should snip her nap time to 1.5 hours or three hours at a time or five hours if she’s a newborn.

If you are transitioning to one nap per day, leave a four-hour interval between nap time and bedtime.

To Ensure Safety

During the first three or four months of our precious angels, they won’t have the ability to turn themselves over. So if you see that your baby is positioned in a way not suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics (e.g. sleeping on her side), you should reposition her to what’s recommended (i.e. supine). 

Repositioning her will probably wake her up, and that’s OK.

Waking a Sleeping Baby

Waking up your baby can be challenging, though, because she could be cranky or just go right back to sleep. 

To be successful, follow these techniques from Ask Dr. Sears.

  • Feed her during the REM phase of sleep. This is the time of light sleep.

  • Hold baby upright.

  • Place your baby skin-to-skin against your tummy and breast.

  • Straighten out her body and extend her arms.

  • Stroke her palms and soles.

  • Gently rub her face with a washcloth. 


To answer “Should you wake a sleeping baby?”, I would definitely say yes. There are cases when, no matter how much we want them to sleep, we should wake them up.

These instances are 1) we need to feed them, 2) we need to help them distinguish daytime from the nighttime, 3) we need to introduce one nap a day, 4) we need to ensure they sleep throughout the night, and 5) we need to make sure they are safe.

Sarah Morgan

Chief editor of WellBeingKid.com and striving mom-extraordinaire.Let me share and inspire you with my daily struggles to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

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