You may have heard it said on many occasions that you should never wake a sleeping baby and on the whole, I would tend to agree that if you have managed to get your child to sleep, then let them be. However, there are a few exceptions that I will always suggest:
In the morning:
- I always recommend that you wake your child no later than 07:30 am, to press start on the day. Even if you have all had very little sleep overnight, waking your baby at 07:30 am to start the day has a superb regulating impact on your child’s biological clock and this awakening can help to anchor the day for feeds and for subsequent naps and bedtime. Somehow, waking even just a little after 07:30 am does not have the same positive impact on your child’s sleeping pattern. Although it can be difficult, especially if you are all exhausted, the sleep gains are immeasurable. This regular wake time can really help establish better overall sleep and should not be underestimated. Another point to note is that when you wake your baby, then get up and start the day by exposing your child to bright natural light and commencing your feeds for the day.
For your first nap
- Typically, I suggest that you limit the first nap of the day to not longer than 1.5 hours and would advise that you wake your baby then also. Many of you can only dream of a nap longer than 45 minutes and that can be unfortunate, but if your child is inclined to sleep long on the first nap, snip it at 1.5 hours, in order to preserve the balance of the rest of the day’s sleep, especially if you are having sleep difficulties. There is routinely a power play between the first and the second nap and I would place more emphasis on the second sleep, as that has the function of helping to ensure that your child is not overtired before bedtime which will leave you less vulnerable to nighttime activity. I would even limit the first nap further if the second nap tends to be less than 1 hour and I would do this in an effort to promote nap 2 to a greater position of strength, bearing in mind that when your child eventually transitions to just 1 nap, it is the second nap that remains. If your child is older than 12months then it may be necessary to waken your child after 1 hour on the first sleep to create this balance.
To Keep Your Day Feeds
- Although many children will require nighttime feeds for some time from birth, it will be necessary to ensure that your child is getting enough to eat and drink during the day as you move towards a time when night feeds will not be biologically required. I would encourage that you wake your baby if they are due a daytime feed and be sure not to miss a feed time in preference to sleep. If your baby is going to do a big, long stretch you will want that ideally to be overnight and they will not be able to achieve this if they are missing day time calories. So, here I would wake to keep your due feeds in place.
At the end of the day
- It can be a good idea to ensure that your 4-8month old does not sleep past 4.30-5pm and that your 8m-18m child does not sleep beyond 3.30pm and from 18m+ daytime sleep might be finished by 3pm. I would recommend that your baby is woken in these instances, not in an effort to limit daytime sleep, but to regulate it and to ensure that bedtime is a smooth operation. If your child, based on their age, requires up to 2 hours sleep at this time, then it will be necessary for you to ensure that the nap starts in time to more or less allow for it. Napping slightly too late can have pernicious implications for your child’s ability to go to sleep with ease. In the younger age range, even 10 minutes after 5pm can make bedtime a stressful event, so there is a strong case for these waking suggestions. Napping too late in the day can sometimes have no impact on bedtime, but you may find that your child wakes frequently overnight as a result of being asleep during the day at the wrong time for their body. So, whilst it is sleep and it counts, the quality of the sleep may be impaired.
These suggestions are mostly helpful if your child is experiencing sleep difficulties that may be represented by challenging bedtimes and frequent nighttime activity outside of necessary nighttime feeds. If your baby sleeps well for you and you do not observe the above advice then that is perfectly fine too, do not try to adjust your child’s sleeping patterns if everything works and suits the family unit. However, if you find bedtime or daytime sleep is a challenge then waking your sleeping baby as outlined can really help everyone get more sleep.