There are many famous phrases that every parent has heard at one time or another. “Never wake a sleeping baby” is probably as popular as “if your baby doesn’t nap well, he’ll sleep better at night”. Even though waking a sleeping baby might feel strange, here are prime examples when waking your baby is the right thing to do:
1. Your baby is jetlagged.
If your baby’s schedule is completely off, allowing him to fall asleep for the night at 3pm will only perpetuate the problem. Adjusting to a time change can take a few days, but waking your baby at certain times during the day so that he adjusts to the new time zone is essential.
2. You are holding off a nap transition.
Nap transitions are annoying, even with the best of sleepers! They often lead to overtiredness- and overtired babies tend to have trouble falling asleep, wake up at night, and wake up very early for the day. As a result, I always encourage parents to hold off on dropping a nap for as long as they can. The older a baby is when dropping a nap, the more seamlessly the transition will go (generally speaking). Dropping a nap before a baby is ready can lead to a sleep disaster- and those are no fun!
Try keeping your baby on three naps until she is between 8-9 months of age. This might mean waking your 6-7 month-old from their second nap at 2pm so that you can squeeze in a third nap before 5:00pm. Otherwise, your baby will be up for a long time between the end of their last nap and bedtime, which is a recipe for overtiredness.
I also recommend trying to keep your toddler on two naps until she’s as close to 17-18 months as possible. This usually means capping your 12 month-old’s morning nap at 60 minutes so that she’s tired enough to nap well in the afternoon.
3. Your baby is a newborn.
When babies are born, they have no idea when it’s daytime and nighttime because they don’t have a circadian rhythm- a biological clock- . To avoid day-night confusion, waking your baby up every few hours is important so that he gets lots of exposure to light during the daytime. Make sure to keep the nights dark and dull.
4. Your baby’s last nap is too late.
Protecting nighttime sleep is your #1 priority so that your baby sleeps 11-12 hours at nighttime (excluding times for feeds, if applicable). It’s very important to make sure your baby’s last nap doesn’t end too late in the day so that her bedtime isn’t too late, which can result in insufficient nighttime sleep. For a baby that’s under 5 months of age, make sure he’s not napping past 6pm. For a baby who’s between 6-8 months of age and still taking three naps, make sure she’s done napping by 5pm. A baby who’s at least 8 months old and has transitioned to 2 naps, make sure she’s not napping past 4pm. A baby who’s only taking one nap will probably need to wake up earlier than 4pm in order to ensure a relatively early bedtime.