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Should I wake baby from a long nap? 3 times it’s okay

Know when to cut your baby's nap short

If you’re a new parent, you know sleep is so extremely precious. In some cases, you could be only sleeping when your baby sleeps, making that time all the more valuable. But if you’re finding your baby’s sleep schedule is pretty erratic, and more frequent and longer naps are hurting your routine more than helping it (like if those late-afternoon naps are resulting in later nights), you may feel tempted to wake up your napping baby.

Should you though? Are you asking yourself, “Should I wake Baby from long naps?” Are you facing doubts on whether you actually should wake a napping tot, no matter how much you may want to? Turns out, the myth that you should never wake a sleeping baby is just that, a myth. There are actually several instances when you should definitely wake them. Here’s when and why waking a baby from a long nap is something a parent must do.

Baby yawning
Andrii Orlov/Shutterstock

If it’s messing with an established sleep schedule

Newborns sleep more erratically than babies that are a few months old. But by the time they’re approaching six months old, your baby should have a relatively normal sleep schedule worked out. They should also be getting about the same amount of sleep per day. 

Sometimes, though, things interfere with that schedule. Maybe you’re traveling or visiting with family, and nap time just didn’t happen when it normally does. Whatever the circumstance, if your baby is napping to the point that they’re throwing off that established schedule, don’t feel bad about waking them up. You’re doing them a favor in the long run.

Just like you feel cranky and off when your sleep routine is messed up (like if you pulled an all-nighter and then tried to get a few hours of sleep in the morning), babies go through the same thing. So, if you find that they’re sleeping more than normal, give them a nudge. The same thing goes if you find your baby napping too close to bedtime, and it’s interfering with how well they respond to their nighttime routine. 

A mother watching her baby sleep in a crib
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If it’s time to eat

Should you wake a sleeping baby to eat? Yes – under certain circumstances. Just like babies have very specific sleeping schedules, they also have pretty rigid eating schedules. Especially for newborns, it’s important that they eat every couple of hours. So, if you find that your baby is sleeping through their normal mealtimes during the day, try waking them up to eat. 

This only applies to newborns because your older baby will develop a schedule of their own that you won’t necessarily need to interrupt just for feeding. And, once they’re aged up a few months, it’s not as vital that they eat every few hours as it is when they’re a newborn and need to gain weight as consistently. 

So, if you have a newborn who’s still figuring out their internal schedule, and you know it’s getting close to mealtime, go ahead and wake them up for meals.

Baby sleeping in their crib with a stuffed bear
Tatyana Soares/Shutterstock

If you’re concerned about their safety

This one is a no-brainer, really. If you’re concerned at all about your baby’s safety, go ahead and wake them up. Yes, you might have to deal with some crying or screaming, but that’s much better than the alternative.

To ensure the safest sleep for your baby, make sure that they’re sleeping on their back and that they’re in a crib that’s mess-free. That means no blankets, no stuffed animals, and no crib bumpers. While these items seem harmless and are actively marketed toward new parents, they are a choking or suffocation hazard under certain circumstances. It’s best to leave those kinds of items outside of the crib.

Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting your baby down to sleep in their own space (not on the couch or in your bed) and ensuring that their crib has a firm, flat mattress. 

Mother holding a baby in a nursery

What’s the best way to wake up your baby?

Once you’ve determined you need to wake up your baby, how should you best go about it? Turns out, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a few tips for that, too. They recommend always waking your baby in a soft, soothing manner. Try talking to or singing to your baby in a calm voice or moving their arms or legs using gentle motions.

If they’re not responding well to that, move on to changing your baby’s clothes or diaper, both of which will rouse them enough to stay awake for the long haul. Think about how you would like to be woken up – with loud noises and sudden movements, or calming tones and softer movements? It’s the same for your baby.

While doctors, friends, and fellow parents might tell you to never wake a sleeping baby, there are a few times that you need to listen to your parent-gut and get that little one up. We know sleep is just as precious for you as it is for your baby. But it’s also just as important to know when to trade in sleep for the safety of your precious peanut. Our tips will help everyone get the right amount sleep at the right times, so no one is cranky.

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Holly Riddle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle journalist, who also dabbles in copywriting, ghostwriting and fiction…
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