5 Times You Should Wake Your Baby From Sleep

Times You Should Wake Your Sleeping Baby

The Baby Sleep Site® is dedicated to helping your baby sleep better – of course – but there are a few times it is a good strategy to wake your baby. I know it might feel crazy to wake your baby when you are working so hard on helping him sleep better, but in some cases, not waking your baby can actually lead to other sleep problems. Here are 5 times waking your baby can help with sleep problems:

1. Wake for Safety – Ensure Safety First!

As much as we want our babies to sleep, if your baby is sleeping in an unsafe manner, it is best to wake them rather than let them continue to sleep unsafely. The safest way for your baby to sleep is on their back in a separate sleep space with nothing else in the bed with them. Review all of the safe sleep guidelines by the AAP so you are up-to-date on best practices.

2. Naps are too long

Once you’ve learned to avoid common baby nap mistakes and mastered your baby’s naps and schedule, believe it or not, naps can get too long. Many people who frequent this site may not have this issue (most are trying to lengthen naps), but sometimes this does come up!

Except for newborns, your baby or toddler’s napping should not surpass 3 hours total for a day, on average. Of course, there will be exceptions, but many times if naps get too long during the day, it will impact night sleep, since the amount of total sleep in a day will remain relatively constant. If you feel bad waking your baby because she is sleeping horribly at night, but let her make up a lot of lost sleep during the day, it could reinforce the very sleep problems you are trying to resolve at night. It can become a chicken and egg problem. Instead, you should solve the nighttime sleep problem and keep naps properly balanced. After all, night sleep is more restorative.

3. Sorting out day / night confusion

When your baby is a newborn, he may be confused about days and nights. Since most people say “Never wake a sleeping baby.” many new parents will let their newborn sleep 8 hours straight during the day if they want to, but then wonder why he is up all night, sleeping on and off one hour here and there. Although I do agree with the adage to never wake a sleeping baby, there are exceptions to that rule, and this is one of them. In order to help your newborn sort out day and night, he needs to be awake during the day for his internal clock, or circadian rhythms, to adjust to life outside the womb. Therefore, it is best to limit any single nap to two hours and keep your baby up for at least 30 minutes to an hour after each nap to help “reset” his clock.

4. Long waking at night

If you have a toddler whose schedule is being thrown off with a long night-waking, or insomnia, in the middle of the night, the worst thing you can do is let her sleep in late the next morning. Now, I don’t mean one “off” day here or there. Of course, then, you’d let her sleep in. What I mean is if your toddler is staying awake for long periods night after night, you need to be proactive and help her sort out her schedule. Although there are a few exceptions, long waking at night is usually caused by a schedule problem, especially if she is sleeping enough, but in multiple fragments. When you let her sleep in, this only exacerbates the schedule problem.

5. Wake to manage naps before a nap transition

Along the same lines of naps getting too long, sometimes right before a nap transition, it is necessary to manage your baby or toddlers naps by waking him from one of his naps in order for there to be time for subsequent naps or to stop bedtime from being “too late.”

Nap transitions can be tricky and difficult in that babies or toddlers who are over-tired at bedtime tend to have more difficulty falling asleep at bedtime and staying asleep all night. Most of the time, bedtimes should be between 6 and 8 p.m. for most babies older than 3-4 months old and young toddlers. There are exceptions and all families need to find what works for their specific dynamics, but most babies have a biological need/rhythm to go to sleep early and wake early (before 8 a.m.). Quite often, a baby waking too early is due to bedtime being too late.


There is one other time you need to consider waking your baby, but it only applies to the youngest of babies.

If your baby is just a few weeks old, you should wake him from sleep to feed if he is sleeping 4 hours or longer.

Sleeping longer than 4 hours is usually too long for newborns and you need to make sure you are feeding your baby so you won’t have slow weight gain issues. Once your baby is around 6 weeks old, your doctor will likely tell you that you can let your baby sleep in longer stretches of more than 5 hours, but until you get the approval from your doctor, you should wake your baby to feed him or her. Once your baby is doing well with weight-gain, you will no longer need to wake for a feeding.

Waking your baby from sleep should not need to be a long-term strategy, but more of a temporary one to fix a specific problem. There have been a few rare cases I’ve had a family who needed to wake their baby from their morning nap, long-term, in order to have time for a second at a young age, but it is not the norm. If you are finding you are waking your baby longer than a week, maybe two, to fix a specific sleep problem, there may be something else at work. On the other hand, if your baby or toddler has only had this specific sleep problem for a short time (less than 1-2 weeks), then it might be a phase and you should see if she self-corrects her schedule before you start taking action and waking her.

Do/Would you ever wake your baby? Scroll down to share your story, to ask questions, and to hear from other parents just like you!

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145 thoughts on “5 Times You Should Wake Your Baby From Sleep”

  1. Hello – help us

    We’ve been trying to establish a routine for our 5 months baby but he won’t sleep through the night for more than 3 hours and stays awake for 2-4 hours (it’s been like that since he was a newborn)
    He is breastfed and started eating baby cereal with breast milk between feedings (we are trying to fill his belly during the day)

    He does OK during his naps (3 naps / max 2 hours each and he sleeps on his own without any help). He plays on his gym, bouncer, whatch TV during the day… normal play.

    On bed time around 8PM (we start the ritual 30 minutes earlier), we feed him, he takes a warm bath, some gently talk, we read a book, then he holds to his transition object and we say good night, I love you and we leave… Sometimes he complains and we let him cry-out for max 10-20 minutes and he sleeps.

    Problem: He usually wakes up after 2 or 3 hours of sleeping and stays awake for 2-4 hours.. If we let him cry out right after he wakes up, he will cry out for 4 hours non-stop untill we give up and pick him up (insane right?) and all that crying will make him more aware and not wanting to sleep.. not healthy either.
    After 3-4 hours awake and kicking, sometimes crying and complaining a little bit, he will show cues of hunger..We feed him and eventually he goes back to sleep around 1am or 2am. Then, he wakes up around 2am or 3am and sleep back around 5AM. We wake him up at around 07:30 – 08:30 to start his schedule (nightmare) again…. what’s happening? Why is he waking up at night fully restored after a 2-3 hours sleep?

    • Hi Eric,
      Thanks for visiting The Baby Sleep Site! I’m so sorry to hear of the long night wakings you’re experiencing with your 5 month-old. The most common reasons to see these long wakings at this age in a healthy baby are because they’re hungry, or something is way off in the daily schedule. A 5 month-old may be eating 3 times a night, so please see our sample 5 month-old schedule here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/5-month-old-baby-schedule/
      and consider whether he may be hungry at night.

      If you continue to have trouble, this is a case I would definitely refer to a sleep consultant. She can look at your whole schedule, your baby’s eating habits, and everything and fix any gaps you have.

      I hope this helps! Hang in there, and good luck!

  2. Hello. My 6 month old usually falls asleep between 8:30 and 9:30 and usually wakes up between 7:30 and 8:30. But today he didn’t wake up until 9:45. He got 4-5 hours of nap during the previous day and seemed happy and not overly tired at any point. And besides wanting to be fed around 5am, he woke up a few times during the night, maybe 4 times, but had put himself back to sleep before I could check on him. So I guess I am wondering, is it okay for babies to sleep in? Or in the future should I wake him by 8:30 if he hasn’t woken up on his own? Or is it okay as long as it’s not happening all the time, or as long as it doesn’t seem to change his overall sleeping/waking times?

    Thanks for your help

    • Hi @Megan –
      Thanks for writing to us about your 6 month old! All babies are different, and some can sleep in occasionally and this will have no effect on the rest of their day and night, while others will need to adhere to a stricter schedule, and will get “thrown off” by a change in schedule. If your little guy seems to do fine with the occasional sleep in day, then go with it! As you mention, as long as it doesn’t seem to change his overall sleep patterns, then this should be fine! Thanks again for writing Megan!

  3. My little girl is 1 year. We are struggling with her sleep recently. We did sleep training at 5 months and since then she has been putting herself to sleep and sleeping well majority of the time. Now she’s going through a sleep fighting phase. Her first nap is too long and then she fights her second nap but still needs a cat nap late afternoon as her awake times aren’t long enough for one nap yet. Even if I cap the first nap she fights the second nap and now even bedtime. We tried one nap and she really struggled to go to sleep for the nap and at night so I think she was maybe overtired. She is also waking during the night apart from her one early morning feed. I don’t know if I should wake her in the mornings and after both naps in order to fit in the 2 naps? I feel bad waking her so much?

    • Hi @Carrie –
      Thanks for writing to us, and sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with your 12 month old’s sleep! We hear about sleep issues at this age often!
      This common trouble spot, which especially seems to affect naps (and especially fighting naps!), doesn’t seem to affect as many of our clients as the other regressions do – but we do hear and this and help families through this often! Lots of parents assume that this is a normal nap transition, and that it means their little one is ready for just one nap a day. However, we urge parents to treat this one as a regression instead, since most toddlers really aren’t ready to transition to just one nap a day until about 15 months.
      Keep offering those second naps and be careful if you wake her early to fit in both naps, so that she doesn’t get overtired!
      This article should help:
      Hang in there Carrie, and please contact us at any time if you’d like more help!

  4. My baby is six months and on a very similar schedule! He’s been waking up at around 7-8:30 every morning and falls back to sleep around 10:30-11:30. He’ll sleep about an hour during that nap, but usually not any longer. Then around 2:00 he’ll take another nap that’s a little longer than the first one sometimes through 4:00-4:15 (usually when his dad gets home he wakes up and then wants to play with him because he missed him :’)) he’ll take his last nap anywhere from 5-8 depending on what we’ve been doing or where we’re at. Whenever that nap happens if it’s more towards 5 it’ll only be about a half hour to 45minutes long but if it hits around 8 he could be out all night or at least several hours until we start winding down ourselves and he wakes up from the transition from the car seat to bed. He might play around for a half an hour or so before he decides he wants to go back to sleep again.

    I don’t worry because he’s growing well, full of fun energy when he’s awake, super alert, and is ahead of schedule with his crawling, talking, and other crazy monumental baby skills and awareness! As long as your baby is growing and seems alert and happy I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

    • Hi Baby Sleep Site and Julia! What time did your 6mo typically go to bed? We’re on a similar schedule, and he settles easily for his naps, but really fights bedtime – and he’ll sleep for the night around 10 or 11pm after a long period of crying. Do you wake him from his third nap to ensure it isn’t too close to bedtime? Thanks!

  5. My baby is 12w and is current sleeping around 4.5- 5.5 hours during the day (around 2 hours in the morning, 2 hours in the early afternoon, and around 1 hour in the late afternoon, evening). He seems to be sleepy after only about an 60-70 minutes after waking and then has these long naps. Is this too much?
    His total sleep for the day is around 15-16hours

  6. My 7 week old takes 3 or 4 hour naps during the day (with a 1-3 cat naps). Should I let her sleep that long?

    Some nights she sleeps great, others she’ll wake up at 2am and not go back to sleep til 4 or 5am but it doesn’t seem to correlate with her longer naps.

    • Hi Alex – Thanks for writing to us, and congrats on your new arrival! There is a wide range or sleep needs in different babies, but if you are concerned at all, please do check in with your pediatrician! They will have the best info for your baby since they’ve known her personally and since birth and can make sure that she is growing and developing well and that more sleep than average is not affecting her development. You may want to check out this article for more info too:

  7. My daughter is 7 months old & sleeps a lot! She wakes at 7am, takes a nap from 9-10:30, another nap from 12:30-3, another nap at 5pm or 6. And will sometimes sleep from then until the next morning! Or if she does wake from her evening nap it’ll be around 8pm, she’ll take a bottle and go back to sleep within an hour. I’m worried she’s sleeping too much

    • Hi Chelsea,
      Thank you for visiting The Baby Sleep Site! Based on your comment, your daughter’s sleep amounts are just a smidge above average for her age, but nothing out of the ordinary. If she seems particularly slow or sluggish to wake, she’s not eating enough because she’s sleeping, or you’re just worried about it, we would recommend checking in with her pediatrician out of an abundance of caution. But in all likelihood, she just need a little more sleep than average. I hope this helps!

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