Never wake a sleeping baby...right? Or wrong?
We're told to never wake a sleeping baby, but sleep expert Annette Faamausili from Serene Sleep, explains that tweaking your baby's day naps can help establish a routine that benefits your whole family.
As much as we adore our babies, there is nothing more beautiful than watching them sleep. This is especially true if we as parents are somewhat sleep-deprived ourselves!
The old wives’ tales tell us that we should never wake a sleeping baby... Or should we? Disturbing the slumber of your snoozing baby can feel rather counterintuitive – in fact it may go against every maternal bone in your body, however, there are times when it’s necessary for the bigger picture.
So yes, you can wake a sleeping baby. More than that, at times you should wake your sleeping baby!
But first, a disclaimer: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In other words, if you have got a routine that works for you – ie your baby sleeps during the night, wakes at a time that fits your schedule, and naps during the day according to your routine – then great! You don’t need to make any adjustments. But if you are finding things are a bit out of whack and your baby sleeps too late, won’t sleep well through the night, or wakes too early, it could be worth some daytime nap tweaking to get things back on track. In this instance, choosing to wake your baby up at certain times could be very beneficial.
While every family has their own routine to suit their lifestyle, it's quite common for young babies (less than eight months old) to have a shorter nap in the morning, a longer, restorative sleep across the middle of the day, and another short rest in the afternoon. Let’s look at some examples of how capping day naps can be a highly effective tool to ensure your baby’s sleep schedule stays on track and their overnight sleep is optimised. Here are some situations where you might need to adjust those sleep quotas:
CAPPING THE MORNING NAP
If your baby has a longer first nap in the morning, chances are they will feel nice and rested and won’t be as likely to have that longer, restorative second nap in the middle of the day. In fact, they might want to skip it altogether. So, by the time you get them settled for nap two, it’s likely to be getting close to 4pm or 4:30pm before they wake up. This then sets you up to fail when aiming for a 7pm bedtime (7pm – midnight is when babies have their most restorative sleep) – they simply won’t be tired enough. In this scenario, capping the morning sleep will ensure that the second nap is decent, and there’s plenty of time for another brief round of shuteye well before bedtime.
FIXING EARLY RISING
Some babies get into the habit of waking up at 5:30am. If you would prefer a few more hours of sleep, capping the first morning nap can be helpful.
An early-rising baby's body clock has learned that they can afford to wake at the crack of dawn. This is because they will get a nice big restorative sleep at around 9am to compensate.
By cutting that first morning sleep short it will help reset your baby's clock and get them back to a more reasonable schedule after a few days.
FITTING IN A SCHOOL OR KINDY RUN
If it is just you and bubs at home, then this won’t be an issue. However, if you have older kids, this may be a very real concern. If you need to pick up older children from kindy or school around 3pm, it is essential that your younger baby is up and ready to go around that time.
In this case, it's a good idea to make the first nap of the day a short one, leaving you plenty of time to fit in a long lunchtime sleep (12:30pm until 2:30pm, for example) before you need to be out the door.
Of course you want your baby to get the rest that they need, but you also don’t want to be a slave to naptime. Waking a sleeping baby is all about molding their naps to suit your lifestyle. Although the odd 'out of sync' nap is nothing to worry about, any unhelpful habits that start to form can be tweaked to ensure things stay on track.
Set their nap schedule so that it works for everyone. Baby still gets quality rest, and you are still able to meet your other commitments too.
Annette Faamausili is a baby and child sleep expert and has been advising and supporting parents since 2001. She trained and qualified in the NHS, UK and moved to New Zealand with her Samoan husband and family in 2011. Annette has three children and lives on the beautiful Whangaparaoa Peninsula in Auckland. Find her at serenesleep.co.nz
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 57 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW