Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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Should I Wake My Baby to Preserve a Schedule?

One of the questions I often hear after people have solved their napping issues using The Helping Babies Sleep Method, is "should I wake my baby from the nap?"  Which is ironic because they NEVER thought they'd be asking that!  So many people suffer from short naps.  

Congrats on having a long nap!  Your child is sleeping so soundly!  Maybe too soundly??  Anxiety starts to kick in, should you wake your baby if she’s sleeping too long?  Should I wake my baby to preserve a schedule?   It’s that feeling of uncertainty that feels terrible!

Let me share with you how I coach a client on these types of scenarios but first, here are three questions to ponder when you are jittery with angst and unsure what to do about this long nap or morning “sleep in”.

1. How old is your baby? Are you in those first few weeks of life and concerned about weight gain?  Or is this a toddler who took forever to fall asleep and now is having a late nap?   The answer is different for both.

2. Do you have proof that letting them sleep will be detrimental to your schedule?  For example, will letting the last nap run late interfere with bedtime?

3.  Do you have actually have a fixed schedule?

4.  What time of day is it? 

Should I Let My Baby Sleep In? Should I Let My Baby Sleep Late in the Morning? 


  • You want to get lots of calories in during the daytime to help with longer stretches of sleep at night time
  • During the day, you can wake your baby up if it's been 4 hours since the last full feed. 
  • Pillar 3 of The Helping Babies Sleep Method encourages you to be an "intentional feeder.  Using food to fuel and to stack calories during the day so you can get longer stretches of sleep at night. 
  • At night time, if she’s gaining weight well, I would not wake her up and let your child naturally wake up for a feed

Should I Wake My 2 Month Old in the Morning? 

Your two month old needs to have 16 to 20 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period.  Your 2 month old likely still has frequent feedings in the night and one of those likely falls around 4-5 am.  If you are feeding your 2 month old later than 6 am, you might want to wake her up by 7 am to get your day started.  Your 2 month old won't have a rigid sleep schedule but when your child wakes up in the morning can affect your bedtime routine and it's timing.  It can be a benefit to have a regular waking time for the day within 30 minutes day to day. 

Should I Wake My 3 Month Old in the Morning

Your three month old needs to sleep 16 to 20 hours over a 24-hour period.  At 3 months there is often a leap in circadian rhythm and many parents are noticing that the witching hour is dissipating and the bedtime routine is taking less time. Bedtime may be getting earlier. 

General Guideline:  Wake a 0-3 month old by 7:00 am or 7:30 am at the latest to get the day started.  Start the day with a feed. 

Should I Wake My Baby From Daytime Naps? 

Babies on 2-4 naps, ages 4 months to 14 months

Your child is between the ages of 4 months and ~14 months, when she starts to transition to 1 nap.

  • At this age it is rare that your child is on a “fixed schedule” where 9 am is nap time
  • During this period there are many changes in sleep
  • 5 months dropping from 4-3 naps
  • 7-10 months dropping from 3-2 naps
  • 9-11 months plenty of teething and motor development
  • Your child will sleep as she needs it
  • I would not wake my child up from a nap unless I have proof that letting her sleep is interfering with more consolidated night time sleep or she's sleeping more than 30 minutes past a milk time
  • An example would be that my 6 month old had a third nap at 4:30 pm, that ran long and she didn’t wake until 6 pm.  That means bedtime isn’t going to be until about 8:30 pm.  That’s a late bedtime. This late nap will end up cutting into night time sleep so I would likely wake her up after 45 minutes of sleeping.
  • These scenarios are usually very rare
  • Babies on 2 naps
  • When your child is consistently on 2 naps, usually the 2nd nap is the longer nap and the first nap is 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
  • If the first nap is on the long end, say 1.5 hours and then struggles for the second nap – either falling asleep or only sleeping for 30 minutes, then you’ll want to wake your child from the 1st nap after 1 hour so that he/she is ready for the 2nd nap and it will last longer.
  • The afternoon nap should naturally be longer and has her better rested with a substantial nap before bedtime.

General Guidelines to Wake From Naps to Preserve Bedtime, assuming waking for the day between 6 and 7 am:

  • ​4 and 5 Months - Wake from the last nap by 5:30 pm so that bedtime falls before 7:30 pm.   
  • 6 and 7 Months:  On 3 naps, wake from last nap by 5:00 pm, so that bedtime falls around 7:30 pm.  
  • 7 to 14 months:  On 2 naps, wake from last nap by 4 pm, so bedtime falls between 7 and 8 pm. 

Should I Wake My Toddler From a Nap? 

Toddlers on 1 nap:

  • So important to protect that 1 nap
  • At this age, car naps can be painful
  • If she falls asleep for just 30 minutes she won’t transfer from the car to the crib and it’s impossible to get her to nap again for the day
  • You’re left with a tired cranky toddler who won’t nap
  • Protect your 1 nap
  • In general, I wouldn’t let your toddler nap past 4 pm
  • If your toddler had a rough day and didn’t fall asleep until 3 pm instead of the usual 1 pm, I would wake her up at 4:30pm
  • There is some variation between 4:30 and 5:00 pm based on when her bedtime normally is and when she woke up for the day
  • For example, if you have a toddler who goes to bed at 8 pm, gets up at 7 pm, her nap will be later in the day compared to a toddler who sleeps 7 pm to 6 am.
  • Thus that 4 pm or 5 pm cut off varies according to the child.

Tips on waking your toddler up

  • Be gentle
  • Open the curtains, gently rouse her and then leave the room
  • Provide the opportunity for her to “come to” without someone hovering over her
  • Repeat gently rousing and leaving the room

Can My Baby Sleep Too Much In the Daytime?

​ Most people Should not have to wake a sleeping newborn in the daytime.  In general hunger will wake them up.    Sometimes when we have a newborn who is uncomfortable we may have more night waking.  These babies may sleep longer in the daytime to recoup some of the lost sleep at night.  When looking at newborn sleep, it's best to consider 24 hours of sleep vs dividing sleep into daytime and night time buckets.  Some breastfed babies will have more nighttime feedings if mom has low milk supply.  Premature babies may need to eat more frequently at night.  With interrupted night sleep they may need more daytime sleep.  In The Helping Babies Sleep Method we talk about feeding approaches and patterns to help you get full feeds in the daytime to assist you with a daytime feeding schedule.  Being hungry can impede babies from connecting sleep cycles in the middle of the night and having shorter stretches of sleep. 

Why I Dislike the "Wake Them at 2 Hour Rule"

We don't teach this in The Helping Babies Sleep Method.  In the book we teach you that newborn sleep is weakly regulated and that research shows they may take 3-4 hour chunks of sleep around the clock.  We do agree with prioritizing feeding over sleeping in the daytime so that you can stack your calories and thus shift oz to the daytime.  But the "2 hour rule" doesn't consider the age of your baby or what their night was like.  Maybe they were teething last night and had a rough night, or woke early due to teething, and they need to recoup that lost sleep.  We much prefer to wake them if they are sleeping past a feed.  This is most common in the first few months and rarely an issue later on.  

The main reason I don't like this rule is it's only suited for babies who are already sleeping very well.  Most of you google baby sleep are tired and have frequent night waking and interrupted night sleep and capping naps in the newborn stage especially won't help your cause, but rather keep you stuck in an overtired cycle. 

Let’s take a little walk through the months and look at all the change happening with bedtimes.

From 0-4 months, your baby is sleeping on and off throughout the day and night and isn’t even awake for more than about 1-1.75 hours at a time.  You have no set schedule.  What you have is a flexible routine of eating, sleeping,  and pooping. I would only ever wake a baby during the day if he has been napping more than 3-4 hours at 4 and 5 months and is sleeping through a feed. I want to make sure that he is getting regular feeds during the day, to set him up for success at night time. This is a rare phenomenon.

At 5 months, your baby will be in the 4-3 nap transition where some days she’ll have 4 naps, and other days 3 naps.  The number of naps all depends on the length of her naps and how long she can comfortably stay awake between naps before becoming fussy.  At 5 months, your child needs 3-4 hours of total daily nap hours.

Whenever you are in a nap transition, your bedtime fluctuates to accommodate the last nap.  I would never wake a baby up during this period because there is no set bedtime.  Bedtime fluctuates based on when the last nap is.  Its is very common to have a 30-40 minute cat nap around 4:30 or 5:00 pm at this age.

At 6 months, your baby will consistently be on 3 naps and require 2-3 hours of total daily nap hours.  There is a window here, that could last 1-2 months, where your bedtime is relatively consistent.

Once you are into 7-10 months, you’ll be going through the 3-2 nap transition where your baby drops down to 2 naps.  Again, when you are dropping a nap, your bedtime will be bumped up a bit earlier because you are losing some daytime sleep and don’t want her to be overtired by bedtime.

From ~ 10- 14 months, your baby will be on 2 day time naps.  Sometime between 14-18 months, your baby will drop down to 1 daily nap.  Again, bedtime fluctuates.

What about Dreamfeeds?

Dreamfeeds have different purposes at different ages.  A dreamfeed is when you pick your sleeping child up and get them to feed.  They are not asking for a feed, that is feeding on demand.  We go over dreamfeeds in details in this blog post.

“Should I wake my baby to preserve a schedule?”

Here’s my cardinal rule:  I don’t wake up a baby to preserve a schedule unless I have proof that letting them sleep too long during the day has disrupted nighttime sleep.  

Usually, this is a rare phenomenon.  

I have only advised a handful of clients to wake a sleeping baby, after we have monitored and logged, the child’s daily nap hours and found they were surpassing their daily suggested nap hours AND it was causing either a late bedtime or an early morning wake up, both of which are cutting into the total suggested 11-12 hours of nighttime sleep.  This is incredibly rare situation with a newborn baby, this is usually with a 7 month or older child. 

In these cases, these children are stealing sleep from the night time and using it during the daytime.

Another theory is that you should wake your child up every day at the same time.  I have found that most kids generally wake up with the sun somewhere between 6 and 7 am if they have healthy sleep habits and aren't being fed back to sleep around 5 or 6 am after 4 months of age.   

This waking your child up and keeping them on a fixed schedule is a “BabyWise” phenomenon. There are positive things to take from everything we read, but in general, I find BabyWise can set a gal up for failure.

These fixed schedules don’t account for long naps on days following rough nights, or short naps due to teething, or illness.

Fixed schedules can leave a Mom feeling like a failure or very anxious when the schedule goes sideways…as life does.

In the rare case that these late morning wakings are happening past 6 months of age. It is usually because the child is feeding frequently through the night, and usually has a sleep crutch of nursing back to sleep.  

I don’t like to wake a sleeping baby because if they are sleeping, they need it!  

Who knows what biological process their little bodies are working on in that restorative sleep session.  

Maybe they are fighting a cold, working on language development or processing the activities of the day.  

I would only want to interrupt that if I have evidence that it will have a negative effect on other sleep patterns in their life.  

Like this philosophy,  Check out my Amazon Bestseller - The Helping Babies Sleep Method which teaches you how to be a great baby detective for sleep and feeding and debunks many baby sleep myth.

My thoughts,


Also, Check out Sustainable Products for Babies: Recommended by Baby Sleep Expert Dr. Sarah Mitchell.

Ever wonder how much sleep your baby needs and when? Worried you're not getting nap hours in? Download my free sleep timing and quantity chart and see how much sleep they should be getting for their age.

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