Helping Babies Sleep Dr. Sarah Mitchell

Should I Wake My Baby to Preserve a Schedule?

Helping Babies Sleep Dr. Sarah MitchellYour 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.

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 bedtiming?

3.  Do you have actually have a fixed schedule?

 

Your child’s age is a factor

Newborns:  Your baby is a newborn a couple of months old

  • You want to get lots of calories in during the daytime to help with longer stretches of sleep at night time
    • During the day, don’t let her go more than 4-4.5 hours between feeds,
      • Wake your child up if she’s sleeping longer than 4 hours between feeds during the day
        • You want to stack the calories during the day so she can sleep longer 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

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
    • 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. 

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 or 5 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
      • 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

 

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 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.

“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.  

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.  

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.  

Let the sleeping baby lie but a late napping toddler should be woken up. 

My thoughts,

Sarah

I have so much more I want to teach you about baby sleep and how you can help your baby!

Baby Sleep Training Step by Step

If you are wanting to confidently and compassionately teach your baby to sleep, I can teach you everything you need to know in my online course Baby Sleep Training Step by Step

You’ll be welcomed into my private Facebook Community where I answer your follow up questions and you’ll get support from like minded-moms on the same journey as you. 

You can learn more about my online course Baby Sleep Training Step By Step.

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