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Should you ever wake a sleeping baby?

The cliche is, “let sleeping dogs lie,” but it could just as easily be applied to babies – no matter how sweet your little bundle of joy is, once Baby goes down for a nap, letting her sleep can feel like as important of a priority as breathing oxygen, or managing to squeeze in time for a shower now and then. Is it always true, though? Or are there situations where the best option is actually to wake the baby?

Sleep schedule adjustments

As a general rule, waking a sleeping baby will only leave you with a tired, cranky baby. But when babies get into sleep schedules that just aren’t sustainable, either for themselves or for the rest of the family, like mixing up day and night, or just trading a 4-hour afternoon nap for a regular 4 a.m. wake-up, sometimes gently waking them in order to redirect their sleep schedules can be the best way to make sure everything is on-track.

As (another) general rule, well-rested babies sleep more, so waking one up is a dangerous game, but timing is everything when it comes to sleep, especially when adults may not have as much control over their schedules as the smallest members of their families do. In this way, gradual adjustments of sleep schedules can do a lot to keep a household running smoothly.

How to wake a sleeping baby

There are a lot of grown-up skills Baby hasn’t mastered yet, and waking up to an alarm clock and going calmly about the rest of her day may not be one of them. This means that a more refined approach to waking her up may be called for. Here are a few ideas:

  • A little more conversation: Talking to Baby softly, or even singing to her can be one of the gentlest ways to wake her before she’s ready. If she still clings to sleep even as you’re getting chatty, gently touching her face can help rouse her as well.
  • A touch of chill: The temperature drop that comes when it’s time for Baby to change – either her clothes or her diaper – is enough to wake up even some of the most stubborn sleepers. She might not be in the best mood after this kind of awakening, though, so it can be best to save it for situations where Baby is very attached to her nap.
  • Lead by example: If it’s time for Baby to wake up, you can let her know by picking her up, sitting her in your lap, and acting like she is already up and at ‘em.

These strategies are all sound for healthy babies who might just be a bit more in love with naptime with their peers, but not being able to rouse a sleeping baby at all is a problem, and should definitely prompt parents or caregivers to seek medical help right away.


  • “Sleep and newborns.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, December 2016.
  • “Techniques on Waking a Sleeping Baby.” AskDrSears. Web.
  • “Waking Up Is (Sometimes) Hard To Do.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.

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