Home & Life, Parenting

Should I Wake Baby From Long Nap?

If you’re a new parent, as I am (8 months in!), the thought of your baby taking an extra long nap sounds like heaven, but even though the short respite from the crying, the pooping, and the feeding, is very welcome, what comes next is sheer hell!

Take it from someone who learned the hard way; you should absolutely wake your baby if their daytime nap goes on too long.

I know it doesn’t feel right waking them after putting in so much effort to get them to sleep in the first place, but it’s in both your best interests to do so.

This isn’t just my opinion. My partner and I consulted our health visitor and she confirmed our suspicions… long naps are problematic! 

So, if you want to get your baby into healthy sleeping habits, you need to hear what I have to say

My Sleepy Horror Story

Not one month ago, I settled down with my daughter, gave her some milk, and watched gooey-eyed as she fell asleep in my arms.

She normally wakes up after about 40 minutes, like clockwork, but, although she fidgeted a bit around this time, she never opened her eyes, and quickly settled back down.

As you can imagine, I was pretty happy. Great, I thought; she’ll be extra rested when she wakes up, and I get more chill time — Perfect!

We reached the hour mark, and I was utterly astonished. Then, before I knew it, an hour and a half had gone by — And still no signs of waking.

This is weird, I thought, but what the hey, she must really need the rest.

When the second hour passed us by, I started to wonder what the repercussions of such a long, deep sleep would be, but still, I let her sleep on until she woke naturally after two and a half hours.

Finally, I thought — At this point, my arms were dead, my back was aching, and I really needed to get some chores done.

What’s more, she seemed very perky and smiley, but when bedtime rolled around, I realized what a foolish error I had made.

My daughter, who is normally quite a good sleeper, woke 11 times in the night, and neither my wife nor I got more than an hour’s sleep at a time.

When Should You Wake A Baby From A Long Nap?

When Should You Wake A Baby From A Long Nap

After that dreadful night, we, with rings around our eyes as dark as the stains on our coffee table, consulted our health visitor who informed us that we should never have let our daughter take such a long nap.

She then filled us in on when you should wake a baby from an extensive snooze.

Wake Your Baby At The Two-Hour Mark

Babies are supposed to have multiple little naps throughout the day and then one mammoth nighttime sleep, and when they sleep for longer than 2 hours during the day, it messes up their internal clock, leading to a turbulent night.

Your little one is still developing their circadian rhythm, and extra long daytime naps derail their innate concept of night and day, so it’s small wonder they have a rough night after the fact.

Wake Them If Their Bedtime Will Be Pushed Back Too Far

The pushing back of bedtime is a pretty normal event in the life of a new parent. Little bedtime delays are fine, as you need a bit of flexibility to work with the natural fluctuations in your baby’s schedule, but overly long naps can push the long, nighttime sleep way too far back.

Your baby’s naps should be split up by awake time, and the duration of this awake time increases as they grow.

In the stage I’m at with my little one, she needs to stay awake for between 2.5 and 3 hours with the aim of hitting the hay between 6.30 and 8.

So, let’s say that we put her down for a nap at 4 PM. If she sleeps as long as she did the other day, she’ll wake at 6.30 PM, at which point, it’s impossible to fit a suitable amount of waking time into their schedule before bed, thus, bedtime gets delayed.

Again, this is going to mess with their nascent circadian rhythms, amounting to sleepless nights in the near future.

The longest we ever waylaid bedtime was 8.30, and that seemingly minimal 30-minute period completely derailed the sleep routine we had worked so hard to establish.

Thankfully, though, as long as you keep these instances to a minimum, you can get things back on track.

Wake Them If They’re Getting Too Much Daytime Sleep

It’s not just the length of naps you need to be wary of, but the number of naps, too!

Even if your baby only sleeps for 20 minutes to half an hour, if they’re falling back to sleep after about the same amount of waking time, they’re still going to be sleeping too much.

Wake Them If Their Long Sleep Lasts Longer Than 12 hours

Naps aren’t always the issue; sometimes bedtime sleeps can run on as well, which is equally damaging to a baby’s circadian rhythm.

Should their slumber hit the 12-hour mark, it’s time to wake them and start the day together.

Wake Them If They’re Overdue A Feed

This one is particularly important for brand-new babies.

Keeping to a feeding schedule is just as crucial as establishing a sleeping schedule, so if snack time has arrived and your little one is still snoozing, it’s best to rouse them and give them some food.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Should You Wake A Baby?

Waking a baby is never pleasant, and, honestly, it feels pretty cruel, which is why you should do it as gently as possible.

Speaking to your child in a soft voice is a good way to get the cogs turning in their mind, and if that fails, move their arms or legs a little bit.

I like giving my daughter’s feet a little tickle, as that seems to work pretty well most times.

Are There Any Exceptions To The 2-Hour Rule?

Our health visitor informed us that there are a few scenarios in which you should allow your baby to sleep longer than two hours:

  • Newborns can sleep for 3 hours, as this is the longest they should go without food.
  • If your baby is feeling under the weather, sleep is just the thing they need to recover, but you should still keep an eye on the clock. Too much sleep could be a sign that they need to see a doctor.

Final Thoughts

You’ll no doubt have heard the phrase “never wake a sleeping baby” a million times before, but this is a myth — In order to establish healthy sleeping habits, you do have to wake sleeping babies from time to time.

It can be tough to pull your little bundle of joy from dreamland before they’re ready, but it’s for the greater good!

Are you looking for more tips on transitioning from contact napping, check out our latest article.

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