Have you heard that phase “don’t wake the sleeping baby”? Well I am here to tell you ignore that phase! Of course there are conditions, but what are they and why am I telling you to wake your baby from a nap?
Well in this blog today I am going to explain exactly why and when you need to wake your baby.
If your baby is sleeping all night then that is AMAZING! Go with it! Enjoy it and don’t wake your baby at night!
I want to say that must be ignored if your paediatrician has advised to wake your baby at night to feed. Your baby may need to be woken due to health reasons and therefore you MUST wake baby at night and follow advice from your medical provision.
Now, have you heard of the circadian rhythm? This is our internal body clock. We all have one and there are 3 things that govern it.
Waking your baby in the day time and exposing them to natural daylight is VITAL to help their circadian rhythm set. It will be a signal to the body to start producing chemicals and hormones conducive for sleep.
Now if your baby is sleeping alllll day, of course they will miss feeds, vital outdoor and light exposure and social interaction. Their sleep tank will be super full. That sleep pressure will just not be there and of course they will be ready to party all night. So you need to wake your baby when they nap. It will help them sleep more at night because that sleep pressure is being conserved and it really will help set their circadian rhythm into a good pattern that works for them and your family.
Equally if your baby has a big long nap in the morning often this impacts the lunch time nap and many babies have little sleep pressure to take a long nap so they wake after 30-40 minutes and by the time bedtime comes around they are exhausted and overtired and this has a knock on impact to settling and night wakings and possibly fuel early morning waking's.
If you have a baby awake all night and you are trying everything to get them back to sleep, feeding them is a normal and natural way to achieve this. Breast milk after all contains melatonin. It is going to help right? At some point yes, your baby will fall back asleep but this feeding to sleep will inevitably be a habit your baby will look for at possibly all sleep times and also you will notice your baby will not be so interested in eating the morning feed and day feeds as they are so full from the night. (Please note for new-born babies feeding to sleep is supporting their sleep and that is beautiful!)
This feeding all night and not so much in the day is what is known as reverse cycling.
Now don’t get me wrong, many parents this works for, and they are very happy to continue this pattern and if this is you, wonderful, keep doing this. You are happy and enjoying it and it is working for your family, but for the parents that are finding it hard and unsustainable then you can stop this and make a change.
So come nap time…wake up your baby, play with them, take them outdoors and ensure they do not miss a feed!
But How Do You Know When To Wake?
Well this depends on the age of your child.
As your child grows they will need less sleep during the day and more awake time. So a new-born baby for example, will sleep 15-17 hours in a 24 hour period. You may find your baby naps 4 hours straight. But, wake your baby and feed him! Your baby will need fed every 2-3 hours so wake your baby and feed! If he skips a feed he will be awake at night looking of that meal!
Maternal melatonin that was passed from mother to baby at birth will have gone by the age of 6-8 weeks and cat napping may start to occur so it is vital that the sleep environment is conducive for sleep. Have you checked out my 6 steps to better sleep? All those steps will really help your baby nap in the day for appropriate lengths that you will need to potentially wake them from!
When your baby reaches 6 months your baby will only need about 2.5-3 hours of day time sleep now. Their awake period will have gradually extended from 60 minutes to 2.5 hours! That’s a lot! If he is sleeping more hours in the day and it is not affecting his nights then that is OKAY, of course there are the unicorn babies out there who just sleep and sleep but you will find in general that this will be too much day time sleep and night times is a party zone!
More sleep in the day = less sleep pressure. So wake your baby!
Now this will help you fall into a routine, if your baby wakes at the same time every day, eats and naps at the same time every day, their circadian rhythm will know what is coming next, sleep comes easier and in most cases less need for any sleep training. I always suggest to have these wakes and feeds within about 30 minutes of the same time every day as not to confuse that circadian rhythm! Happy waking everyone, Rachael, Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant x