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Why should you never wake a sleeping baby?

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We’ve all heard it a million times. It’s something that’s drummed into new parents from peers and professionals alike, but when asked, “why should you never wake a sleeping baby?” the answers never really seem to make much sense. 

That’s because, despite the old adage, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with waking a sleeping baby; in fact, sometimes it’s necessary. Let’s dive further into this popular piece of advice and explore the reasons for and against waking a sleeping baby.

Felix at two months old sleeping on the bed with the dummy next to his mouth

Reasons why you should wake your sleeping baby. 

Many new parents have asked “why should you never wake a sleeping baby?” and honestly, I had to take a moment to think back to my own experiences of motherhood before trying to answer. The fact of the matter is this – there are so many circumstances and scenarios where it’s completely necessary to wake your sleeping baby. 

Babies sleep a lot and it’s vital that, as parents, we ensure their needs are being met all the time – even if they’re sleeping soundly. Therefore, as unfair as it may seem, there are actually many reasons why waking a sleeping baby is both necessary and harmless.

Here are just a few examples that showcase ‘why should you never wake a sleeping baby’ as an outdated adage.

  • You need to feed a newborn baby
  • You want to avoid daytime and nighttime confusion
  • You want to preserve your baby’s sleep schedule
  • You’ve noticed that your baby’s staying up later at night time 
  • It’s close to bedtime

Let’s take a look at each scenario in turn and explore why you should never wake a sleeping baby? is a damaging piece of advice for parents.

Felix fast asleep as a newborn

You need to feed a newborn baby

Newborn babies are at particular risk when it comes to new parents asking “why should you never wake a sleeping baby?”. Newborn babies tend to sleep a lot, however, they also have very small stomachs. This means that in order to keep your newborn happy and healthy, they need to be fed frequently. If your baby has slept for more than 2 ½  to 3 hours, it’s time to wake them up for a feed.

In the early days, it’s especially important to ensure that your baby is putting back on the weight that’s been lost since birth, therefore waking them up to ensure they’re getting the necessary calorie intake is important. 

You want to avoid confusing daytime and nighttime

Instead of asking, “why should you never wake a sleeping baby?”, try asking “what can I do to help promote healthier sleep for my baby?”. It’s extremely common for newborn babies to experience confusion around daytime and nighttime, especially within the first 8-12 weeks of life. This makes getting a good night’s sleep tricky for mum and dad! However, there are a few things that parents can do in order to help promote healthy sleep at nighttime. 

Parents will want to avoid turning on more lights than necessary during nighttime feeds and keep stimuli to a minimum. As well as that, ensure that you do not keep your baby awake for longer than they need to be during the day as this can cause them to become overtired and stressed at bedtime. Moreover, regular feeding every 2 ½ to 3 hours is vital during the day to ensure that the newborn’s nutritional needs are being met; this means that they will not need to eat as frequently during the night. 

Felix as a newborn baby asleep with his arm alongside his head

You want to preserve your baby’s sleep schedule

Did you know that following their 4 month old sleep regression, babies usually start to develop a regular sleeping schedule? In order to preserve this precious routine, it is sometimes necessary to wake a sleeping baby to ensure that they continue to sleep at night without any disruptions. 

Daytime sleep is cutting into nighttime sleep

Another scenario where ignoring the question, “why should you never wake a sleeping baby?” is wise when you have started to notice that your baby’s daytime sleep is cutting into their nighttime sleep. As with adults, a nice nap during the day can do wonders for our mood, however, too much sleep during the day can interfere with our ability to have a good night’s sleep. Stopping a nap short during the day can make all the difference when it comes to having a peaceful night’s sleep!

It’s too close to bedtime

Don’t let your child take a danger nap! A danger nap is when you allow your baby to have a nap at a time that’s too close to their routine bedtime. This type of sleep should be avoided if you want to ensure your baby’s sleep routine stays intact and you manage to get a good night’s sleep. If you allow your baby to sleep within an hour or two of their bedtime, you risk jeopardising all your hard work cultivating and sticking to a good bedtime routine.

Felix asleep in his pram clutching his Lamaze robot

Are there any scenarios where you really should not wake a sleeping baby?

We know that there’s no real answer to “why should you never wake a sleeping baby?” because, as the points above prove, there are plenty of reasons why a parent may want to wake their child up from a nap. However, with that being said, there are of course a few circumstances in which it is unfair or unkind to wake your baby up. Here are just a few:

  • You want to change their nappy
  • Because someone wants to cuddle them
  • You want to start playing and offering them stimulation
  • Your baby is poorly

How to wake your sleeping baby up gently.

If the scenario occurs where you do need to gently rouse your baby from their nap, there are a few ways for you to do so that will minimise the unpleasantness for your baby. 

Some babies are sensitive to sound, so a gentle way of waking them from a nap is to walk in and out of their room a few times, or gently open and close the door. If this doesn’t work, try softly talking to your baby or gently rubbing their tummy or back. 

Felix with a windy smile leaning his head on his right arm

Why You Should Never Wake a Sleeping Baby

In answer to the question, “why should you never wake a sleeping baby?”I can honestly say from experience that there will be times during your parenting journey when it is extremely necessary for you to do so. If you find that your child is sleeping too much during the day and staying awake all night, or you need to ensure that your newborn’s calorie intake is met, then it will be both necessary and vital to wake them. However, if you simply want to let your friends or family hold your baby, it’s best to leave them sleeping for a little while longer and offer cuddles once your baby has woken up and is ready to play. 

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