You’ve probably heard the saying ‘you should never wake a sleeping baby’ but what if waking your baby was actually better for their sleep?
Some babies & toddlers will happily sleep all day long if you let them, which might sound great but this means they might get all of their sleep during the day and want to party all night.
Too much daytime sleep can also lead to early wakings as your little one won't need to sleep all the way through to 7am, for example, because they have already filled their tank during the previous day.
On the flip side, early wakings can be a sign of an overtired baby who isn't getting enough daytime sleep. If your little one doesn't get enough sleep during the day, their cortisol levels will be higher and they may not be able to settle. You know that feeling you're so tired but your body won't let you sleep, that's what your baby will be experiencing.
With all of this in mind, it's helpful to understand how much daytime sleep your baby needs. The below table gives you a guide as to how much sleep your little one needs over a 24-hour period. When looking at baby/toddler sleep we need to consider their sleep as a whole and not isolate day and night time sleep.
Hours needed per 24-hour period
16 – 20 hours
2 – 4 Months
16 – 18 hours
4 – 8 Months
15 – 16.5 hours
9 – 11 Months
14 – 15 hours
12 – 18 Months
13 - 15 hours
18 – 36 Months
13 - 14 hours
36 months +
11 - 12 hours
When should you wake a sleeping baby?
1) Morning wake up
Having a consistent morning wake-up time is key to starting the day as you mean to go. Even if you've had a tricky night, I would still recommend that you try and wake within 30 minutes of your usual wake time (unless you've been up due to your little one being poorly).
2) Capping a nap
This is especially important for the last nap of the day. If your little one has too much sleep for their last nap of the day, their wake window will shift and it can / will push their usual bedtime back.
Newborns and young babies need to feed every few hours however, once your baby has started to gain weight you can let them have longer stretches of sleep. A good rule of thumb is to add one hour to their daytime feed scheduled at night e.g. if they feed every 2 hours during the day, aim to feed every 3 hours at night and so on. If you're in any doubt, speak with your health visitor.
According to www.whattoexpect.com a baby is ready to drop their night feed somewhere between 4 - 6 months, but all babies are different so following your little one's cues can help. Shorter overnight feeds or waking less often in the night might be a good sign it's time to stop the nighttime feeds.
The reason I suggest sticking to a consistent wake-up time and capping naps is to allow your little one to get all of their day naps and wake windows in. We want to make sure they are having fun-filled wake windows so they can build sleep pressure to allow for longer naps and more settled nights.
I'm not suggesting that you wake your little one from every sleep. You know your little one as their parent/caregiver so follow your gut if you think they need an extra long sleep if they've had a busy day or week (remember to consider your little one's sleep cycle). Sometimes I let my toddler have a longer nap at the weekend when he's had a busy week at nursery.
As I touched on above if your little one is poorly then follow their lead. Sleep is often the best form of medicine so let your little one sleep more when they aren't well and then you can focus on wake windows etc when they are better.