Should you wake up a sleeping child?

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Yes, you should. If it is time for your baby to eat, or time for your child to get up, you should wake him up.

I wake both of my kids up quite often. I still have to wake Brayden, my nearly 3 year old, either in the morning or from naps, sometimes both. If you like consistency to the schedule from day to day, you will definitely want to wake a sleeping child. If you don’t really care, then you could let it vary a bit, assuming your baby is old enough to do that.

You want to wake a baby in order to feed often enough. You want enough calories to get into his little body in the day that he won’t need them at night. You also want to train his metabolism. If you eat at the same time each day, you get hungry at the same time each day. You want to wake a toddler just to make sure he will go back down in time for bed.

Sometimes it is hard to wake the baby. A couple of weeks ago, my son would not wake up from his nap. I gave him an extra 20 minutes and tried again with success. Also, you might need to use some creativity when waking the child. For example, some days my son is quite cranky when we wake him from a nap. If we read him a book, that usually solves the crankiness problem. He has only in the last six months started to be cranky sometimes upon waking. Kaitlyn (12 months) still wakes up cheerfully (though sometimes quite confused).

And yes, there are times you want to let your child sleep a little extra. Say naptime started late for whatever reason. Or perhaps an earlier nap was disrupted, or yesterday was hectic. Maybe you are going out that evening and need him to stay up a little later than usual. You can always make exceptions to your schedule to accommodate you, your child, and your family. But if you are following the Babywise program, then yes, you will often wake a sleeping child, and that is okay. Whenever I am waking up a cranky Brayden and am tempted to just let him sleep, I flash forward to his teen years and know I need to establish now that his parents have the authority to tell him when to wake up.

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Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

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  1. Rob & LeAnna
    April 22, 2008 / 1:39 PM

    I want to say that I often do the FLASH FORWARD! I think that is so important because we are raising young men and young women and if we establish that we are the parents and right now we call the shots, I believe it will help eliminate some of those tough teen years. Now my children are 6 and 5 and they go to school every day. I have to make sure they have enough sleep. Bedtime is never an issue; when it is 7 they know what to do and are in bed by 7:30. There is very little work to wake them up in the morning and they are refreshed and ready for the day.Setting the stage for them from the begininng is SO important, it make the parenting so much easier, and there isn’t that strain on the parent/child relationship.I am reminded of what the Ezzo’s say about having a happy baby upon waking,in their GKGW book: “Rule 1: Mom, not baby, decides when the nap starts. Rule 2: Mom, not baby decides when the nap ends.” (p.130)

  2. Plowmanators
    April 23, 2008 / 4:44 PM

    Thanks for that LeAnna!

  3. Hope_G
    April 30, 2008 / 6:55 PM

    My daughter is 16 weeks old today and prior to her birth I had every intention of following a babywise schedule. When she was born, she dropped down to 5 lbs 13oz from 6lbs 8oz birth weight. The pediatrician made it clear she had to gain weight and quickly. As a first time parent, my concern overrode any goal of establishing a quick schedule. Weight gain was our primary goal and anytime she would eat – we fed her. Her weight is now good and she is on a 3 hour feeding cycle — that basically goes around the clock… HELP!! She goes to bed at 7:30-8:30pm and we wake her to eat at 11pm. She then wakes at 3:30a and about 6am. She takes lots of little catnaps throughout the day and is not consistent with her naps either. For her weight she needs to eat (she is on formula)about 800 milliliters per 24 hours. She has reflux and only seems to be able to eat 130 mls per feeding. How can I increase her volume without overfilling her tummy? Where do I begin??

  4. Plowmanators
    May 2, 2008 / 2:36 AM

    Where to begin…I would recommend this post:Starting Babywise Late: post runs through ways to choose where to start. I would recommend fixing your daytime first. That will usually help fix the night. If not, it makes fixing the night a lot easier. I would work to get 6 feedings in between your desired waketime and your 11 PM feeding. You could start at 7 and get 6 feedings in with your last one in at 10.Look through the blog index–there are a lot that can help you. Here are a couple of key posts:Getting a Consistent Schedule: and Reflux:

  5. Firecracker
    May 5, 2008 / 1:46 PM

    Hi Valerie!So I just moved into a new ward and church starts at 11:30 and ends at 2:30… I need some advise on what to do with DS at that time. He normally eats at 10:30 and then goes to sleep at 12, and then eats again at 1:30. Where do I put him to sleep if we are at church? Or how to I adjust his schedule? He is already out of the carrier type carseat…..ThanksDanielle

  6. Plowmanators
    May 5, 2008 / 8:08 PM

    Danielle, Yesterday must have been a rough one because I have had quite a few questions about church today. I am going to do a post on it tomorrow 🙂

  7. mkk23
    August 12, 2008 / 6:33 PM

    Hi there! I was wondering if you wake a sleeping child if they go down very late for a nap? I put my 6 week old down for a nap at 10:30am and he was still crying by 11:30am. I tried everything (changing his diaper, swaddling, putting him in the swing) and then finally I just held him a bit and he started to fall asleep. Then I put him back down for a nap just after 12pm. He felt right asleep. I usually feed him at 1pm. So, do I wake him up or let him sleep? Thanks, Kim.

  8. Plowmanators
    August 14, 2008 / 2:08 AM

    In that situation I would either wake him on time or 30 minutes late. At 6 weeks, you really want to work on establishing a steady metabolism.

  9. Felicia
    January 25, 2009 / 4:17 PM

    My 11 week old is not yet sleeping through the night. He has a dreamfeed around 11 and will sleep until around 3:30/4:00 and then will wake up at 7:00 for his early morning feed. But in regard to daytime naps, when I wake him up after 3-3.5 hrs he’s not consistently hungry. What am I doing wrong and how can I fix his schedule? Thanks for the help!

  10. Plowmanators
    January 29, 2009 / 6:39 PM

    Felicia,He might just not be able to make it longer right now. He is still in the normal age range to not be STTN.I would keep a log for a week or so of naps and eating. See if there is a pattern for which ones he is hungry for and which he isn’t and you can adjust accordingly, but be careful to not drop a feeding yet.

  11. Mommy of Two
    March 9, 2009 / 11:56 AM

    I have a 2 year 4 month old son who has been on babywise from the beginning. He has NEVER responded well to being woken up… and we somehow seem to make the amazing non-needing to nap children — he dropped his morning nap at 10 months, and probably should have dropped it at 9 months but I resisted because that’s JUST TOO EARLY! But it was what he needed. When he was nursing, nursing after being woken solved all problems. But that is no longer the case, and has not been for a long, long time. For a long time, he would only take a 1 to 1.5 hour afternoon nap. So I let him wake naturally, which he responds to much better. Though, he’s still semi-cranky.As time has gone though, he wasn’t ready to go down for his nap until later and later. If I put him down too early (say 1pm), he would just talk and play the whole nap and never sleep. We eventually moved the naptime to 2pm (because that worked in the routine of my baby) and things were better for a while (though I think he’s in the process of not needing a nap at all).He’s napping better than he ever has in his life… HOWEVER, we have to wake him. If I let him sleep, he’ll sleep til 5 or 5:30 (UNREAL lenghts – he’s NEVER slept that long… EVER). But then he isn’t NEAR ready for bed until very, very late.Soooooo, we arrived at having to wake him up at 3:30 or 3:45. We call it his “fragile after nap time.” he’s unreal. He needs to be held for 20-30 minutes. Whiny. Falls apart. Crying. He wants only me. A snack will snap him out of it, or at least get him most of the way there. However, THEN we have to fight dinnertime battles because he won’t eat dinner… because he isn’t hungry.This is getting old. I YEARN for the days he doesn’t fall asleep because those afternoons are SO MUCH EASIER for me. I was so happy to read that Braeden too doesn’t wake happy when woken up. We haven’t tried reading a book… I’ve tried many other things. I like this suggestion. My comment and long story however are to ask — do you have any idea WHY some children respond this way to being woken? Now that some time has passed from your writing this post, do you have any other ideas about what we could try to get him past this? I don’t feel right just telling him to “suck it up” for lack of a better term. He’s obviously upset, and “I” yanked him out of good slumber. But we’ve got to find common ground!

  12. Bons
    February 25, 2012 / 10:57 AM

    I have been trying BW for about a month now. My son is now 8 weeks old. He was following the schedule pretty well except in the morning so I guess thats his cranky time. But I often had to wake him for feedings. Now, we are living overseas and I think he has jetlag. He wakes every 2-3 hours at night and is sleeping a lot during the day and VERY cranky in the morning. He has not once slept thru the night since he was born.. only a maximum of 4 hr. stretch. Since we moved overseas a couple days ago I have tried waking him to eat but he just won't wake up. I can't force him to nurse and yet I want him in a routine. What do I do? I feel so lost! By the way, I am breastfeeding and supplementing with formula because he doesn't stay awake well to nurse well.

  13. Plowmanators
    March 17, 2012 / 7:55 PM

    Bons,It seems to take me 1-2 weeks to get used to time changes (time change or zone changes. Children and babies can take some time also. So part of it is definitely just adjusting to the new time. I would start by waking him up at the time you want to wake up each day. So if you want thtat to be 7, wake him at 7 each morning. See my post called '"getting a consistent schedule" for more ideas on how to get things more consistent.

  14. Rachel
    June 10, 2012 / 12:45 AM

    I am having problems getting my 8 1/2 wk old to nap. He canny self soothe so has been goin in swing when I notice he gets fussy which he still only sleeps a little cause he wakes up a lot. I know this isn't good to continue as I am trying to lie him down in his crIb occasionally for day naps but he either needs to be rocked in which he will still wake up once laid down and he cannot self soothe or hell cry and I think it's to early for CIO. When does this get better and when will he not be taking so many naps. Less for longer time?

  15. Rachel
    June 20, 2012 / 9:06 PM

    UPDATE…so WE is now 10 weeks. One nap last week he fell asleep to the musical mobile so I have been placing him in his crib now for naps when he gives me his sleeping "cues". He tends to start yawning alot. Most of the time he will soothe himself to sleep with only a few minutes of crying now, the problem is he now is done with his nap after the 45 min sleep cycle and cannot get back to sleep. Ive read the blogs on the intruder and dont want to put him in the swing too much for him to get used to this again, but I feel sometimes he wont feed as well for feeding cause he is tired from not engough sleep or he will fall asleep while feeding and I have to keep him awake with wake time. He seems he is learning to self soothe for inital time going down for now but how can I help him learn for mid awakening of nap?

  16. Plowmanators
    June 27, 2012 / 4:27 AM

    Rachel, mid-nap waking will be helped once he can self-soothe initially. So wait for that to happen and the mid-nap will follow. But do keep a watch out for growth spurts.

  17. Tressa Maciag
    November 18, 2013 / 10:50 PM

    Hi,I just found your blog and I'm so excited because I love Babywise!! I do have a question…My 5 month old has been Babywise since the beggining and was on a pretty well established routine. I'd say for the last 6 weeks, he seems to be on no sort of consistent nap routine. Sometimes I have to wake him up after a 2 hr nap in the morning, sometime he wakes up after 45 minutes. So since he wakes up at different times, his nap schedule gets all off. Is that ok? He sleeps from about 9pm – 7am, so I'm very ok with that. I was just wondering if it is normal that he is not on a napping routine anymore? Thanks!

  18. Elizabeth McDonnell
    August 28, 2014 / 7:43 PM

    I'm a late started to the Babywise program. My son is 4.5 months old and we've been working at a schedule for a week now. I've read the book twice and am so glad to have found this page for troubleshooting purposes! What should I do when I go to put him down for a nap and he cries so long it's almost time for his next feeding. He woke up at 9:00, tried to lay him down at 10:30, and he didn't end up falling asleep (after giving up and swaddling him) until 12:00. The schedule dictates I wake him at 12:30 to eat. But he is one unhappy camper if he's not well rested? His naps usually last between 1.5-2.5 hours. What do you suggest is best?

    • Valerie Plowman
      September 9, 2014 / 12:14 AM

      Hi Elizabeth, I have a post totally dedicated to this question–it is called "waking early from naps/won't fall asleep for naps." This should give you the help you need. Let me know if you have further questions. Good luck!

  19. dustin
    December 18, 2014 / 10:50 AM

    I have an 11-week old that I've been using babywise with. At about 8 weeks he's started sleeping 8 hours and last week he went four nights in a row of sleeping 10 hours. This week I switched his feeding schedule from every 3 hours to 3 1/2 hours because I was always having to wake him up to eat but then he seemed cranky and like he was still tired. Since changing his schedule, the pat three nights he's slept 8, 7, then last night six hours…ugh! Do I just need to go back to the three hour schedule or keep grinding through and hope he goes bak to sleeping through the night?

    • Valerie Plowman
      December 23, 2014 / 1:07 AM

      I would go back to the old feeding schedule if it were me.

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