Tips to Get Baby Waking Up Happy from Naps


Your baby CAN wake up happily. In fact, waking up happy is a good sign baby is getting her sleep needs met. Read this for tips on how to achieve this.

Happy Baby

Did you know a baby can wake up from a nap and wait happily in her crib until you come get her? Does that sound far-fetched? It isn’t! 

All four of my children got to the point that they woke up from a nap and happily babbled to themselves until I got them up. There are simple tips to follow to make this happen.

What Age Can Baby Wake Up Happy From Naps

On Becoming Babywise says that your child should start to wake up happy around 4-6 months (see pages 133 and 134). That is the time the wake-up disposition is usually developed. Up until that point, you will probably have the stereotypical baby waking up crying.

If your child is older than 6 months old and regularly wakes up from a nap crying, then I would look into the situation to see how to change that. Your little one might be teething or need an adjustment to the schedule somehow. I have this post to help troubleshoot common reasons for poor sleep in 5-8 month olds. You can find a more general list of reasons for poor sleep for any age here. 

Rules to Follow To Get Baby To Wake Up Happy

There are a few rules to follow to ensure that your baby will wake up happy once he is old enough. Follow these rules from birth or from the time you learn of them.

  • Mom, not baby, decides when nap will start
  • Mom, not baby, decides when nap will end
  • If baby wakes up cranky, he didn’t have a good enough nap

3 simple tips to get your baby to wake up happy Pinnable Image

Mom, Not Baby, Decides

Before you read any further, be sure you understand the concept of “Mom, not baby, decides…”. Read more about that concept here.

Once you understand the concept of “Mom, not baby, decides…” it should be more clear as to why that is so vital for your baby’s wake up disposition.

This doesn’t mean you say, “I know you aren’t tired right now, but you are going to bed because I decided.” It means that you analyze the factors to ensure your child is getting enough sleep. You say, “Hmm…you aren’t tired right now even though you usually are. Maybe you are ready to extend waketime length?”

In order to “decide” as accurately as possible, you need some tools and abilities. You need to know your child. I have written a post with tips to get to know your child’s personality

Keeping track of things is a super effective way to quickly get to know your child’s personality and needs. I have a fantastic Book of Logs PDF you can purchase to help you track all of the details you need. Click below to read more:

Chronicles of a Babywise Mom Log eBook

When you know your child, you know the sleep cues. You can see a list of common sleep cues in this post so you know what to watch for. 

Not all babies show sleep cues. Some show sleep cues while younger and then stop. Paying attention and knowing your baby helps you know that so you can watch the clock.

As the parent, you also know your child’s sleep needs. Does he sleep more than average? Less than average? Adjust expectations and goals according to your child’s sleep needs. 

You also know how he feels about sleep. My oldest and youngest both didn’t particularly like to sleep. My two middle girls loved it, though.

With my babies who loved sleep, if they cried after I put them down, I know something is really wrong.

When you know your child, you know how disruptions affect him. You know how extra stimulation affects him. You know whether it is no big deal or if he needs to go down a bit early after being at a big family party.

You also need to know your child’s sleep patterns. Having a consistent schedule makes this job much easier. Read my post on Getting a Consistent Schedule if you need help with consistency and predictability. If you have a hard time hitting things right, keep a log! Write everything down. 

You also need to know how long the nap should last. Then, if the nap is shorter than it should be, you can do problem solving to decide why and what to do about it. There is variance depending on the baby’s age and which nap of the day it is, but in general, you are aiming for a 1.5-2.5 hour long nap. Later naps in the day are often only 45 minutes long. 

And if you want some great help with naps, get my eBook Nap Guide.

Morning Routine Cards
Ultimate Back to School Planner
Overcoming the Mental Load of Motherhood
Chronicles of a Babywise Mom Book of Logs
The Babywise Mom Nap Guide
Morning Routine Cards
Ultimate Back to School Planner
Overcoming the Mental Load of Motherhood
Chronicles of a Babywise Mom Book of Logs
The Babywise Mom Nap Guide
Morning Routine Cards
Ultimate Back to School Planner
Overcoming the Mental Load of Motherhood
Chronicles of a Babywise Mom Book of Logs
The Babywise Mom Nap Guide

Let’s go over each rule with a bit more detail:

RULE #1: Mom, not baby, decides when nap will start

Like I said, this doesn’t mean you put your child down when you feel like it and insist he sleep. This means you consider all factors to know when you should put him down.

  • Sleep cues are a wonderful way to know when the nap needs to start. Find sleep cues here and also here
  • Optimal waketime length will help you partner with the clock to guide the length of time until the next nap. This is knowing the perfect length of waketime for your child so she will take the right length of nap and not get overtired. Read all about when and how to extend waketime length here. A log will also help you determine how long this should be.
  • Actual waketime length is another good indicator. Knowing when your child woke up from the nap helps you monitor the waketime. If your child wakes up and is pretty quiet, a baby monitor helps to hear those first babbles. I definitely needed one for Kaitlyn.
  • Waketime activities are important to some children. If you were at a noisy place, your child might be overstimulated and need to go down earlier. This is another area where keeping a log helps. Read more in How to Calm Your Overstimulated Baby
  • Desired naptime length coupled with the next one,
  • Cycle length will help you gauge the waketime length. If you are on a 3 hour schedule and want a 1.5-2 hour nap, then you need 1-1.5 hours of waketime.

These things will all help you decide when the nap should start. When you get this right, baby will [usually] fall asleep quickly and then sleep the correct length of time. Keep in mind that 1.5 hours of sleep is good enough for many babies.

You decide when it starts. If your child protests (which many do; they want to play not sleep), you still decide. You don’t say, “Oh, well I know you really should go down right now, but since you don’t want to, you can stay up an extra 15 minutes and see if you change your mind by then.” At that point, your child will likely be too tired and take a short nap–and therefore wake up early.

At those stages when baby is working on skills or talking and playing instead of going to sleep, you need to address that. Be sure your child is getting enough practice on the skills for waketime. Know if you should interfere or not. Maybe you need to go in and tell him it is time to lay down and go to sleep. Read more about this in How To Stop New Skills from Disrupting Naps and Sleep

How to Stop New Skills from Disrupting Naps and Sleep

RULE #2: Mom, not baby, decides when nap will end

Again, you don’t just say, “I have decided you will sleep for 2.5 hours even though you usually nap for 1.5 hours, so do so.”


You need to consider factors to determine how long your child should be sleeping. Many of them are similar to the previous section.

  • Desired naptime length for your cycle length and child’s age will help you gauge the naptime length. If you are on a 3 hour schedule then you want a 1.5-2 hour nap. Again, keep in mind that 1.5 hours is okay. If your child sleeps that long and is happy, don’t fight him to go back to sleep.
  • Child’s sleep disposition will tell you which end of the range your child is at. I have had one who was at the shorter end of averages. I have had a couple who were always at the longer end of averages. I have had one pretty average. Know where your child is and what to expect.
  • Know when your baby actually wakes up from the nap. A monitor will tell you this. This way you will know for sure if your child woke up happy initially and then started to cry after being awake in his crib for 15 minutes, or if he woke from a sound sleep in a cry. I have to use a monitor to know this.
  • If your child wakes earlier than he should, analyze the external factors and troubleshoot the situation. Is your child teething or sick? Was the dog barking? Is your child in a growth spurt? Was he up too long? Is he cold? Really try to find the reason for the early waking so you can know both what to do about it and how to avoid it in the future. See Naps: Troubleshooting and The First 5 Things to Check When Your Baby is Taking Short Naps.
  • Be aware of transition time. 30-45 minutes into a nap is the transition time, and your child can be woken up more easily at this time. If the dog was barking during the transition and your child woke up, that is likely the reason. With Brayden, we were always quiet at his transition time. He was so curious that if he heard one sound, he woke fully. Kaitlyn liked to sleep and didn’t seem to care what was going on while she is sleeping (interestingly, we have her in the noisiest bedroom in the house even today because she will sleep through anything). This is another reason I like monitors. You then know the time your child actually fell asleep–or at least have a better idea.
  • Wake baby up if necessary. If your child is a sleeper and still asleep when the nap should be over, wake him up. This is part of your decision. Of course, there are times you will decide it is better for him to sleep a little longer. Maybe his previous nap was too short. Maybe he is sick and needs some extra sleep. It is correct to wake up a sleeping baby if needed!

    A huge part of nap succcess day after day is starting each morning off consistently. This is also a time you need to decide to wake your baby up. If your baby is waking early in the morning, read this post.

RULE #3: If baby wakes up cranky, he didn’t have a good enough nap

If your baby is well-rested, he will wake up and be happy initially (older than 6 months old). He will wake up and babble or sing or whatever. Some will do that for a long time before you go get him. Others are less patient and will soon start to scream for you.

If your child is waking up early, you then need to decide what to do about it. See these posts for help in that decision:


Hopefully through this post and “Mom, not baby, decides…” you can see how so many things for successful sleep are intrinsically connected. So many things are linked and a domino effect quickly happens, for better or worse.

Following these three rules can help you to help your baby wake up from nap or in the morning happily. This is a great sign that your baby is getting the sleep he needs and that everything is optimal. 

How to get your baby to wake up happily Pinnable Image

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27 thoughts on “Tips to Get Baby Waking Up Happy from Naps”

  1. hi, i have a couple quick BW ?s for u: my sara is 13wks and on a 7a,10,1p,4,7,10p feeding schedule. she is getting hard to wake up at 10p to feed and i was wandering if u think i should try to transition her to a 4h routine instead of 3h. i know BW says b/t 12-15wks is good time to do so. she just went through a growth spurt. i am concerned about her wake time and naps when i transition to a 4h. i was thinking of doing 7a,11,3,7,930p schedule. 2) her feed and waketime is @ 1 hour total–is that good for here age? however, she has started waking every 45 min into her nap.what is ur advice???thank you–i love your blog–so helpful, stacy

  2. Thank you for your thoughts and comments on Mom decides… They have been helpful to me. – SRJ BTW just in case you want to ponder your mind on this situation or laugh at what a strange child I have. My son (8m) has not done his afternoon nap these past two days. So strange. He just never goes to sleep. His afternoon nap is supposed to be from 2:30 – 4:00, but I’ve been feeding him at four with him never having gone to sleep. He then stays awake for an hour and at 5:00 takes an hour nap and then goes down for the night at 8:30. Why he is doing this, I do not know! Are there any other children out there as strange and complicated as mine? : )

  3. My 4.5 month old has started just babbling to herself for an hour or more instead of going to sleep for naps. She has been doing this for a couple days now. Her first nap this morning was good (1.5 hours). Her second nap she talked to herself for 45 minutes and then finally fell asleep, but only for 45 minutes. She is now down for her 3rd nap, but has been in there yapping away for over an hour. I am grateful she doesn’t cry, but she is not getting any sleep. Anyone have thoughts or advice?

  4. Stacy, I would drop the 10 pm feeding before moving to a 4 hour schedule–see this post: When to Move to a 4 hour Schedule:

  5. SRJ–glad to help! That is funny. My guess is that it is a phase and he will start sleeping again at some point.

  6. Abby’s Mom,I would consider that she might need a longer waketime before her second nap. If you think that might be possible and decide to try it, I would add only 5 minutes at a time to see if that does it. IF she has 4 naps, I would also consider going down to three. She also might just be excited to be learning to babble (see this post for more ideas on that: Nap Disruptions: Rolling, Standing, Crawling, etc:

  7. This is my second post today, but I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t had time to read as much as I like. My 10 month old never wakes up happy. I am starting to get really discouraged because he is a good night sleeper(11 hrs) and sleeps well most days. I do have a hard time figuring out when to lay him down as he has gotten older if anything is different in the day(activities, early waking, etc). He doesn’t have the same sleep cues he used to. He goes down for naps well, fusses a little, or plays for maybe 5 minutes at most. He is on the shorter end of sleep lengths and usually naps 1.5 hours, sometimes 2. Even after long naps(2hrs+) he wakes crying. He is pretty easy to cheer up and is fine after a minute or two. Am I missing something? Thanks for your advice!Gabby

  8. At that age, you will really do basically set naptimes. Naps always start at 9 AM for example. Then 1 PM. Whatever it is, it should be pretty consistent. They might sometimes start a little earlier if they had a busy waketime or something.

  9. My 14wk old never wakes up happy-he always wakes up mad-and you can tell it is mad and not just crying.He sleeps 1 1/2 – 2 hours. He then shows sleepy signs after only 1 hour of wake time including eating-although he only takes a total of 10min to eat.It seems that its between 4-6months Babywise says their disposition could be happy.If I try to keep him up later, he gets really cranky and is hard to put down for sleep. If I leave him in his crib any longer his screams get worse-and taking 3 1/1/2 hour naps I think is just right for his age.Anything else I can do to have him wake up happy-will it all of a sudden change? Could it be that he is having a hard time sleeping through the night so we are having him CIO? We have him CIO going to bed as well as when he wakes up in the middle of the night-could this be a problem with why he also wakes up unhappy during naps?

  10. Lorri, he is still learning. They will wake up happy once they are waking up being well rested. Your son isn’t there yet. He will get there. Most seem to do it around 5 months, but that is after starting self soothing at a very young age.

  11. I have a few nap related questions, and don’t really know where to ask! But before, I’m so thankful I found your blog! You are a great resource and I send all of my “Babywise” friends to your site for help! So thank you! I have put “Babywise” into practice with all three of my sons, and I have three very well behaved, sweet, generous boys! So I’m a firm believer in the “Babywise” philosophy!So now for my questions…my third son is not 7 months old, and has never been the best napper. He usually takes 2 naps and then rarely a third cat nap in the evening. His morning nap is right at an hour. I would love for him to sleep for 2 hours, but that just isn’t happening. So, when he wakes after an hour, what should I do? I try to let him CIO, but he’ll seriously cry forever. I’ve tried going in to sooth him, but that doesn’t work, either. I’ve tried putting him down earlier, and even later…nothing is working!!! So do I just get him up? Should I go ahead and feed him, or wait until the time he should have woken up? I’m trying go get him on a 4 hour schedule. Then his afternoon nap is about the same…. Sometimes a little longer, but usually just at an hour. He sleeps GREAT at night…about 12 hours. He isn’t teething, hasn’t learned a new skill, and isn’t sick. Any helpful ideas for me? Thanks so much!!!

  12. I am glad to help! Have you seen the troubleshooting naps post? I will link a couple of posts that should answer your questions:Naps: Troubleshooting: Early From Naps/Won’t Fall Asleep For Naps:

  13. My 13 month old has just recently started to wake up first thing in the morning unhappy…and a little early…and also usually wakes up unhappy after her afternoon nap. Her schedule is wake up at 7am, nap 9-ish to 11-ish, nap 2-ish to 4-ish and to be at 7:30pm. She has always been very happy when she wakes up so I’m not sure what to zero in on. She does seem to want her milk right out of the crib and if it’s not ready she gets mad. She hasn’t been on the bottle for about a month…is this just part of the transition to a cup at mealtimes? Is it bad to continue to hold her with her milk sippy cup to comfort her? I’m not sure what to do to help get my wake up happy baby back. Any advice you could give would be appreciated! Thanks!

  14. Karen,Hmm…typically waking unhappy means not enough sleep. But I would wonder about teething or sickness at this age, especially if nothing else has changed. Is she made when she wakes up, or mad once she gets a sippy rather than a bottle? If it is the latter, I would say cup transition. If the former, I would guess that has nothing to do with it.I would hold her while she drinks as long as she likes it and you like it. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

  15. I was reading a comment you left in response to a question on this post and you said at around 10 mo. you don’t have to have specific waketimes and just have set nap times. Would this be OK for a 9 mo old? I am having the hardest time figuring out my son’s wake time right now. He was fine at 2hr 15min for a long time. Lately he wakes up early, although he sleeps 1hr.15 to 1hr.30 and sometimes a little fussy. So I constantly had to put him down early for the next nap and it was still not a great nap. I have increased waketime to 2.5 hours now but no difference. He still wakes early and not as happy as usual. I’m just wondering if I could quit playing with wake times and just have our set nap times. Although I don’t know if that will solve the fussy waking up part but maybe it will stress me out less!

  16. the 3 1/2 year old i nanny wakes in the morning grumpy about 50% of the time, probably because he is not getting to sleep until way past his bedtime at night (he goes down at 8:30, but usually never falls asleep until 10-11 p.m.) he usually winds up in timeout first thing because he hits or uses verbal freedoms that are not acceptable. what can i do in the mornings to curve this?

  17. LEM, The best thing to do is try it and see if it works for him. You know it works if naps don’t suffer.I think most can have set nap times at that age so long as morning time is consistent. So say you wake at 7 each day. Then you have 2 hour waketime so first nap is 9. You do that every day. One day, he wakes at 6:45. You could still do nap at 9. You do still need to be mindful of the need for change. Sickness and growth spurt can cause need for an earlier nap. Getting older can cause need for the nap to be later. etc.

  18. Melissa,It is unfair to expect an overly tired child to be on his best behavior. To me, the most obvious thing would be to figure out why he isn’t falling asleep until 10-11 PM and fixing that. Then he can get enough sleep in the night. In the morning, I would provide as much structure as possible so he doesn’t have time to get into trouble. But you would also have to consider context and have patience since he isn’t sleeping well. That is a tough one since I am assuming you don’t have control over the nighttime situation.

  19. Hi! I have an 11 1/2 month old. She has been an 11 hour night sleeper for quite some time. Of recent she has been waking an hour earlier than usual and NOT happy, but starving. After about 5 mornings of this. I tried a dream feed about 3-4 hours after her bedtime bottle, which she downs. When I do the dream feed, she sleeps her normal 11 hours plus some and wakes very happy! I have tried to get her to take more oz before bed. right now she is taking about 5-6 oz and she used to take 8-9. I even reduced her evening solids a bit hoping she would drink more before bed, no luck. I do not want to continue to dream feed becasue it is becoming a habit…I know she wants/needs the full 11 plus hours of sleep…what do I do…HELP! Thank you veru much for your time! Annie’s Moma

  20. Angela, have you tried increasing the ounces throughout the day? So that whatever you are giving her at the dreamfeed you just split up among the other bottles in the day? That would be my first step. If it is a growth spurt, she shouldn’t need the dreamfeed for very long. You would just want to watch and cut it out once you saw she didn’t need it anymore.

  21. Since my son has really started solids at 7 months, he wakes up crying from his naps with a dirty diaper- usually about 1 hours in 🙁 He used to nap for at least 2 hours in the AM and PM. Now it's about an hour each. I have tried waiting for him to go back to sleep- sometimes he does. But lately, I have taken the wake up happy approach- when he wakes up after an hour crying, I will wait until he is happy and talking and then go in. But he is still not getting the sleep he needs. There are times his diaper isn't dirty. But he still wakes up at exactly 60 minutes. I think his body has gotten used to it.Any suggestions?

  22. Hi, I have a question here about my 12 weeks daughter. Recently after feeding she will make and show her sign of sleepiness. She takes around 45min to feed and nappy change. I tried to keep her awake longer but she will become chuncky. When I put her down to sleep, she can sleep for more than 2 hours and I have to wake her up for the next feed. Initially I was on 3 hours cycle, but since she can sleep longer, I extend to 3.5 hours cycle. Yet I still need to wake her up to feed but only take one full breast (normally she will take two breast of milk).I am worry that she is sleeping too much and not taking enough milk. Is it something I should concern about? Also will her long hour of nap (2-2.5 hours each cycle) affect her sleeping at night? Regards,Ida

  23. Jeanne,There really isn't much you can do when the poop in the diaper halfway through. It is a frustrating time. Kaitlyn did that for a bit, and around that age. They eventually do outgrow it. Once he is over pooping halfway through, you can try leaving him in there until it is time and hope that he will go back to longer naps. Some babies will do well with mom going in and telling them it is still naptime and to go back to sleep. Then they know mom heard. Others will not do well with that and need to be left alone. Good luck!

  24. Jeanne,There really isn't much you can do when the poop in the diaper halfway through. It is a frustrating time. Kaitlyn did that for a bit, and around that age. They eventually do outgrow it. Once he is over pooping halfway through, you can try leaving him in there until it is time and hope that he will go back to longer naps. Some babies will do well with mom going in and telling them it is still naptime and to go back to sleep. Then they know mom heard. Others will not do well with that and need to be left alone. Good luck!

  25. Ida,A 2-2.5 hour nap is fine. If she is sleeping 10-12 hours at night, you can move to a four hour schedule. If not, then I would focus on getting her to sleep at least 10 hours at night before moving to a 4 hour daytime schedule.Watch diaper output for signs of enough milk (as well as growth).

  26. I Love your Blog! I always refer to it when my 12months old is having sleep issues. There is one thing we have had trouble with the whole 12 months!! The 30-45 min transition. My son STILL has trouble, and I still don't know what to do! I think I used to make excuses for him waking up 30-45min into his nap (such as having a nanny who was afraid to let him cry). But I have stayed home with him for the last 6 months and there has only been 1 month (when he was 11months) where he was taking great naps! (1.5hr-2hrs). Now he just turned 1 and it seems like ever since then he is back to waking up 30-45min into his naps. Today I let him cry for 45min and then my husband went in and got him. I have let him cry for 1 hour a couple of times, but just have a hard time letting him cry for that long. He doesn't take a paci, i still nurse but only when he wakes. Any suggestions?? Could he be transitioning to one nap already?? He has slept through the night since he was 15weeks old. If he ever started to wake up during the night, a few nights of cry it out has fixed it no problem. Please please please respond! hehe, your my last hope!

  27. Maloree, all of my suggestions would be in the 45 minute nap posts as well as the naps troubleshooting post. It could be Chronic 45 minute sleeper thing (see that post) or it could be that he is starting to transition toward one nap. He wouldn't be ready for one nap yet, but he could be gearing up.I would really think about what is different now from when he napped well. Sighs, sounds, smells, timing, etc.


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