It’s a biological fact that babies need their sleep (and in fact, so do parents!), so there’s usually no argument about putting the baby to bed. That said, naps aren’t guaranteed, especially when life is going on around the nursery. Whether there are older kids, dads, or grandparents hanging around or the delivery guy chooses the wrong time to ring the doorbell, there are plenty of reasons why babies get woken up.
But what is considered socially acceptable when it comes to waking the baby? The reasons are few and far between, but we’ve done our best to cover them all here.
Every mom no doubt has her own rules about what constitutes a good reason to wake the baby, even if it seems like dads don’t always get it. Especially for stay at home moms, a sleeping baby is a rarity and sometimes a relief.
That means there are also absolute no-no’s when it comes to waking the baby. Some reasons just aren’t worth the crying jags and cranky after-effects of waking the baby before naptime is up. Read on for ten times it’s considered acceptable to wake the baby- and five times when doing so could land you in hot water with the baby mama.
15 Naptime Danger Zone
This one tops the list because safety comes before sleep, no matter how sleep-deprived the entire family may be. Whether you suspect the baby is having trouble breathing or there’s a fire in the house, waking up a snoozing tot is the least of your worries.
Legitimate dangers take precedence over keeping things quiet for a sleeping baby, even if them crying only increases your panic.
While most moms have had heart-stopping moments when they feared there was an emergency and it turned out to be nothing, what’s a little sleep lost over peace of mind? Plus, if you suspect your baby is having trouble breathing or they’re sleeping longer than usual, it’s better to wake them unnecessarily than risk tragedy. That said, be ready for all possible emergencies by learning infant CPR and basic first aid, at least.
14 Tiny Tummy Rumbles
Parents of NICU babies have the amazing ability to acclimate to a difficult and often frustrating set of circumstances, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. From learning to breathe to learning to eat, premature babies and those born with health issues struggle to get started with life, and there’s still plenty to work on when they get home.
In the NICU, most babies are on a strict feeding schedule to maintain and increase their weight and get healthy. According to WebMD, most preemie infants come home on a feeding schedule, but even if they don’t, they shouldn’t go more than 4 hours between feedings. That might mean you have to interrupt a snooze to top them off. It’s unfortunate since preemies tend to sleep more often for shorter stretches, but they’ve got to eat!
13 Bedtime Baby Blowout
Every parent has been there: you’ve just fed, rocked, snuggled, and tucked in your bundle of joy when you hear the one sound no parent of a sleeping baby wants to hear. Sometimes it’s loud and offensive, other times it’s nearly silent yet still deadly, but either way, it’s clear that baby just soiled his or her diaper, and possibly the inside of the pajamas too.
While a wet diaper might not bother most babies’ sleep, especially if they still wake often to eat, a poo-filled diaper can cause intense diaper rash.
Leaving babies to sleep in a soiled diaper overnight isn’t kind and it isn’t clean either, which means it’s definitely preferable to wake them up
for a change rather than let sleeping bottoms lie.
12 Sickness Doesn’t Sleep
If you’ve struggled with colds and fevers with your tot already, you know sleep is essential to recovery. But sometimes knowing just how sick they are tops letting them snooze. If you’re monitoring a high temperature, for example, you may need to check for fever during naps. This is because body temperature naturally spikes at night, Parenting explains, which isn’t always a bad thing.
Fevers are natural and help babies’ bodies fight off invaders. But if your young infant spikes a temperature over 100.4 degrees, that’s cause for an emergency, Parenting notes. And if you do give medication to older babies and children, you need to continue to check their temperature to ensure the medicine is effective. That might mean a naptime interruption, but it could mean the difference between a quick recovery and a trip to the emergency room.
11 Medicine Makes For Night Duty
Although experts caution against using medication with young babies, if you have an infant with any type of illness or condition that requires medication, you know how important it is to be consistent. For example, a baby that has Type I diabetes will need regular blood sugar checks and possibly snacks depending on how high or low the blood sugar goes at night.
Not waking baby for a sugar-boosting snack could have disastrous consequences.
Similarly, babies who are on medication for seizures, heart conditions, or other illnesses need their meds no matter what time of day it is. And often, the medicine label will note an interval that falls inconveniently into nighttime. Plus, some medications can cause nausea, so doctors suggest taking them before bed- an issue if your kiddo conks out early.
10 Saving The Schedule
It’s worse when they’re preschoolers, but even babies can nap too late and then want to stay up and party all night. Although most parents don’t have their infants on a strict sleep schedule, they still recognize when a late morning nap or early evening one can throw off the groove of the entire day. Insufficient sleep means bad moods and meltdowns for everyone, but by cutting off an improperly timed nap, parents can often restore the sleep balance before bedtime.
Whether you’re trying to head off an all-night toddler party or getting your preschooler ready for an early morning, it’s universally accepted that waking a baby to keep some balance to the day is a good move. If we could just convince the sleepy babies of that fact, we’d be golden.
9 Crook In The Neck
Some parents are lucky and they have babies that will sleep anywhere. It’s both a blessing and a curse, especially given the previous problem of maintaining a somewhat coherent sleep and wake schedule. That said, most parents will try to wake a child that falls asleep somewhere uncomfortable or inappropriate- and sometimes downright dangerous.
Babies fall asleep hanging off beds, in dog crates, in bouncers, on top of TVs, in restaurant highchairs, and on top of parents.
Sleeping in strollers, car seats, and carriers is usually less troublesome, but some of the places babies choose to sleep can seriously mess with their quality of sleep
and how they feel when they wake up. That means a mid-snooze transport (and possible awakening) is certainly acceptable if it aims to provide comfort and safety.
8 Sleeping Beauty In Sleeping Arms
While the jury’s still out on the moral acceptability of waking a sleeping baby for mom or dad to go pee, it’s definitely okay to wake the baby in order to prevent the loss of life or limb of a parent. That means that when your arms fall asleep from snuggling your wee one, it’s okay to call (I mean, whisper) for help moving them so you can restore the blood flow to all your body parts.
This one’s especially relevant for nursing moms, whose nipples may face mortal danger as a sleeping infant gnaws on them. There’s also the fact that you might sit hunched over to feed. But all parents need to look out for their own wellbeing- plus holding baby while you’re in pain or your arms are sleeping poses a danger to them, too.
7 Concussion Disruption
Babies are fairly resilient when it comes to taking a tumble while learning to crawl or walk, but sometimes, serious head injuries cause major problems. Therefore, while a good sleep can help babies recover from trauma or just a plain old scare, Livestrong recommends keeping them awake for a while after the bump.
Keep an eye on tots and watch out for signs of a concussion while they’re awake.
A general guideline is to avoid naps for an hour afterward, but Livestrong explains that depending on your doctor’s advice, you can usually let tots go to sleep at their regular times, then wake them to be sure they’re back to normal. Afterward, you should wake the baby every two hours or to your doctor’s specifications. Irregular breathing, trouble waking, and twitching are all signs of serious problems, so seek medical advice ASAP.
6 Arrivals All Awake
There’s a reason that so many moms turn to driving around to calm babies- because many infants enjoy car rides. The movement can soothe them to sleep, whether or not it’s actually time for a nap. But, parents still have to live life, make appointments, get older kids to and from school and practices, and get to and from work. That means car ride cat napping has to take a back seat to the family’s priorities.
Most of the time, parents don’t try too hard to keep sleeping kiddos snoozing while getting them out of the car. Odds are, if you’re just getting home and your baby is sleeping, they probably shouldn’t be- unless you timed your day perfectly. Therefore, it’s a forgivable offense if you wake the baby while bringing them inside the house, and it’s usually desirable, too.
And 5 Times It's A No-No
5 Visitors Violate Nap Code
So there are legitimate reasons to wake the baby that most parents likely agree on. But one point of contention for most parents is when people just “drop by” expecting to visit with the baby, especially when he or she is just out of the womb.
Whether it’s your sweet mother-in-law or your overbearing and nosy neighbor, there’s no good reason to wake a tot just because someone wants to say hello.
Even with older infants, out-of-town relatives or other visitors might expect you to retrieve baby from his napping spot to join the festivities. It seems to get worse when the occasion is a holiday or birthday, because family who rarely sees your kids might want to lavish attention on them while they can. The problem is, life goes on after they leave- and getting back to a normal sleep schedule is harder than it seems.
4 Sleepy Snacking Baby
When babies are little, it’s nerve-wracking wondering whether they’re eating enough, especially if they’re a preemie or have health problems. But as they get older, especially as they begin to crawl and walk, some babies will skip meals in favor of exploring. Then, they conk out before finishing a meal. But have you ever tried to wake a baby to get them to finish eating? If it’s not a bottle or a breast (and sometimes not even that will work), good luck.
The good thing is, most babies will wake when they’re hungry, so you can always offer a late meal or snacks when they wake up. It’s a fact that the majority of toddlers will not starve themselves, so you don’t have to worry about them occasionally missing meals.
3 Skipping The Suds
Another fun parenting test is determining whether your baby is dirty enough to warrant a bath. Even if you think they’re starting to smell a little ripe, good luck waking a sleeping baby for bath time. You’ve been warned- I’ve been there, and it’s ugly. It seems like no matter the age they are, kids don’t appreciate being woken up, however gently, only to be washed up and put back to bed.
At best, you’ll deal with your baby falling asleep in the bath while you try and wash his floppy body.
At worst, you’ll have a full-fledged toddler tantrum on your hands while you try not to get soap in her eyes or fall in the tub yourself. Better to let sleeping babies lie- unless you’re prepared for a fight.
2 Wardrobe Forgiveness Applies
Unless you’re the parenting ninja photographer who snapped this sleeping beauty pic, you should probably rethink the mid-nap wardrobe change. For some reason, this supermom’s tot not only doesn’t wake up for her posed photos, but she sleeps through putting on the outfit, too- mom told Babble that 4-month-old Joey rarely wakes up for their shoots. Even with donning a mermaid wig, shell “bra,” and other accessories, this little girl really knows how to snooze.
For the rest of us mere mortals, it doesn’t matter how dirty your baby is or how cute this new outfit looks- if they’re asleep, they won’t appreciate being woken up for a fresh outfit. Unless your child sleeps like a rock, don’t risk waking them over a spit-up-stained onesie or brand-new and utterly adorable jumper.
1 Welcome Home Dad
By welcome home, we mean from work, like at the end of the day when stay at home moms have spent 12+ hours preparing and cleaning up the aftermath of pureed meals, performed no less than nineteen diaper changes, and rocked and shush shushed nearly constantly while the neighbors’ dogs yipped through morning nap.
Sorry dads/partners- baby does not need to wake up mid-nap to greet you when you get home.
It’s even worse if dad works the night shift since moms either have to keep baby awake to say hi to dad or put them to bed and risk dad’s arrival setting off an all-night party. Think ahead, dads, and appreciate that the baby is sleeping angelically- it’s probably the calmest the kiddo has been the entire day while you were gone.