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Baby and Toddler Q and A: Wake a sleeping baby?


   c. Darby Herrington

Wendy S. asks:

 I have heard different advice about whether I should let my 8 week-old sleep for long stretches or if I should wake her up to feed.  What is best?

The short answer is, "it depends."  I know moms who swear by keeping their baby on a strict sleeping and eating schedule.  I also know moms who let their baby sleep and eat on command with amazing results.  Pediatricians even have differing opinions on what is best.  The only one who really knows what is best is your baby.

Elizabeth Pantley, author of the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution, states in her article "Newborn Babies and Sleep" that the best thing a parent can do is become informed and recognize the signs your own baby gives you.  Read books and articles, attend classes and talk to other moms.  Pay attention to what your baby is telling you

Pantley says, "During the early months of your baby's life, he sleeps when he is tired, it’s that simple. You can do little to force a new baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him up when he is sleeping soundly."  In other words, if he is hungry he will wake up.  If he needs more sleep, he will keep sleeping. 

Although some pediatricians recommend that infants sleep no longer than four hours between feedings, it is perfectly safe for him to sleep longer.  As your baby gets older (around 6 months), you may want to try to get her into a more defined schedule.  Just keep in mind that flexibility is key. 

Trying to keep to a strict schedule can bring on unnecessary stress which is not good for you or your baby.  It is okay to stay longer at the park when you are enjoying a nice day together.  Do not turn your life upside down for fear of getting off-schedule.  Adaptability is a good thing for your baby to learn early.

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Ask me - the National Baby and Toddler Examiner - anything related to babies and toddlers and I'll respond with an answer and hopefully get a discussion going with other readers who can chime in as well.  If I do not know the answer, I will do my best to find it.

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The fine print:

Be advised that answers and commentary are solely the opinions of Darby Herrington and are NOT based on any medical, psychological or other specialized knowledge, education or training.  Your Baby and Toddler Examiner is just another mom. 

Rude, inappropriate, libelous, racist or otherwise unsavory comments and questions will not be responded to and will most likely be deleted.  This is a family-oriented column.  Please be respectful of and its readers.

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Copyright ©2010 by E. Darby Herrington.  All rights reserved.


  • Rena F. 4 years ago

    Excellent Darby! Thank you.

  • Anonymous 3 years ago

    Hi my daughter is 11 months old and recently she has started to fall asleep on command. When ever my wife breast feeds our daughter and she gets laid down after she falls asleep, she will start fussing. If my wife calls my name, our daughter will fall over asleep and sleep for at least 10 min but up to an hour. Is this a weird behavior for a baby? I have tried to research it and can't really find any information on it. I am worried that our daughter might have some psychological disorder.

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