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How to Wake Up a Sleeping Baby

How to Wake Up a Sleeping Baby

But only if you really, really, really have to.

Sep 20 2021, 4:36 PM

This story was produced in partnership with Fatherly.

To a frazzled new parent, a sleeping baby is the most beautiful thing in the world. More specifically, the lack of crying is the most beautiful sound in the world. They don’t need to be told twice not to wake up their baby—why interrupt precious moments of peace and quiet with the potential for diaper changes, burping, feeding, and other forms of parental labor? But, sadly, there are some circumstances—sticking to a doctor-recommended feeding schedule is a common one—in which you have to interrupt baby sleep. When that happens, it’s important to know how to wake up a baby.

So if the first rule is don’t wake up the baby unless absolutely necessary, the second rule is that it’s best to wake your baby slowly. Here are some techniques parents can try. They won’t make the process pleasant, exactly, but they can make it more pleasant than it otherwise would have been.

Create a faux-sunrise.

Don’t simply flip a switch that will blast your kid’s retinas with a harsh glare, upsetting them and potentially causing them to shut their eyes even more tightly. Instead, raise the light level of a dimmable bulb every-so-slightly every few minutes. You’ll want to start the awakening process before you actually need your baby to be awake, as this strategy needs a bit of time to develop.


Swaddling a baby can help them feel drowsy and fall asleep, so it makes sense that unswaddling a baby can help them wake up. Just remember that swaddling is principally a safety measure, so make sure that when you unswaddle you supervise your baby until they’re wide awake.

Get a diaper change in.

There’s a nonzero chance that your baby needs a diaper change at the end of a nap. Starting a change while they’re still asleep takes advantage of their tranquil state, making wriggling less likely, and hopefully jostles them just enough to bring them out of dreamland.

Make some (non-jarring) noise.

Whether it’s cooing, singing, or just talking to your baby in your gentlest voice, you can create a calming wake-up soundtrack with your voice. It’s a powerful tool—don’t be afraid to use it.


Baby massage can help solve stomach problems and help parents bond with their little ones; it’s also a great way to rouse a sleeping infant. Try some gentle massages while your baby is still in their crib or bassinet to gently lift them out of sleep instead of shocking them into being awake.

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