Waking up happy

By 3-6 months most babies will start to wake up happy for naps. They {generally} no longer feel hunger pains when they wake up and they'll coo or whatever for a few minutes before you get them. If your child is older than this and not waking happy, most likely she is
not getting enough sleep.

Sometimes babies will wake happy but you don't hear them and by the time you hear them crying, they've been up for 15 minutes. This is normal and a baby monitor can help you know when your little one is up if you find yourself in this situation. A baby monitor can also be helpful in figuring out waketime if you have a baby that is pretty quiet upon waking.

Personally, I've found that babies that spend a bit of awake time by themselves happy are more likely to wake up happy at a sooner age. Those few minutes looking around by themselves here and there really help out. They start to learn to enjoy their own company in a content state. With my kids, I have them sit on the diaper changing pad for a few minutes after every diaper change (make sure it's in a safe place). I just have to make sure not to get distracted or they'll start to get fussy which goes against what I'm trying to teach them at the time (that being by themselves looking around is nice!).

Sleep habits will also affect how your baby wakes up. If she is used to always being held to sleep and put down once asleep, she's much more likely to wake up and get upset that she's not being held.

Illness, a dirty diaper, a lost lovey or distress due to something else can also cause your child to wake unhappy.

Low blood sugar may also be the culprit of your child's rough wakings. I haven't read this anywhere, but I really think it can make a difference for some kids. If you think this may be a problem, you can try offering a high protein food before naptime or possibly having a little snack available for your child to eat right as he wakes from his nap.

Sometimes you can get cranky wakings because of the the sleep phase your child wakes up in. I notice this more with toddlers and preschoolers. Unfortunately, you can't do much to prevent this besides waking them yourself at a time they're less cranky (this requires trial and error).

The following may result in a child getting less sleep than he actually needs (which can lead to unhappy wakings):
  • Inappropriate limit setting by parents (e.g. child wants to stay up so parents let him even though he really should be in bed)
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of a structured routine or an inconsistent routine (see Why have a schedule/routine?)
  • The child wants something to help him sleep like being held (see sleep prop) or wants to do something instead of sleep (e.g. play video games)
  • Psychological problem/s (rare)
  • Medical problem/s (rare)
  • You assume a nap (see Short Naps) or night time sleep (see Early Morning Waking) is finished when it really should last a bit longer (but you may need to do some work to make it do so).
  • You rush in. Babies go through transitions in sleep and often move around alot and make noises during this time. When you rush in at this time, you may be getting baby up when he was really about to go back to sleep for a bit longer.

Related Posts:
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
How Do I Know If My Baby Is Getting Enough Sleep
Waking up crying or cranky in the mornings


  1. i have been following the feed/wake/sleep routine during the day. Still my baby is awake 4-9 hours a night with little 20 minute naps during that time. What can I do? I am desperate.

  2. There could be several things that are going on. First off, how old is your baby? If your baby has his nights and days mixed up, this will take some time to fix (maybe even a couple weeks). If he has colic, then there may not be much you can do during this time besides try comforting measures for your baby and try to get some help during this time.

    Does he/she take good naps during the day? Are these by him/herself? Are you truly allowing an awake time during the day making sure it is not too long or too short. If your baby is too overtired he/she may not sleep well at night, but if he/she is getting all his/her sleep during the day he/she will not sleep as well at night. What is happening at night that there are only 20 minute naps in between? Does baby seem alert after 20 minutes? Is he/she simply unable to get him/herself back to sleep? Are you playing with baby at this time when he/she seems alert? Make sure to make night time a calm/dark environment. If baby wants to play at night, don't. Also, if you let baby catch up in too much sleep during the day bc night sleep wasn't good the same pattern is going to keep going on since he/she won't be tired at night. There's a fine line here. Too little sleep the next day will make baby too overtired to sleep, but too much sleep will make baby not sleep again during the night (if this happens to be what is going on).

    Look over the possible suggestions above and let me know where you think you are at.

  3. I have had 3 children. Our oldest is 5 then 2 1/2 and now 3 months. I'm looking forward to our youngest waking up happy :). We've done "Babywise" will all of our children so far and it just keeps getting better. All 3 have slept through the night at a very early age - our oldest was the toughest but it keeps getting better. I have the LORD, my wonderful and helpful husband, my own desire for a schedule and 'Babywise' to thank for it. I recommend it to everyone and have never heard a legitimate bad comment on it.
    Our oldest had trouble with her days and nights switched around and it can bevery tough to flip...especially if you live in a soundfroofless tiny trailer. I do believe in letting a baby 'cry it out' but that almost converted me. LOL
    Now people can't believe that my oldest 2 sleep 12 hours a night and my 3 month old is at almost 9 hours every night and has been for a month! What a blessing!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience simplemom! I bet a sound machine is your best friend with the noise you may be experiencing. Best of luck with everything. That's awesome you're at 9 hours already.


  4. Hello, Rachel,

    Thanks for the efforts that you put into this blog, you helped a lot of people, me including on some past minor issues.
    My son is 4 and a half months old. He is a calm baby in general and an ex-good sleeper. At the end of his third month he was waking only 1-2 times a night (mostly due to colics, as he has no night feedings since he became 40 days old, just a dream feed at 10pm) and with shushing and pacifier I managed to put him back to sleep in about 15 min every time he wakes up. I almost never had to take him out of his crib to console him. This gave me great hopes for the future. They failed miserably.
    I have him on a e/a/s cycle for the past 6-7. He has a nap during every cycle - about 45 min to 1.5 hours. I use the 4S routine to put him down, it takes me about 4 -5 min to do it. His bed time is 7.30 pm, and wake up time about 6.45. Dream feed at 9.45 - 10pm. Presleep routine - bath, bottle, turning off the lights and saying Good night, singing a song while holding him in the dark and then placing him in his crib swaddled, while still awake with a pacifier in his mouth (he spits it out after falling asleep and doesn't use it during the day except as a sleep prop)
    And here is my problem - for the past three weeks he's been screaming and crying with tears in his sleep 4- 6 or more times a night. He is always with closed eyes when screaming, still sleeping, fighting his swaddling and trying to get his fists into his mouth. Sometimes I let him do it just to see what happens - he does it and then he starts rubbing his eyes, sucking his fists and this wakes him up. If i don't let him do it, just leave him cry it out, he starts crying more intensely and wakes himself up eventually. So usually I shush him and offer a pacifier, which in his screaming he doesn't want to. In about 5 min he calms down and sinks into sleep, but still tosses around. Then 45 min to 1.5 later he does it all over again. This went on for 4-5 nights, then he went back to 1-2 waking or crying in his sleep for 3-4 night. Then again to crying in his sleep for 4-5 night, again a break, and now for about a week it’s crying and screaming all the time. Also he does it once during almost every nap time.
    He is healthy, doesn't have GERD, he is not teething.
    I just can't figure out what is going on or maybe I'm just too overtired to be able to (as I work from home and I can't nap during the day, and I'm sick with a fever, and my boob is inflamed and so on and so on). I don't know if I can keep it up and keep my sanity for much longer. Poor baby must be pretty exhausted too.
    If you can offer some opinion I'd be very grateful!!!! I hope you have the patience to read all the stuff i wrote 
    Thanks in advance!!