When You Should Wake a Baby to Eat
It’s common for a new mother to hear that she should wake a baby to eat on schedule. This can seem counterintuitive, but in some situations, it’s true. Regular feedings will offer the important nutrients your baby needs to grow at a rapid pace. While it’s important to consider your baby’s age, weight, and any special health issues, there is a general rule for when it’s all right to wake a baby to eat.
The first 2 weeks
When your newborn baby is 2 weeks old or younger, waking her from sleep to feed is a good idea. Newborn babies sleep a lot, and they don’t always wake to feed. After birth, your baby’s weight will drop, and it typically takes 1-2 weeks to grow back to birth weight. Don’t assume a sleeping newborn baby is a happy, full baby! Since most breastfed babies eat 8-12 times every 24 hours, you should not allow your baby to sleep beyond 4-hour stretches.
As an added benefit for mothers who are breastfeeding, when you wake a baby to eat more frequently right at the beginning will help establish your milk supply.
Waking a sleepy newborn to eat
Sometimes it’s challenging to wake baby to eat. Here are some tips to try:
- Dim the lights
- Undress baby down to her diaper. Newborn babies dislike being undressed and cooled, and you can do skin-to-skin.
- Rub her feet, stroke her body…give her stimulation
- Wipe her face with a damp cloth
- Talk to her while gently positioning her horizontally, then vertically
- Put a few drops of milk or colostrum in her mouth, waiting for her to swallow
- Change her diaper
If she is still very difficult to wake, you can lie her back down and try again in 20 minutes.
The general rule is to stop waking your sleeping baby to eat after she reaches her birth weight. Once your newborn baby has regained her birth weight, you can begin demand feeding. This is baby-led feeding, meaning your baby will tell you when she is hungry and ready to eat. If she sleeps longer than 4 hours at night, celebrate and don’t worry about waking her up. A baby who is healthy and thriving will not sleep through feedings. By the time she is 2 months old, it doesn’t matter if she nurses from one or both breasts, how long she feeds, or how often she feeds; if she’s gaining weight and having regular wet and soiled diapers, she’s probably getting plenty to eat.
It would make sense that newborn babies should require silence to sleep peacefully, but usually the opposite is true. Sometimes it seems like newborns can sleep through anything! We’ve all heard the saying “Never wake a sleeping baby.” However, during those first few weeks when you are both getting into a feeding routine and baby is regaining weight, it’s a good idea to wake her for a feeding.
What have you found helps your newborn baby awaken for a feeding? Share with us in the comments!