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Newborn sleep: Should I wake my baby to feed?



Should I wake my newborn to feed?

Answer by Elizabeth LaFleur, RN

Whether you should wake a sleeping newborn to feeding depends on the age, weight and overall health of the baby.

Most newborns lose weight in the first few days after birth. Until your newborn regains this lost weight – usually within a week of birth – it is important that you feed it regularly. This may mean that you occasionally wake your baby to feed, especially if it sleeps longer than four hours.

If your newborn baby sees a pattern of weight gain and reaches the birth-weight milestone, it is generally OK to wait for feeding until he or she wakes up.

Most newborns need 8 to 12 feedings daily – approximately every two to three hours. Waking up a sleeping baby may seem like a bad idea, but frequent feeding at an early stage is important for several reasons:

  • Crying is a late sign of hunger. The sooner you start feeding, the less likely you are to calm down a wild baby. Watch for early signs of hunger such as: As turmoil, restlessness, sucking movements and lip movements.
  • Frequent feeding supports early breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, you can ensure the milk supply through frequent feeding. Babies are also more likely to nurse regularly in a short period of time (cluster feeding) if they have spent a long time between feedings.

Note that premature babies often have special nutritional needs. They also can not reliably show signs of hunger until they are older. If your baby was born prematurely, or you are worried about your baby's diet or weight gain, contact his doctor for specific recommendations.

Updated: 2015-04-28

Release date: 2015-04-28


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