Should I wake my newborn for feedings?
Answers from Elizabeth LaFleur, R.N.
Whether you should wake a sleeping newborn for feedings depends on the baby's age, weight and overall health.
Most newborns lose weight in the first few days after birth. Until your newborn regains this lost weight — usually within one week after birth — it's important to feed him or her frequently. This might mean occasionally waking your baby for a feeding, especially if he or she sleeps for a stretch of more than four hours.
Once your newborn establishes a pattern of weight gain and reaches the birth-weight milestone, however, it's generally OK to wait for feedings until he or she wakes up.
Most newborns need eight to 12 feedings a day — about one feeding every two to three hours. While waking up a sleeping baby might seem like a bad idea, frequent feedings early on are important for a couple of reasons:
- Crying is a late sign of hunger. The sooner you begin each feeding, the less likely you'll need to soothe a frantic baby. Look for early signs of hunger, such as stirring, restlessness, sucking motions and lip movements.
- Frequent feedings support early breast-feeding. If you breast-feed, frequent feedings will help you establish your milk supply. Babies also are more likely to nurse repeatedly in a short period of time (cluster feed) if they have gone longer stretches between feedings.
Keep in mind that premature babies often have special nutritional needs. They also might not reliably show signs of hunger until they are older.If your baby was born prematurely or you're concerned about your baby's feeding patterns or weight gain, consult his or her doctor for specific recommendations.
April 28, 2015
Elizabeth LaFleur, R.N.
See more Expert Answers
- Schanler RJ, et al. Initiation of breastfeeding. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 24, 2015.
- Kleinman RE, ed. Breastfeeding. In: Pediatric Nutrition Handbook. 6th ed. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009.
- What to expect in the early days of breastfeeding. Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health. 2007;52:643.
- Holt K, et al. Infancy. In: Bright Futures Nutrition. 3rd ed. Elk Grove, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2011.
- Your guide to breastfeeding. Office on Women's Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/breastfeeding-guide. Accessed March 24, 2015.