New breastfeeding moms often ask: ‘Should I wake a baby to breastfeed who is sound asleep?’ It is important to earn when to wake your baby and when to let them keep sleeping.
Babies of all ages are naturally wired to seek food for survival. They start by turning their heads, opening their mouths, and sticking out their tongues in search of a breast with warm milk. They may smack or lick their lips as well. If food isn’t delivered from these early signs of hunger, then the baby will naturally progress to a more agitated state. When needed, they will resort to screaming and kicking their arms and legs until a parent or caregiver gets the message.
The problem is that babies may not always pay enough attention to their own need for food. This is especially true of premature or newborn babies because they are extremely tired and have an intense need for rest in order to grow. This means you may need to wake your baby to breastfeed at some point during the first year of their life. Let’s take a look at why this may become necessary and how you should go about waking a baby to breastfeed.
Newborn Daytime Feeding Schedules
Newborn babies (especially preemies!) usually need to feed at least every two hours during the day, but they’re also quite sleepy and may not always demand a feeding session when it is really needed. This is why it’s important that parents and other caregivers track all feedings and wake the baby up to feed as needed just for the first few weeks.
Consistent feeding throughout the day is crucial in the first couple of weeks if you want your breasts to produce adequate milk supply for your growing baby. Besides, if your baby is needs to eat 10-12 times a day at first, most mamas would rather than happen in the daylight hours!!!
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While we think all babies should eat on demand, making sure that your newborn is breastfeeding every two hours during the day will deliver the message that your baby needs a consistent supply of milk throughout the day AND to your baby that this is daytime and time to be awake. (We don’t want them to have their days and nights messed up!) It’s a good idea to go no longer than four hours during the night without feeding for the same reason.
Daytime Feeding Schedules for Older Babies
Unless there are concerns about your baby’s growth rate or other medical issues are involved, you probably won’t need to wake your baby for daytime feedings beyond the first month of so of their life. After a couple weeks, most babies start to wake themselves up when they need to feed. They become more and more alert and active with each passing week and are more demanding when it comes to getting the nourishment that they need to thrive.
You should also have an established flow of milk after this period of consistently feeding every two hours during the day. Your baby can start going longer periods of time without concern for your milk supply. (If you still have concerns, here are some ways to increase it.)
This is assuming that your baby is still feeding for adequate lengths of time throughout the day and possibly the night. Always pay attention to decreases in wet and dirty diapers because that is a clear sign that your baby isn’t getting enough milk to thrive.
Newborn Nighttime Feeding Schedules
If your baby is a great sleeper and easily sleeps for more than five hours a night, you may feel like the luckiest parent in the world. Why wake a baby to breastfeed when you are getting some well-deserved sleep? The problem is that newborn babies need to eat more frequently in the first few weeks of life. This means that you will need to wake the little one up to feed at least every five hours. This is only necessary for about a month, and then you can allow your baby to sleep through the night if that comes naturally to them.
If you want to establish your milk supply in the beginning, waking your baby every four hours during the night should suffice. You can let the darling rest for up to five hours after the first month. After that, just stay prepared for that early morning feeding when your baby naturally wakes up. If you need to pump during the night to prevent engorged, painful breasts, make sure that you don’t do that too close to your baby’s normal wake time. Most baby’s start to fall into some sort of natural schedule on their own at some point. Just be patient.
How to Wake a Baby to Breastfeed
If your baby is snoozing beautifully and it’s time for an essential feeding, try to wake him or her up gently. You may start with gentle rubbing along the crown of the head, the checks, or even a slight tickle on the bottoms of the feet. Light kisses and a silly song may also bring the baby back into the wakeful world.
Your routine may start with a diaper change, and you may leave his or her clothing off for the feeding. Some babies are stimulated by skin-to-skin contact while feeding while others find that more of a cue to nod back off. Talking to your baby is a good way to increase their alertness. You can then use the football hold or another position that encourages your baby to stay awake during the feeding.
Sometimes soft light or sound in the background will keep a sleepy baby awake long enough to get through a solid feeding. If your baby is easily distracted by background noise or tends to tune it out and go back to sleep, you may go for a quiet room and more personal interaction from you. This may take some experimentation until you figure out what works for your baby’s personality and temperament.
The good news is that most parents only have to wake a baby to breastfeed for the three to four weeks. After that, many babies naturally wake themselves up and use those signals to tell the adults that they’re ready to eat
- Tips to Get Baby Sleeping Through the Night
- How to Wean a Baby from Night Feedings
- Are 4 Hour Breastfeeding Schedules NORMAL?
- Adjusting to Life with a Breastfeeding Baby