When to Wake a Sleeping Baby for Feeding

When to Wake a Sleeping Baby for Feeding

One of the most perplexing questions new parents face is, “should I wake my baby for feedings, or let him sleep?” Friends, grandmothers and neighbors will all weigh in with their opinions. The mom in the following story was a client of mine, and the events described actually happened. I want to share it because it illustrates the confusion around the topic of newborn sleep.

Breastfeeding seemed to go okay at first. After all, the baby was breastfeeding a lot and slept well. It didn’t seem right to the new mom that her one-week-old baby slept in 6-8 hour stretches, but everyone said “don’t worry.” She even called her pediatrician’s office. A nurse assured her that only babies who are getting plenty to eat would sleep that long.

A pediatric visit at 2 weeks confirmed this mom’s worst fears. Her baby had lost weight! At 2 weeks, he weighed less than when he left the hospital. She was told to supplement with formula and contact a lactation consultant.

I met with this mom a few days later. She explained to me that her nipples had been cracked and bleeding from day one. (She was told this was “normal”). The baby had been fussy after feedings, but slept many hours with the help of a pacifier. Since the baby slept so much, she thought he was getting enough milk.

At first glance, the baby appeared to be eating well, but there were early warning signs. Sore nipples indicated a poor latch. The baby was often at the breast for an hour at a time and not satisfied after feedings. His urine was concentrated and poopy diapers were rare.

The combination of a poor latch and inadequate milk transfer contributed to a drop in milk production. The drop in milk production resulted in even less intake by the baby. The baby got sleepier and less vigorous by the day, resulting in weight loss and a very poor milk supply.

So, when do you wake a sleeping baby? In the first few weeks, the baby must eat at least 8 times per day. Your baby will pee and poop multiple times per day and will be content and sleepy after feedings. Baby will be vigorous at the breast and you will hear rhythmic swallows. If you’re unsure if your baby is breastfeeding well, schedule a visit with your pediatrician or lactation consultant to weigh the baby. Once you know your baby is thriving and all is going well, you can relax a little, and trust that your baby will tell you when it’s time to eat!