Should I wake my baby to feed?
It seems ridiculous that after x-number of hours in labor and then the thought of not getting a full night’s sleep for, perhaps, months in the non-stop marathon that follows the birth of a baby to not take full advantage of the peace and quiet of a sleeping baby. Why not let sleeping dogs lie, as the old saying goes?
Every Three to Four Hours … Really?
Breastfed babies will need to feed between 8 and 12 times within a 24-hour period until they’re three to six months old – approximately every two to three hours measured from the start of one feeding to the next, and each feeding taking between 10 and 45 minutes. Formula-fed babies may not need to be fed as frequently since formula takes longer to digest. Lactation experts say it’s okay to let the baby go for a longer stretch between feedings at night.
There are two main reasons for this frequent feeding schedule. One is that “most newborns lose weight in the first few days after birth. Until your newborn regains this lost weight – usually within 10 days to two weeks after birth – it’s important to feed him or her frequently … 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.” (Mayo Clinic)
The other reason is that frequent feeding stimulates milk supply and that newborns (2 weeks old or younger) do not yet know demand feeding. That begins after two weeks. Newborns will sleep through feedings. Once the baby is 2 weeks old, has regained his birth weight and you have established your milk supply, demand feeding begins and the baby will definitely start to tell you when he’s hungry. Once you reach this stage, it’s okay to let the baby set the pace and frequency of feedings.
Tips for waking baby
Okay, so you need to start waking your baby. How exactly does one do that? Here are a few tips compiled from Breastfeedingbasics.com.
- Loosen or remove coverings and/or undress the baby down to his diaper.
- Do not try to wake a baby who is in deep sleep. During light sleep or REM sleep is better.
- Talk to him and try to make eye contact.
- Hold him upright using the “doll’s eye” technique. Think of those dolls where you lay them down and their eyes close, but when you sit them up, their eyes open. Bend baby gently into sit-ups in your lap by raising his shoulders, legs, and torso, then lowering him back down … gently.
- Stimulate him by rubbing his back in a circular motion from the shoulder blades down and back up. Stroke his scalp in firm but gentle circles. Gently squeeze the spot between the neck and the collarbone. Apply pressure to his hands or feet with your thumbs. Walk your fingers up and down his spine. “Cycle” his arms and legs.
- Change his diaper and burp him before offering the other breast.
- Wipe his face with a cool, damp cloth.
- Use the football hold rather than the cradle hold. Babies in the cradle hold fall asleep more easily.
If your baby is awake between feedings start looking for signs that he is hungry. “You should not make your baby wait until two to three hours has passed if she is crying or actively sucking on her hands, or otherwise showing interest in breastfeeding.” (iVillage) Crying is actually a late sign of hunger. If you start before the baby gets to the crying stage, then you don’t have to worry about trying to calm baby while trying to get him to latch on. Sucking motions or lip movements are earlier signs to look for.
To make sure your baby is getting enough to eat, keep track of the number of wet and dirty diapers.
Preemies will have different nutritional needs so it is important to consult with your family doctor, pediatrician, or a lactation consultant to ensure that your baby is getting the nutrition he or she needs.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Should I wake my newborn for feedings? Mayo Clinic. Web. Apr 2, 2012.
Ask the Lactation Expert: What’s a Normal Breastfeeding Routine? iVillage. Web. Apr 2, 2012.
“Waking a Sleeping Baby” Smith, Anne. Breastfeeding Basics. Web. Apr 2, 2012.