Should I Wake Up My Baby to Breastfeed?

Your reluctance to wake up your baby to breastfeed, especially a newborn is normal. Transferring a newborn to a crib without waking him up is a real challenge. Finally, you have earned a few precious hours to rest, sleep or take care of yourself. On the other hand, it seems like a crime to not let your baby sleep, considering the amount of time she has spent awake and crying. Whether you need to wake up a sleeping newborn to feed depends on the age, weight and overall health condition of the baby. In this article, we will discuss when and how to wake up a baby to feed, if you are advised to do so.

wake up my baby to breastfeed


Sleepy Newborns and Breastfeeding

 Most newborns need 8 to 12 feedings a day which means one feeding every two or three hours. Some health practitioners and lactation consultants think that newborns need to breastfeed around the clock. In some cultures, it is normal that newborns nurse every 15 minutes. Frequent nursing among newborns has its important reasons. The stomach of a newborn baby is about her wrist. And given that breastmilk is very easily digested, frequent nursing allows newborns to receive bigger amounts of milk in small portions.

Growing is a hard work, and newborns usually sleep around 16 hours a day. Some of them may sleep up to 18 to 20 hours or more. But sometimes napping too long can hinder baby’s healthy growth. Your baby’s pediatrician may recommend waking your baby to feed, if the baby sleeps longer than three hours at a time and does not gain weight well. Sleeping long stretches of time without being waken up to feed may significantly decrease the amount of nutrition your baby is receiving. Undernutrition, in its turn, may weaken your baby to be able to suck enough breastmilk when she is awake. Health issues that sleepy newborns and their mothers may face include increased risk of poor weight gain, newborn jaundice, breast engorgement, neonatal hyperglycemia, and decreased milk production.

Babies that are more affected by labor medications, had a difficult birth or were born immature are more likely to become a sleepy baby. Other reasons for sleepiness may include poor latch or breast engorgement when newborns cannot suckle mother’s breasts efficiently and eventually get weak and sleepy.

How to Wake Up My Baby to Breastfeed?

If a healthy baby does not wake up in 2-3 hours after feeding, let him sleep for another 30-60 minutes and then wake him up. Wake up the baby to breastfeed when he is in light sleep. During light sleep baby may twitch or jerk her arms or legs, and her eyes move under her closed eyelids.  You can try the following tricks to wake up your sleepy baby gently.

  • Massage your baby’s feet and talk to him.
  • Hand express some colostrum or milk onto his lips to stimulate suckling.
  • Become sure that you haven’t dressed your baby too warmly. Undress or unswaddle the baby. You can even change your baby’s diaper which will little freshen her up.
  • Place baby on a firmer surface so she feels a little vulnerable.
  • Blow in baby’s face.

Help you baby suckle more milk by massaging your breasts. Gentle breast massage can assist a baby in removing the milk through positive pressure created in the breast. It can also help your baby get the «fatty» part of your breastmilk. Burp your baby during and after breastfeeding. Avoid breastfeeding in cradle hold position, because it may induce sleep. The clutch or “football” hold positions may help keep the baby awake during feeding.

When Do I need to Worry?

Talk to your baby’s pediatrician, if it becomes difficult to wake up your newborn, she has a weak cry, dry mouth or eyes, less than two wet diapers in 24 hours, fever or sunken soft spot. All above-mentioned can indicate dehydration. Monitor your baby’s weight gain. When you become sure that your baby is gaining well and your breast milk production is on track, you can let your baby to sleep as long as he wants.

wake up my sleeping baby to breastfeed

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