Breastfeeding Tips | How to...

When you’re the mother of a newborn and you’re breastfeeding, one of the questions that you might have is, should I wake my newborn to feed them? You might hear different answers, but most experts agree that yes, you should wake up your baby to feed them if they’re sleeping past their feeding time. This is recommended for numerous reasons because it affects both you and the baby.


Learning the Basics

If it seems like your newborn is just an eating machine, you aren’t far from being wrong. In the first few days after their birth, most babies lose a little bit of weight, so it’s important to make sure they get enough food to grow. Babies just home from the hospital need eight to twelve feedings per day, which means that most of them end up eating every two to three hours.

In addition, breast milk is easier for the baby to digest than formula, which means the breastfed baby is typically hungry more often than a formula-fed baby. If they don’t get fed often enough, they simply won’t grow like they should, and this can affect much more than just their weight. It can also affect their physical and even their emotional growth.

Frequent feedings are also good because the more the baby feeds, the more milk you make, which makes this an issue of supply and demand. And don’t worry if your baby seems hungrier at some feedings than they are at others. This is normal, but as long as you feed them consistently, they should be able to gain weight regularly and grow like the pediatrician wants them to grow.


Should You Wake the Baby up for a Feeding?

Babies eat and sleep a lot during the first few months, so if you’re wondering if you should wake up a newborn to feed them, the answer is “yes,” you should. Most experts recommend that a baby is fed every four hours or more often. Once it starts to get close to the four-hour mark, it’s time for you to start trying to wake up your baby so they can eat. When they get older, you can space the feedings out a little more, but frequent feedings should be the norm in the beginning.

Also keep in mind that when a newborn is crying to be fed, this crying is usually a late sign that they’re hungry. In other words, once a baby starts to cry for their next meal, that baby has already been hungry for a while. This is why it’s so important to feed your baby on demand every time.


How to Wake up a Sleeping Baby for Their Next Feeding

If your newborn or 1-month-old baby won’t wake up to eat, you’ll have to wake them up, which isn’t as difficult to do as you think. First, it should be done gently. The last thing you’ll want to do is flip the lights on quickly and start talking loudly. That will only wake them up with a jolt and cause them to cry.

Instead, follow these tips when you’re learning how to wake a newborn to feed them:

  • Turn the lights up slightly but keep them fairly dim.
  • Work with the baby when they’re in REM sleep, which is a lighter form of sleep and makes it easier to wake them. If their eyelids are fluttering and you notice sleep grins, they are likely in REM sleep at that point.
  • Poke the baby slightly and gently. Lift the child and place them skin-to-skin so they can start to wake up and become more attentive.
  • Try to straighten out the baby’s body and maybe even sit it up straight on your lap.
  • Get the baby comfortable but not comfortable enough to fall asleep again. Stroke the baby’s hands or feet, or maybe take a cool washcloth and rub their little face.

If these things don’t work, you can always express a tiny amount of milk and rub your nipple on the baby’s face or lips. The smell alone should be familiar enough to them to cause them to open up their mouth and begin suckling. For most babies at least, the thought of enjoying their next meal is enticing enough to make them start suckling and they’ll wake up on their own.

Of course, learning how to wake a sleeping baby is one thing, but keeping them awake is sometimes even more challenging. Even if you wake them up enough to start feeding them, they may fall back asleep at some point. If this happens, all you have to do is start over and start waking them up all over again.

Keep in mind that the older the baby gets, the less important it is to feed them every four hours. For the first one to three months, however, you might have to wake them up occasionally if it’s been close to four hours since their last feeding. Sometimes, especially with a newborn, you’ll be waking the baby up frequently throughout the feeding, but both you and the baby will eventually get used to the routine.



Waking a sleeping baby isn’t something most moms of newborns want to do, but if the baby has gone four or more hours since their last feeding, it’s important to do so. Babies grow fast in the first few months and need regular feedings to gain the weight they need to develop properly, and this can only happen if you wake them up and feed them every two to three hours.

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