Should You Wake a Sleeping Baby to Feed?

Reviewed on 6/10/2021

Baby sleeping
Knowing when to wake up your baby can be tough. Here’s how to wake up a newborn for feeding, and how much sleep your baby needs throughout the day.

Most pediatricians recommend that you wake up your baby if they are due for a daytime or nighttime feed. Babies shouldn’t go without feeding for more than 4 hours. So while most of the time your baby will let you know when they are ready to eat, it’s okay to wake them up if they snooze past the 4-hour mark. 

Babies will need to be fed during the night for a period of time after birth. But as they get older and graduate to sleeping through the night, you will need to make sure they’re getting enough to eat during the day. So you can wake them from their daytime naps if they are overdue for feeding, to make sure they don’t miss out on their calories that day.

How do you wake up a sleeping baby for feeding?

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests starting with gentle methods such as singing or stroking your baby's cheek. Then if necessary, you can progress to more rousing activities such as diaper-changing. 

Figuring out the best way to wake up your sleeping baby is a matter of trial and error. You can try the following:

  • Skin-to-skin method: Strip your baby down to their diaper and lay them down on your bare chest. Most babies will start to stir when they smell their mother and feel her touch. Lightly tickling or flicking your baby's feet may help. You can also try giving them a back rub.
  • Watch for movement in their arms, legs, and face: If your baby's limbs are dangling limply, it means they will be especially hard to wake. Wait for when your baby is in a less deep sleep before trying to wake them up.

How much sleep does a newborn baby need?

Every baby is unique and may sleep differently. Some babies sleep for long periods, whereas others sleep for short bursts. Babies typically will need about 9-8 hours of sleep until they are 3 months old, and on average will sleep about 14.5 hours.

Newborn babies spend most of their time asleep but they don’t have a set sleep pattern yet, since they don't know the difference between day and night and will sleep during both. While this is difficult for most parents to cope with, it will get easier over time

Whether you should wake up your baby to eat depends on their age, weight, and health, so listen to your instincts. In general, the older the baby is, the less they will need to be woken up. However, when they’ve just been born, prepare for some sleepless nights, and wake your little one up for regular feeds.

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References
Baby Sleep: Expert Q & A: https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/baby-sleep-expert-answers#1

Do I need to wake my baby for feeds? https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/do-i-need-wake-my-baby-feeds

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