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It may seem counterintuitive, but but caring for an infant can sometimes mean waking your sleeping baby. And believe it or not this might be the best thing you can do for your little one. On average babies lose 7 to 10 percent of their body weight in the first few days after birth, according to Kids Health. This is common due to the fact that babies carry a lot of extra fluid when they are born. This is one of the infant milestones that is important to know about very early on and important in caring for a newborn.

With this drastic loss of weight, parents need to make sure that they gain this weight back over the next few weeks of life to aid in the babies development. As a result, they may need to be woken up, especially throughout the night, to eat and achieve this weight/nutrition goal.

Do I really need to wake my baby?

Babies nursery at night.

Before going into the many reasons/benefits for waking your little one, it’s important to note that what your baby’s doctor tells you takes precedence over anything in this article. They know your baby’s specific needs and situations best, taking care of babies is not exactly the same path for all parents. In turn, they may advise you to wake your baby more or less frequently than regularly advised. Always check with your baby’s doctor if you are unsure of something going on with your little one. And don’t forget to neglect your own needs either, take some time toshow yourself some gratitude as well.

With that said, we will go over the many reasons why waking your newborn to feed is vital to ensuring their growth and development. First off, babies’ bellies empty fast. How fast? Well, yournewborn’s tummy is around the size of a ping pong in the first coupleof weeks of life. To top that, babies digest breast milk easily and quickly.

Your little one will typically gain or should gain 1 ounce of weight back per day allowing them to regain their lost birth weight by theirtwo-week doctor’s appointment. When your baby doesn’t get enough to eat throughout the day and night time, they won’t gain their weight back quickly. This can lead to complications like low blood sugar and jaundice. It’s your job to ensure that they get all of their necessary calories during that time frame to allow proper nutrition and growth.

Hunger cues to look out for in a Newborn

Baby stirring in sleep

A crying baby is typically ahungry baby. When your little one lets out a hearty wail, their tummies are probably already completely empty and it’s time to feed. Ideally, parents should look for these other signs and clues that may reveal themselves prior to an empty belly:

  • Lip-smacking
  • Rooting
  • Hands-to-mouth activity
  • Stirring in their sleep

The sooner you catch onto these cues, the less likely you’ll struggle with calming your distraught little one. For premature babies that have special nutritional needs, they may not display any of these cues or even cry, so it is important to stick diligently to the feeding schedule that you discuss with your doctor.

The importance of frequent feedings for mom

Mom breastfeeding baby

During the first couple of weeks, your baby may seem like an eating machine, but that’s because they’re growing quickly. Their bodies can’t take much of a break, and neither can yours, it’stime to get moving!

In the early stages of breastfeeding, it is important to establish a healthy and consistent demand-supply cycle. This cycle allows your body to produce the perfect amount of milk your baby needs WHEN they need it. Therefore, to amp up the supply, you need to encourage frequent and timely feedings or pumpings. This will tell your body that the demand for the milk is there, and your body will continue to produce milk in turn.

If you wait long periods of time between feedings, your milk supply will go down because it thinks the demand has also gone down. This isn’t the case of course, but your body doesn’t know that your baby is simply sleeping at the moment but will be hungry when he/she wakes up. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to wake your little one up throughout the night to feed, at least in those early weeks of life.

When should I wake my baby?

An alarm clock at night

In the first two weeks, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waking your baby to feed every 2-3 hours. This, of course, primarily applies to overnight feedings. Remember, your baby’s belly is quite small, so they have a physiological need to eat every couple of hours. For formula-fed babies, you can wait a little longer between feedings, 3-4 hours, since formula takes longer to digest.

Babies typically eat around 12 times a day in the first 2 weeks. By waking your baby every 3 hours during the night or a long nap, you are ensuring that they are getting ample opportunities to regain back their lost birth weight. You can’t nurse your baby too often.

Once your baby shows a consistent pattern ofweight gain and they have reached their two-week ideal weight, you can then cut back on feedings. By this point, you can typically let your little one sleep through the night, and just feed first thing when they wake up.

The Takeaway

Again, for many newborns, feedings throughout the night can be so important for thatweight gain, but, ultimately, waking your baby depends on their age, weight, overall health, and your doctor’s recommendations. If you liked this article try taking a look at our 20 Diaper Changing Hacks post, we’re sure you’ll need it with the number of diapers you’ll inevitably be changing.

By: Erin Pasquet
Birth and Postpartum Doula
Childbirth Educator
Certified Lactation Counselor
Pre/Post Natal Yoga Teacher