Babies might be tiny, but they eat so much and so often — every two to three hours. And if you’re breastfeeding, your newborn may need to eat even more often (breast milk is digested more quickly than formula). Pediatricians and lactation consultants often advocate feeding schedules that, of course, moms want to stick with — but what happens when baby is sleeping? Many moms agonize over the decision of whether or not they should wake their little ones for feedings.
And it’s no wonder we’re confused, since experts are divided on this issue as well.
“There is no need to wake a baby for feeding if the baby is healthy, born at term, and gaining weight well,” says lactation consultant Leigh Anne O’Connor. That said, many newborns won’t fall in this camp. At first, infants struggle to get the hang of feeding (and if you’re breastfeeding, it can take a few days for your milk to come in). As a result, newborns often lose weight after heading home from the hospital — which is why some experts urge parents to wake the baby until their weight is back where it was when he was born.
“For the first couple of weeks, until the baby is back to birth weight, we suggest parents wake their baby to feed every two or three hours in the day, and every three to four hours at night until he is back to his birth weight,” says Cindy Leclerc, a registered nurse and lactation consultant. She also feels babies should be woken up to be fed if they were born premature, born weighing less than 5 1/2 pounds, jaundiced, or struggling with medical problems like an infection, since all of the above babies may be more delicate health-wise and could stand for more vigilance.