A sleeping baby and a clock that says it’s feeding time can present quite the dilemma! This is especially true when it’s late at night, you’ve had a long day, and looking at your little one fast asleep can only be described as pure bliss. Is it okay to let your baby sleep? Or should you rouse them awake for a feeding? Here are a few important things to consider to help you make the right choice.
Things to Consider
As you’ve probably already discovered, babies rarely have perfectly structured sleep/feeding schedules, and these schedules continue to change as they develop. In order to know if it’s okay to let your baby sleep for an extra hour or two, or wake them to feed at night, it helps to consider things like their age, if they’re at a healthy weight, and their current sleep patterns.
In the first few weeks of life, newborns’ little tummies digest breast milk fairly quickly, which means they need to be fed every 2-3 hours. Formula typically takes longer to digest, so bottle-fed babies can go 3-4 hours between feedings. To make sure your newborn is growing, developing, and maintaining proper weight gain, it’s important to wake them for nighttime feedings. This also helps breastfeeding moms keep up with the pace of their milk production.
However, this feeding schedule changes as they grow. For instance, around 2-3 months, some babies are able to sleep through the night (5-6 hours). As long as your little one is at a healthy weight, it’s perfectly okay to let them sleep for a little longer and stretch out their feeding schedule as they develop. Of course, all babies have different sleep patterns and develop in unique ways, so parents and caregivers need to gauge these moments according to what’s best for their child. If you’re still unsure about whether you should wake your baby to eat in the night, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician for guidance.
Waking a Baby to Feed
If you’ve considered their age, weight, and current sleep pattern and you’ve concluded that it is time to wake your child up to eat, here are some rousing techniques for newborns that can help them ease into a meal without startling them awake.
Talk or Sing Softly
Remember that your newborn loves the sound of your voice, so talking or singing softly is a great way to gently wake them up.
Slowly Turn the Lights Up
Presenting a little bit of light into the room, yet still at a dim level, can help stimulate a baby just enough to help them prepare for a feeding.
Use a Soft Touch
A soft infant massage can soothe the senses while also inviting them into a waking stage.
Look for the REM Cycle
It can sometimes be easier to wake a baby for a feeding if they’re reaching their REM cycle, which is the active sleep stage. Once you see their eyes flutter, their arms moving, or their legs kicking, you can begin to slowly and gently wake them.
If you’re reluctant to wake your sleeping newborn for a feeding, you’re definitely not alone! But when it comes to an infant’s health, nutrition, and development, a meal often takes precedence over a snooze.