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We have a two week old child. He's eating well during the day, eating at least 8 times a day, and is breast feeding. His weight gain has been 'normal' so far, and he regained his original birth weight by 10 days. We're getting conflicting advice on how to handle feeding at night time. We have heard:

  • feed him every 2-3 hours, just like during the day
  • it's ok to leave it 4-5 hours at night, as long as he doesn't wake up and 'ask' for food
  • let him sleep as long as he wants, and feed him when he gets up

Are there any studies or definitive answers out there for this? How should we handle the night time feeds? Sleep is obviously good for the wife and I, but how much food do we need to get in?

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Btw, congrats on the new arrival! –  Martha Feb 29 '12 at 21:24
    
Just adding our anecdotal experience. Our newborn is 5 weeks old, and he eats every couple of hours in the evening, and then sleeps sometimes 7 hours at night. (His parents are very happy about this! :) ) He is gaining weight and growing just fine, so the professionals just say let him sleep as much as he wants. –  bjarkef Nov 27 at 15:28

12 Answers 12

Our baby was full term but smaller than usual (5 lbs 6 oz, 4lbs 11 on discharge). The pediatrician advised us to feed her every 2 hours which we essentially did even through the night. (I breastfeed so this frequency also really boosted my supply.) Though most times she would ask to feed, there were times I had to wake her to feed without demand, in order to keep this schedule. In other words, though she definitely needed to eat, she DID NOT always wake to tell me. Around the 1 month mark she had gained 3 lbs. and about that time she also started being able to go a bit longer at night without eating. I noticed that this coincided a bit with how often she wanted to eat during the day (from every 1-1.5 hours to every 2 hours). At ten weeks now she eats about every 2 hours during the day but can go five to six hour stretches at night (I never let her go longer than six). From what I have read and been told by doctors and lactation consultants, it's better not to let your baby go long periods at night (6-8 hours) without feeding in those early weeks and, this is important, depending on the weight and condition of your infant. I've come to understand that these last two factors are probably more influential in making your decision to feed than any sort of rule if thumb.

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This coincides with the advise we were given and our experience with both our very small daughters. (Both are still well under the fifth percentile fifteen and twenty years later. Eldest can drop five pounds she doesn't have if she gets sick.) –  Marc Nov 13 at 19:53

Not necessarily, but you can fix some time table based on his sleeping habits, so that it will be even good for him and you too

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Hello Ananya, Can you provide information on where you are pulling this information from? Is this anecdotal or do you have a source/study to attribute? –  ChristopherW Oct 18 at 14:41

Why do u want to wake up your baby to feed? Does the baby sleep the whole night without waking up? If so, then make sure u give a good feed just before he goes to sleep. There is no need to wake.up the child at night just for a feed. Babies will ask food themselves by Crying if they are really hungry. And just consider yourself really lucky to have a baby who doesnt wake.up 10 times in the middle of night. Count your blessing and sleep in.peace :-)

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You actually might not have to wake to feed. Infants will sometimes be able to nurse even while they are sleeping. I would definitely ask your doctor at your 1 month checkup (make sure growth is on track). We had issues and were told to let ours drink as much as she wanted and then let her sleep as long as she wanted unless it was getting close to 5 hours. Being only two weeks old, this is a very important time in development and getting the proper nutrients and frequency is nothing to glaze over because you are tired (I know it's hard!).

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I won't wait the babies cry then feed him,because crying is the late sign of hunger. You can see lots of sign that determine if the baby is hungry, such as they keep on moving their head and mouth (although their eyes are close you can notice that they are looking of something).

This probably would happen if 3 to 4 hours have passed. You don't need to wake him up, either; you can still feed with out waking him up.

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Hi Nel, welcome to Parenting. This is a good answer, but it would be improved if you made it a little better in terms of capitalization and punctuation. I'll do that here for you. Feel free to continue to improve it as wel. –  Joe Oct 16 at 15:17

Whether you should wake a sleeping newborn for feedings depends on the baby's age, weight and overall health.

Most newborns lose weight in the first few days after birth. Until your newborn regains this lost weight — usually within one to two weeks after birth — it's important to feed him or her frequently. This might mean occasionally waking your baby for a feeding, especially if he or she sleeps for a stretch of more than four hours. Once your newborn establishes a pattern of weight gain and reaches the birth-weight milestone, however, it's generally OK to wait for feedings until he or she wakes up.

Most newborns need eight to 12 feedings a day — about one feeding every two to three hours. While waking up a sleeping baby might seem like a bad idea, frequent feedings early on are important for a couple of reasons:

Crying is a late sign of hunger. The sooner you begin each feeding, the less likely you'll need to soothe a frantic baby. Look for early signs of hunger, such as stirring, restlessness, sucking motions and lip movements. Frequent feedings support early breast-feeding. If you breast-feed, frequent feedings will help you establish your milk supply. Keep in mind that premature babies often have special nutritional needs. If your baby was born prematurely or you're concerned about your baby's feeding patterns or weight gain, consult his or her doctor for specific recommendations.

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No, you should not wake up your baby to feed him. I also breastfeed my son, and when he was at this age, he would sleep for a few hours only, and then I am always on his side ready to feed him. The first two weeks and months, were really tiring because I really have to wake up several times at night to feed him. I remember not having enough sleep for the entire week. It is just a process, in time, your son will sleep whole night, and then you can just prepare his milk when he wakes up.

Every child is different, so there are really different schedules when it comes to feeding. That's the reason why there are different techniques when it comes to feeding. As long, as your child's growth chart has an established growth pattern over time, this means that your baby is doing just fine.

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My wife and I have a 4 month old daughter. When our daughter was about a month old, however, she started sleeping longer and longer at night. We asked our pediatrician if it was ok to let her go longer, and he suggested that we not allow her to go more than 8 hours without eating. His explanation had something to do with the fact that her liver was still underdeveloped, and thus could not handle the level of starvation associated with not eating for more than eight hours. This made sense to me, and I trusted his judgement on it (I mean, we do call it breakfast for a reason, right?) so we would wake her up if she was approaching the eight hour mark on sleep. This only happened a handful of times, however, she eventually got used to the schedule and would wake up on her own.

My wife and I have also read a few 'good sleep habits' books, and in these, research is cited in which it is shown that a child's hunger and a child's sleepiness are not inter-related. In other words, a hungry child will still show the same sleep/wake patterns as a sated child. In other words in other words, a hungry, sleeping baby will NOT wake up due to its hunger. If desired, I can cite the author/book which I got this info from, as well as the research cited in that book.

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I'd love to see a citation. Thanks. –  yossarian Mar 6 '12 at 12:56
    
It sounds like this doctor was worried that jaundice might develop (when the body has too much bilirubin that it cannot get rid of). For jaundiced babies the simplest/first solution is to increase feedings (so they poop more, the bilirubin leaves the body with the poop). It is pretty easy to test a baby’s bili level to see if this is a concern or if it needs treatment. –  auujay Jan 9 '13 at 22:37

In my experience, babies tend to wake up by themselves when they get hungry. In most cases the baby knows best when it needs food. Both my sons slept up to 4-6 hours a night, and their weight was following the normal growth statistics that was ideal for their length.

So unless there are signs that your child does not get enough food during the 24-hour cycle (based on "diper fillings" and weight gain), you can let him sleep.

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Let him sleep.

My son was born a bit on the small side, with low blood sugar and a small problem with maintaining body temperature (in the first days). We were told we have to wake and feed him every three hours, mainly because of the blood sugar issue. But after two weeks, we were told this is no longer necessary, and that we can now wait for 4-5 hours between feeds during the night. If your baby is of normal weight and has no health issues, I would guess that letting him sleep as long as he likes is really OK.

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Most of the literature I can find about infant sleeping has to do primarily with waking habits, not eating habits. So I would not be surprised if these recommendations (which I have heard before) have little support from rigorous peer-reviewed scientific research. That doesn't mean that the recommendation isn't useful, it simply means your mileage may vary.

My mother is a lactation consultant, and the way she had us make sure our infants were getting enough food is the number of wet and soiled diapers in a 24 hour period (I can't remember the exact numbers right now). Either way, it just goes to show that despite how much research there may or may not be on the subject, there is still no general consensus in the field.

Unless you have been given specific warnings, I would recommend taking advantage of whatever nighttime sleep opportunities your infant affords! Of course, you still have to pay attention to body weight, other physical growth, etc. But my experience with my children, my nieces, and my nephews is that most infants are pretty good at "asking" for food when they need it. You only need to intervene if your child has a problem recognizing the signals his/her body creates when it's hungry.

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As long as he is getting enough in each 24-hour cycle, and he remains on-course on his weight chart, and if he can sleep 4-5 hours between feedings, then go with that and don't wake him up.

I would only wake him if there's reason to be concerned.

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This is what both hospital and midwife told us too: it's all supply and demand. Unless your child is not growing fast enough, no need to "force-feed". –  Konerak Mar 10 '12 at 17:04
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+1. Babbie's are like dragons. Don't F with them when they are asleep. Never wake a sleeping baby. –  dFlat May 11 '12 at 2:22

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