We've been told a few times that our situation is ideal, that we shouldn't be worried about it, but our newborn (going on two weeks Wednesday) seems content to sleep for hours at a time, only really getting fussy for a period around 1-2 AM where he insists on about a half hour of handling before he'll fall asleep on our chest and then settle down and sleep in the bassinet. The problem is, he's also underweight and our doctor has told us to try to feed him on a 2-3 hour basis. He won't wake up enough to latch for breastfeeding (honestly, we've had a lot of trouble with getting him to latch for more than a minute or two at a time, and even then, we're not certain how much he's getting) and for the bottle, he'll drink with his eyes closed, but he keeps kind of nodding off in the middle of it with his head sliding off to one side, will often only drink an ounce of formula, and it's difficult to get him burped enough that he doesn't spit up later in the night.

We've tried singing at him, tickling his feet, rubbing his belly, playing with his hands, changing him beforehand... the best we can manage is some degree of sleepy protest. The doctor says everything is fine, but it's giving my wife a complex, I can't help but worry that we're not doing enough with him, and he's just not gaining weight with the amount of formula he drinks before being too asleep to drink more.

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    Not to be patronizing, but if the doctor says everything is alright, why are you worried? Do you not trust this doctor?
    – Becuzz
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 14:00
  • :) No, we get that it's medically OK for him to sleep so much. But we're also being told to adhere to a regular feeding schedule, which is difficult with him falling asleep during the feeding. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 15:20
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    How old is your baby? And just for clarification: Did your doctor specifically recommend the feeding frequency also through the night? Often enough they mean “through the day” but sort of take it as a given, especially if everything else is “fine” overall.
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 20:42
  • Of course talk to your doctor, but if he's maintaining his percentile in weight, he's probably okay. If he's dropping percentiles, that's when doctors worry
    – swbarnes2
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


Being a (first?) newborn's parent is full of stress and anxieties. I had delivered about a hundred babies and cared for even more than that by the time I had my first, and was confident that I would know enough about babies not to be stressed. I advised new mothers on a regular basis, after all. Ha! At about the two week mark, I broke down uncontrollably into tears, completely overwhelmed. I say all this because feeling inadequate as a new parent and developing complexes is pretty much the norm. It doesn't go away very quickly, so expect to live with it for a while.

As @swbarmes2 stated above, not maintaining their position on the (percentile) growth curve is the benchmark for worry. Your baby has frequent doctor/caregiver appointments right now, so make the most of them. Write all your concerns down and don't be afraid to take the time to get answers from the caregiver. Between visits, call the office's nurse for questions that need answers which can't wait.

Waking the baby to eat has it's pros and cons; make sure your doctor has recommended feeding every 2-3 hour around the clock before you try to keep this schedule. It's possible that you're getting enough into the infant while they are awake to get by. Take advantage of the times your baby is awake to feed (cluster feeding). Ten feedings in 24 hours averages out to a feeding every 2.4 hours.

If feedings are necessary every 2-3 hours, then you do need more tricks up your sleeve which will make life a bit uncomfortable for your baby to keep them awake. You've tried some of the common recommendations. Here are a few more.

  • Undress the baby down to the diaper before feeding; if the room is cold, use a light blanket. If they're nice and warm, they'll stay sleepy.

  • Feed skin-to-skin. This also means baby is undressed and so is the person doing the feeding. This is actually very good for the baby's well-being, and not too bad for the parent, either.

  • Use a cool, wet washcloth and stroke the baby's face/head/uncovered feet/whatever.

  • Bright-enough lights will be somewhat disruptive to the baby's sleep, too.

  • Switch breasts as soon as the baby stops sucking/starts to fall asleep.

  • Burp the baby sitting up supported on your thigh, not over the shoulder. Don't be afraid to jiggle the baby gently.

  • Try breast compression to keep milk flowing if the baby stops swallowing.

...it's difficult to get him burped enough that he doesn't spit up later in the night.

If the baby burps when burped, they are "burped enough". Babies spitting up is common in infancy. Also, you might just have a "spitter"; they really do exist. All of my clothing had stains on the shoulders from my first's constant spitting up, which didn't stop until about nine months of age. If it's worrisome, talk to your health care provider about the possibility of reflux.

This is a trying time, no doubt about it. But if the baby is gaining weight appropriately, they are feeding well enough.

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    Exactly - I just didn’t dare to recommend letting baby sleep at night if it went against doctor‘a orders. Hence the comment asking for clarification.
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 7:58
  • Sorry it took me a bit to get back to this. Our doctor has gone back and forth on whether to wake him during the night, and he's gotten better at waking up from naps for feeding. We unfortunately have had to give up on breastfeeding. The spitting up has been getting a little worse lately, but I think it's in part because his appetite is outpacing his stomach size. Thank you for your answer. Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 13:21
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    @SeanDuggan - I know there's a lot of pressure (and benefits) to breastfeed, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. Please do get some skin-to-skin time in; it doesn't matter if it's food from the breast or bottle. It will do a lot of good for bonding. Please feel free to ask questions here whenever you have them! We've all been through this. Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 4:13

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