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Should I Wake My Newborn to Feed?

By Victoria Roselli

Many parents of newborns are told to wake their baby every two to three hours to feed. In taking this advice, they set alarms clocks and smartphones using the loudest (and possibly most annoying) sounds to be sure they don’t oversleep.

But is all that really necessary? Let’s take a closer look...

Many experts suggest feeding about eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period. This is to ensure baby’s steady weight gain and to establish your milk supply, especially in the early weeks. But what does eight to 12 times mean? And how far apart should feedings be spread throughout the day?

Well, the same research indicates it doesn’t matter if feedings you feed your baby two, three, or four hours apart, as long as baby eats eight to 12 times during a 24-hour period.

In the end, if you feed baby seven times throughout the day, you may only need to wake him once for a nighttime feeding, as opposed to every two to three hours. When you find yourself needing to wake your newborn, here are some simple techniques to help you and baby along:

  • Gently wake your baby. Try to avoid having your alarm abruptly awaken the baby

  • Rather than changing a diaper before feeding, just undress baby, keeping the diaper on

  • Place baby skin-to-skin

  • Try burping first, while skin-to-skin

  • Release your first let-down by doing a breast compression before nursing. For help, go to

  • Do breast compressions throughout feeding and allow baby to fall off. This will help with weight gain

  • Burp and change baby’s diaper after feeding

  • Offer second breast, and then allow baby to fall off again. This will also help with weight gain

If baby keeps fussing, try burping and placing skin-to-skin again, then reintroduce the breast (or bottle). It may take several attempts, but it’s important to stay calm rather than become discouraged. Also, try using pillows, laid-back nursing positions, or continue with skin-to-skin nursing.

For support on laid-back nursing positions, visit

Victoria Roselli is a Certified Lactation Consultant, Lamaze instructor, and newborn care specialist. Visit her maternal blessings website here.

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