Waking babies to eat

Expert tips on what to do to make sure your baby is nursing effectively

Q: Should I wake my newborn for a nursing?

A: Newborn babies need to feed often — at least eight to 10 times in a 24-hour period. Premature infants and babies who weigh less than 2.75 kilograms (6 pounds) may need even more frequent feeds. Also, babies with poor weight gain may need to be awakened for more frequent feeds.

If your newborn spends 20 to 22 hours a day sleeping (which, believe me, won’t last), then, yes, you do need to wake him. Generally speaking, babies need to be wakened to feed every three to four hours. Healthy newborns should not go much longer than four hours.

It’s also important to make sure your baby is nursing effectively. If your baby is having a problem latching on, more frequent feeds may not add up to much more milk. When establishing breastfeeding, it’s important to offer the breast often. Keep in mind that your baby’s feeding needs will change depending on certain growth-spurt periods. Rest assured that, most of the time, following your baby’s cues will ensure sufficient feeding.