Our newborn sleeps all the time at the moment. Should I be waking him for a feed?
Whilst many newborn babies sleep for what seems to be a very short time, there are those that do sleep for longer. The make up of artificial formula is very different to that of breastmilk, and sits in baby's stomach for longer. Therefore, babies fed with artificial formula tend to sleep for longer periods, and are, in fact, encouraged to do so to prevent overfeeding and constipation. However, whilst continuing to 'demand feed' a bottlefed baby, he shouldn't be left without a feed for more than six hours, unless of course it is overnight1. It is recommended that babies that are bottlefed should have no less than 6 feeds a day. So if baby is sleeping well, the frequency of the feeds during the day should be closer together.
Breastfed babies are very different feeders. Many feed 10-12 times a day, or even more, and there are times when they ‘cluster feed’ and the feeds blend into one very long feed. However, there are those that do not feed regularly and do appear sleepy. These babies may be tired, sedated by maternal medication in labour or just very sore. They may be mucousy and need to be sick before they wake up fully to feed. The baby will have fat and fluid stores to maintain them for a day or two following birth, but the baby should not be left to rest for those 24 to 48 hours2. Lying baby naked on your chest – skin-to-skin, massaging him, dripping expressed milk onto his lips and changing his nappy will encourage him to wake. This should be attempted regularly, every few hours to try to stimulate him. Do not force him or push his head to feed may potentially put him off breastfeeding3. In the meantime, you should start to hand express regularly, every two to three hours, to stimulate your breasts to produce milk. This expressed milk can then spooned or cup-fed to the baby when you try to wake him.
The midwife will examine baby to make sure that he is not becoming dry or passing dark urine; that his bowel movements are changing colour to yellow, and he is not becoming jaundiced.
1Fraser DM, Cooper MA, eds (2003) Myles' Textbook for Midwives 14th ed. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh.
2Royal College of Midwives (2001) Successful Breastfeeding (3rd Edn) Churchill Livingstone, London
3Trotter S (2004) Breastfeeding: the essential guide. TIPS Limited