Waking Up A Sleepy Baby to Feed Them

Should you wake a sleeping newborn baby? YES. If it has been 3 hours during the day, or 4 hours overnight, the baby needs to wake up and eat.

No, they don’t always know to wake to eat when they are hungry before they are back to birth weight. Once back to birthweight, with the pediatrician’s permission, you can let the baby sleep as longer at night.

It’s your job to be sure baby has 8 feeds minimum per 24 hours, so let’s wake that baby up!

Whether you’re bottle feeding or nursing, baby should be presented with the breast or bottle when they are in a wakeful state, but ideally not very upset. This is very tricky to achieve, so don’t be too hard on yourself if the baby just won’t seem to wake up or gets too upset too quickly. Newborn babies move very quickly from states of alertness, the trick is to learn how your baby tends to respond to different waking techniques.

Make them naked and a little chilly:

  • Undress baby down to their diaper. Change their diaper.  Lay diapered, naked baby skin to skin with the lactating parent or breastfeeding support partner.
  • Move baby skin to skin to nursing position.

Entice them: 

  • At the breast: Hand express colostrum onto baby’s lips. Tap the baby’s mouth with your nipple
  • Touch your nipple or your finger gently around baby’s mouth to encourage rooting. 
  • Hand express a drop of colostrum onto your finger and have baby suck on your finger. 

Annoy them:

  • Baby sit ups – With one hand on baby’s head and shoulder and the other hand on their booty, slowly move them from the laying to sitting position repeatedly. 
  • Gently blow in baby’s face.
  • Rub the bottoms of baby’s feet. 
  • Move baby away from your body so they aren’t skin-to-skin. Letting them startle may help. When babies get cold and uncomfortable, they will wake up to seek comfort.

Take a break:

  • Still can’t get that baby to take the bait? Chill out for 15 minutes laying skin-to-skin with your baby. Be sure to lay a snuggly blanket over the two of you.  Have your partner stay up and talk with you so you don’t fall asleep. Reattempt once baby starts looking wiggling and rooting on your chest or after 15 minutes.

Zero to Sixty to Zero:

  • If you have a baby that is cycling from very angry to unresponsive and asleep, move away from annoying them and toward enticing him. If you are using a bottle and trying to work toward getting the baby to latch onto the breast, consider a bait and switch- with the baby in the latching position, let the baby suck on the bottle 1-3 times, then remove the bottle and immediately offer the breast.
  • If you are not using bottles, settle the baby with finger sucking, then offer the nipple.