Whether this is your first time breastfeeding, or you consider yourself a seasoned pro, there will always be some point in time where you’ll find yourself asking questions. Boob issues aside, scheduling and timing your nursing sessions can get really confusing, especially at night. When your baby was just born, you may have had to disrupt their slumber to feed them, but as they get older, you may wonder — when can you stop waking a baby up at night to breastfeed? Because, let's be honest, you need some sleep, too.
Romper reached out to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and registered nurse, Angie Natero, who says that she advises moms to stop waking their babies to feed when they are about 2 weeks of age, but only if breastfeeding is going well, their baby is above their birth weight, and there is no jaundice present.
Natero says that there are some reasons that would require you to continue waking your baby to feed at night. “Of course there might be a few exceptions to this rule,” she says, “or special circumstances such as a low birth weight or prematurity among other things, so it's important that mom takes specific advice about her unique baby from her trusted IBCLC and pediatrician.”
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), it is normal for breastfed newborns to lose about 7 to 10 percent of their body weight within the first week of life. Jennifer Jordan, director of Mom and Baby at Aeroflow Healthcare, tells Romper that most babies will return to their birth weight by 10 to 14 days after birth, so when waking your baby to feed at night, Jordan explains that it's more about their weight, and less about their age. “All things being equal,” adds Jordan, “once your baby returns to their birth weight, you can stop waking them up.”
IBCLC Tera Hamann tells Romper that until your baby reaches the two-week mark, you should wake them at least every three hours to breastfeed until they reach their birth weight. After that, she says you can allow them to sleep as long as they are getting eight to 12 feedings in a day. “It’s always a good idea to keep track of feedings and diapers in the first few weeks while your baby is establishing what will be their normal growth curve,” Hamann says. She adds that as a generalization, reaching birth weight is the milestone for letting your baby sleep longer.
Natero explains that breastfeeding moms should know that it's very common and normal for babies to wake up at night to nurse, especially in the first few months, so if your baby does wake up, it’s important to feed them. “Moms should feed their baby on demand with cues,” suggests Natero, “to assure that their baby’s needs are met, and to establish and maintain her milk supply.”
Both Natero and Jordan emphasize the importance of including your pediatrician or IBCLC when figuring out how much nutrition or milk your baby needs. Jordan says that at your baby’s two week follow up visit, if your baby has returned to birth weight, you can ask your pediatrician if it is OK to let them sleep through the night. Your doctor will be able to evaluate your baby’s health and weight, and give you the best advice as to what your breastfeeding schedule should look like.
As you continue breastfeeding, you’ll realize how many questions can arise, so it’s a good idea to find an IBCLC who can give you guidance and support. And you won't have to worry about waking your baby up at night for much longer, because as they get older, healthier, and stronger, they will probably start waking you up at night to feed.
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