‘The doctor says I should feed my baby every two to three hours, but sometimes I don’t hear from him for five or six. Should I wake him up to eat?’
Some babies are perfectly happy to sleep through meals, particularly during the first few days of life. But letting a sleeping baby lie through his feeding means that he won’t be getting enough to eat, and if you’re nursing, that your milk supply won’t be getting the jump start it needs. If your baby is a sleepy baby, try these rousing techniques at mealtime:
- Choose the right sleep to wake him from. Baby will be much more easily roused during active, or REM, sleep. You’ll know your baby is in this light sleep cycle (it takes up about 50 percent of his sleeping time) when he starts moving his arms and legs, changing facial expressions and fluttering his eyelids.
- Unwrap him. Sometimes, just unswaddling your baby will wake him up. If it doesn’t, undress him right down to the nappy (room temperature permitting) and try some skin-to-skin contact.
- Go for a change. Even if his nappy is not that wet, a change may be just jarring enough to wake him for his meal.
- Dim the lights. Though it may seem that turning on the high-voltage lamps might be the best way to jolt baby out of his slumber, it could have just the opposite effect. A newborn’s eyes are sensitive to light; if the room is too bright, your baby may be more comfortable keeping them tightly shut. But don’t turn the lights all the way off. A too-dark room will only lull baby back off to dreamland.
- Try the ‘dollís eyes’ technique. Holding a baby upright will usually cause his or her eyes to open (much as a doll’s would). Gently raise your baby into an upright or sitting position and pat him on the back. Be careful not to jackknife him (fold him forward).
- Be sociable. Sing a lively song. Talk to your baby and, once you get his eyes open, make eye contact with him. A little social stimulation may induce him to stay awake.
- Rub him the right way. Stroke the palms of your baby’s hands and soles of his feet; massage his arms, back and shoulders. Or do some baby aerobics: move his arms, and pump his legs in a bicycling motion.
- If sleep head still won’t rise to the occasion, place a cool (not cold) flannel on his forehead or rub his face gently with the flannel.Of course, getting your up doesn’t mean you’ll be able to keep baby up – especially not after a few nips of sleep-inducing milk. A baby that’s still drowsy may take the teat, suckle briefly, then promptly fall back asleep, long before he’s managed to make a meal of it. When this happens, try:
- A burp – whether baby needs a bubble or not, the jostling may rouse him again.
- A change – this time, of feeding position. Whether you’re nursing or bottle feeding, switch from the cradle hold to the clutch hold (which babies are likely to sleep in).
- A dribble – some breast milk or formula dribbled on baby’s lips may whet his appetite for his second course.
- A jiggle – jiggling the breast or bottle in his mouth or stroking his cheek may get the sucking action going again.
- And repeat – Some young babies alternate sucking and dozing from the start of the meal to the finish. If that’s the case with your baby, you may find you’ll have to burp, change, dribble and jiggle at several times to get a full feedings in.
Its fine to occasionally let your baby sleep when he’s dropped off to dreamland after just a brief appetizer, and all efforts to tempt him into his entree have failed. But for now, don’t let him go more than three hours without a full meal if he’s nursing or four hours if he’s formula fed. It’s also not a good idea to let your baby nip and nap at fifteen- to thirty-minute intervals all day long. If that seems to be the trend, be relentless in your attempts to waken him when he dozes off during a feed.
If chronic sleepiness interferes so much with eating that your baby isn’t thriving, consult the doctor.