It probably seems like the most ridiculous and counter-intuitive thing in the world to wake your sleeping baby so you can get him or her to…sleep, or to eat.  And yet that may be exactly what’ needed.  Here’s why:

They grow up so fast:  Newborns are growing at an amazing pace, which means they need to receive nourishment frequently.  A newborn baby’s tummy will empty within a couple of hours, so the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends feeding every two to three hours. If you are breastfeeding, frequent feedings also help boost your milk supply. Also, if your baby seems to sleep more during the day than at night, you might need to disrupt that schedule and get the little one on track.

Typically, a baby will wake up when hungry, but if yours sleeps longer than four hours, the AAP says it’s time to gently nudge them to wakefulness. [Learn more here.]  Don’t worry that your baby won’t get enough sleep. They’ll sleep if they need it!

How do you do it?  First, resist the urge to pull out your hair. This too shall pass. Here are a few suggestions for how to wake up your baby for feedings and/or to get the baby’s sleep schedule back on track:

  • If your baby is more than four hours overdue for a daytime feeding, you will have to wake her up.  First, try picking her up, running your fingers up and down her back, and speaking gently.
  • If that doesn’t work, lie the baby down, straightened out with arms extended, which seems to perk up the brain.
  • Try rubbing the baby’s face with a cool cloth or rubbing the soles of her feet or the palms of her hands.
  • If your baby falls asleep while nursing or taking a bottle, stop the feeding, and try the above tactics again before resuming.  Dr. Sears offers some other good suggestions here.

Waking a baby up when you are a fatigued new mother and need your own nap may be one of the hardest things you do during these first few months.  If you are unsure if your baby is eating enough or gaining enough weight, talk to your pediatrician.