The last thing most parents of new babies want to do is to wake their sleeping infant. But newborns need to eat on a regular basis; if your baby gains weight slowly or goes too long without feeding, his doctor might suggest waking him every three hours or so to eat. Many babies do this on their own, but some newborns sleep too long and don't get the nutrition they need. In most cases, you only need to do this for the first few weeks, but check with your pediatrician about your baby's particular needs.
What Newborns Need
Newborns need to eat between eight and 12 times in a 24-hour period, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents sometimes feel that if the baby isn't crying, that means he isn't hungry, but that's not necessarily true. Crying is a late sign of hunger, according to MayoClinic.com. It's better to feed your baby when you first notice hunger signs, such as making sucking motions with his lips, sucking on his fist or becoming restless.
Why They May Sleep Too Much
The business of being born sometimes takes a lot out of babies, as well as new moms. Medications you take during labor can cross the placenta and make your baby sleepy after birth. Circumcision can make a baby boy sleep excessively for a day or so. If your baby has jaundice, he's likely to sleep longer than you want him to as well. At home, overstimulation can sometimes cause babies to tune out and sleep for long periods of time. Babies who aren't getting enough to eat might also sleep for a longer period than normal, according to BreastfeedingBasics.com.
Importance of Frequent Nursing
If you are breastfeeding, nursing frequently in the first few weeks of your baby's life helps build your milk supply. Breast milk production works on the supply-and-demand system; your body makes as much as your baby takes out, which is why it's important not to use formula while you're trying to establish your breast milk supply. If you allow your baby to sleep long periods of time between feeding, your milk supply might dwindle or never become adequate to meet your baby's needs. Breastfed babies often cluster-feed, eating very frequently over a few hours and then taking a longer break. Keep the break to no more than two to three hours in the first two weeks, lactation consultant and author Anne Smith advises on BreastfeedingBasics.com.
Waking a Sleeping Baby
Waking a sleeping baby isn't always easy. If your baby falls into a very deep sleep -- you'll know this if you gently pick up his arm, let go and it falls like a rock, without any resistance -- wait 20 minutes and then try and wake him again. Undressing him, wiping his face with a dampened wash cloth, rubbing his feet or gently rolling him from one side to the other can help him wake up. Putting a tiny bit of milk in his mouth might also give him the idea it's time to eat, according to the breastfeeding organization La Leche League International. If you find it very difficult to rouse your baby for feedings, talk to his pediatrician.