waking baby

Waking Your Baby for Feedings

Babies are often very sleepy during the first few days after birth, and may need to be awakened for feedings. 

Watch your baby for signs of an active sleep state, which can be a good time to wake him or her. If you see that your baby is starting to stir, it is probably a good time to pick him or her up.

Get to know your baby’s sleep states

Quiet sleep 
A deep sleep; only very intense stimuli will arouse the baby. Care giving should be limited during this time. The average length of a sleep cycle is 50-80 minutes.
Active sleep
Usually precedes waking. The baby may make brief fussy or crying noises, but he or she is not necessarily ready to breastfeed.

Quiet alert

Quietly alert babies are attentive to their environment. During the first few hours after birth, infants are in this state before going into a long period of sleep. This state is the optimal time to begin breastfeeding.

Active alert
Variable activity level; the baby may become fussy or increasingly sensitive to stimuli.

When it’s time to wake your baby, here are tips for doing so

  • Cuddling your baby skin-to-skin is also a nice way to begin to wake your baby. 
  • Dim the lights and unwrap the baby's blanket. You may need to undress the baby down to just a diaper.
  • Change the baby's diaper.
  • Massage gently, but with firm pressure, on the spine and feet.
  • Lightly stroke or tap the baby's lips with your finger, or with your baby's hand, to stimulate the rooting reflex.
  • Express a small amount of colostrum and rub it onto your baby's lips.
  • Wipe the baby's forehead with a cool cloth.

Updated January 14, 2022

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