What to Expect with Newborn Night Feedings? The ultimate guide to the first weeks with a new baby and how to handle night feedings.
Returning home with a newborn is as exciting as it is scary. So many changes in so little time can be challenging to new parents but you will get through it, we promise. Use our guide so you aren't blindsided by feeling tired, sleepy, and overwhelmed during those early days. With these helpful nursing tips and tricks, you will know what to expect with newborn night feedings.
[Image: mother holding sleeping newborn]
Nights can seem a lot longer than they actually are with frequent newborn night feedings. But there is a feeding pattern for newborns that can make things a whole lot easier for parents. In the first weeks after birth, frequent night feedings for a baby are normal. If you are unsure what to expect with newborn night feedings, remember that babies are different and some will wake up every 2 hours to nurse while others can go 4 or even 6 hours without a feed.
Things to Know About Newborn Night Feedings
Frequent feedings in the early weeks are something normal. Most newborns need to be fed 8 – 12+ times per day and they can feed just as much during the night as well. In fact, it is unnatural for newborns to sleep through the night – they require nourishment, reassurance, and constant contact to be soothed and fall back to sleep. Night feedings for newborns are just as much about bonding and comfort as they are about nourishment.
Feeding a baby at night or during the day is one of the easiest ways to soothe an overtired infant. Because babies seem to fuss a lot and then fall asleep, parents often get confused if they’re tired or hungry. But if you try feeding your baby at the first signs of hunger (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth), you will find they are able to calm down and fall back to sleep faster and easier.
Whether your baby is fully awake, half-asleep, or dream feeding, these are all to be expected and perfectly normal. Some parents simply let their baby feed for a few minutes and sleep here and there. This feels natural, but if the baby can take full feeds at night – that is fine too.
Newborns give their parents plenty of signs to let them know what feeding pattern to adopt. Trust your baby and go with what their needs are. It is not necessary to wake them up every 2 or 3 hours for a night feed just as it is not necessary to make them have a full feed. At night, feed them whenever they wake up or start acting fussy because they’re hungry, but let them determine how frequent that is. During night feedings, try to stay as quiet and calm as possible to not overstimulate them.
Whether you breast or bottle-feed, record when feedings occur to track what’s going on and help you know whether your baby’s getting the right amount.
Feeding your newborn at night – how to do it successfully
[Image: Baby sleeping in a crib]
Newborn night feeding patterns are not fixed and each baby is different. Generally, newborns go hungry faster than toddlers and require round-the-clock commitment. It's also an opportunity to begin forming a bond with the newest member of your family.
Many parents prefer to dream feed their newborn. Dream feeding means allowing your baby to latch on if you are breastfeeding or gently half-waking them for a bottle. Every time you notice the baby getting restless of fussy, it means it might be time for a night feed. Look for signs that your newborn is hungry – sucking on fists and fingers, lip-smacking – and offer your breast or a bottle before the crying starts. Even if your baby only sucks for a few short minutes, this will be enough to soothe them. Remember that babies nurse when they are thirsty or hungry, scared or in need of being held and comforted. Treat every feeding as a bonding moment with your little one and don’t cut it short. Don’t be quick to unlatch your baby when she finishes feeding heartily; instead, let them gently suckle and doze off. Same with the bottle — let them eat and fall asleep while doing it.
This may go against doctor’s orders about sleeping through the night recommendations, but there are scientific benefits to tending to your newborn at night whenever your baby needs you. Whether it is for a night feed or for comfort – parents providing nourishment and comfort is the most natural, logical, and beneficial approach to the emotional and cognitive development of newborns.