How Long Should Babies Sleep Before Feeding?

At the beginning of a baby's life, the time that goes by between one feeding and the next is very short. Babies need to take small naps between feedings.
How Long Should Babies Sleep Before Feeding?

Last update: 11 September, 2018

Strictly speaking, infancy refers to the time period between birth and 18 months, making up about 2% of a person’s entire life. One aspect to keep in mind during this vital period is the amount of time that babies sleep before feeding. This is a fundamental part of a baby’s healthy development.

Should babies sleep between feedings?

It’s crucial for new parents to control their newborn‘s feedings during the first weeks of life. This is because newborn babies are prone to dropping in weight during this time period.

Some newborns can become so weak that they have a hard time feeding adequately. This bears the risk of low blood sugar, which produces even more weakness.

During the first few days after being born, it’s common for babies to sleep for long periods of time. This is partially due to the stress that comes with so many new stimuli in such a short time. 

In these cases, it’s important for parents to wake up their little ones to make sure they get enough feedings each day.

How Long Should Babies Sleep Before Feeding?

Babies may also only remain awake while they’re being fed. If a baby falls asleep during a feeding, then it’s best to continue feeding until the infant is completely asleep or the mother is sure that he or she is full.

If a baby doesn’t get enough nourishment, this can cause the baby to wake up and become irritated. This is why it’s so important to feed small babies on demand, no matter what time it is.

There is no maximum or minimum amount of time that a child should spend suckling each day. Rather, specialists recommend simply feeding babies the number of times they need it. 

Parents should also make sure their babies are full after each feeding. During a baby’s first three or four weeks of life, mothers should be sure their babies feed at least every three hours, after every nap. In the case of twins or triplets, this time period extends to up to five or six weeks.

The first weeks of a baby’s life

While babies are born with a wide variety of reflexes that aid in survival, they still require the supervision of an adult in order to function. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that parents respond any time their baby cries. This may indicate that rest time is over and, therefore, the baby needs to eat.

Respecting both the times when a child needs to rest and when he or she needs to sleep is essential to good development. It’s important to reach a balance between both activities.

Poorly managing the time that babies sleep can get in the way of their development. It may also cause them to experience long periods of overexcitement.

After the third day following childbirth, babies will likely spend time awake even when they aren’t hungry. Pediatricians advise parents to take advantage of their baby’s naps to get some rest of their own .

At the same time, pediatricians suggest that parents not worry too much about avoiding noise in the home. Rather, they say it’s healthy for newborns to get used to sleeping with some normal noise in the background.

Remember that babies can’t tell the difference between night and day. Therefore, it’s up to parents to help their little ones get used to sleeping longer periods at night.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while gradually helping your tiny new addition through this process:

  • Keep a very dim light turned on.
  • Don’t speak too loudly.
  • Lay your baby down after changing and feeding him.
  • Don’t play with your baby before bedtime, as this may get him too excited to sleep.
How Long Should Babies Sleep Before Feeding?

It’s important to help organize your child’s schedule, including feeding times and sleeping times. This also helps your baby get oriented and avoid irregular sleeping and feeding patterns that cause overexcitement.

Sleeping through the night isn’t normal

According to data and statistics, only one in a thousand 6-month-old babies sleep through the night without waking. Newborn babies are unable to join their various sleep cycles before the age of 3 months. Many babies are also unable to do this even by the time they reach the age of 1.

Continuous sleep tends to coincide with the period in which blood levels remain stable. Based on these findings, expecting a baby to sleep all through the night before these ages is unrealistic and unhealthy. It’s important that parents respect their little one’s sleeping and eating cycles.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Gertner S, Greeenbaum CW, Sadeh A, Dolfin Z, Sirota L, Ben-Nun Y. Sleep-wake patterns in preterm infants and 6 month’s home environment: implications for early cognitive development. Early Human Development 2002; 68 (2): 93-102.
  • Tham, Elaine Kh et al. “Infant sleep and its relation with cognition and growth: a narrative review.” Nature and science of sleep vol. 9 135-149. 15 May. 2017, doi:10.2147/NSS.S125992

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.