Baby's Sleep Patterns & Breastfeeding

Newborns sleep a lot—typically 16 to 17 hours a day. But most babies don't stay asleep for more than two to four hours at a time, day or night, during the first few weeks of life. Your job is to respond to your newborn's cues, so you'll probably be up several times during the night to change, breastfeed and comfort your baby.

Adults fall into a deep sleep first, then move into lighter (REM, rapid eye movement) sleep. Babies fall into a very light sleep, then after about 20 or 30 minutes, they go into the deep sleep. These sleep patterns are thought to be necessary for your baby due to the extraordinary development happening in their brain. REM sleep is lighter than non-REM sleep, and it is more easily disrupted. If you move your baby away from you during light sleep, it will wake him or her, and he or she will look for the familiar, which is the breast.

Waking a sleepy baby to breastfeed:

Waking a sleeping baby may seem like the wrong thing to do, but newborn babies need to eat frequently, and if they sleep too long, they may not take in enough nutrition. If your baby is sleeping and it’s time to eat, you may want to try some things to help wake him or her gently. For example:

  • Express a little milk onto your baby’s lips.
  • Put your baby’s skin against your skin.
  • Massage your baby’s back, abdomen, arms or legs.
  • Stroke your baby’s cheek or lip to stimulate sucking.
  • Remove any blankets from your baby.
  • Change your baby’s diaper.

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