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Newborn Won’t Wake Up To Eat: What Should You Do?

Most parents struggle to get their baby to sleep through the night, but there are some parents who have quite the opposite problem!  Newborns should be fed every 2-3 hours, but this might be a little tricky if your newborn won’t wake up to eat.

Here we’ve collected some top tips to help you out. Find out whether or not you should wake a sleeping newborn for a feed and what you should do if your baby just won’t wake up for a feed. 

Don’t Wake Your Baby

You’ve probably heard the warning of never wake a sleeping baby, but this can be tricky if they won’t wake for a feed.

If you are concerned that your little one doesn’t wake for a feed, there’s nothing wrong with waking them up every 3-4 hours for a feed. When your baby begins to show good weight gain, you can stop waking them so frequently.  

Newborn babies will feed at different times depending on whether they are breastfed or formula fed. Breastfed babies tend to feed more frequently, usually every 2-3 hours, while formula-fed babies can go a little longer, and usually feed every 3-4 hours.

If your baby is sleeping for longer than 4 hours, then it is recommended that you wake them, in order to ensure they are eating enough and gaining weight as is expected of them.

When they are a little older and have settled into a routine, it is perfectly acceptable to let your baby sleep for longer stretches, or even through the night!

Why Should I Wake My Baby For Feeding?

There are many reasons that you should wake your newborn for feeds if they are not waking up of their own accord.

Remember, in the first few days and weeks, your newborn is completely dependent on you for everything, so waking them for feeds is really important in ensuring they are eating enough. Here are some of the most important reasons why you should always wake your baby for a feed:

1. Establishing a Sleep Routine

Babies are used to sleeping, having slept almost exclusively in the womb for nine months, so they need help to establish a healthy sleeping routine. Without help from their mother, babies will sleep constantly or will be awake all night. 

Keeping your newborn on a tight schedule and waking them regularly for feeds means they are more likely to settle into a sleep pattern, and not keep you awake all through the night. Here are some of the best ways to ensure that your baby develops a healthy sleep schedule. 


Limiting naptime to 2.5 to 3 hours during the day means that your baby isn’t sleeping so much throughout the day.

This means that as the day goes on, they will become tired, as we do, and they will sleep properly in the night when you are desperate for some undisturbed sleep. This is ideal if you have other children that require you to be awake during the daytime. 

You should also try to keep your baby awake for some time after their nap, and keeping a consistent schedule will help your baby to develop a great sleep schedule.

It is okay to change your schedule up a bit when you need to, but the more consistent you are, the quicker your baby will settle into a routine that you can workaround. 


Feeding your baby immediately after they wake up will again help them to develop a great sleep schedule. They will associate waking up with feeding time like we do, and this will help them to stick to their sleep schedule. 

A feeding routine is also a great way to ensure that your baby sticks to a schedule. Every 2-4 hours depending on whether your baby is breastfed or bottle-fed is ideal, and as they get used to this routine, their nighttime feeding will slowly begin to come to an end. 


A crucial part of developing a good sleeping routine with your baby is ensuring that they are aware of the difference between night and day. During the daytime, get outside with your baby and allow them to be exposed to the sun and the light. 

In the evening, try to keep lights dim and stimulation like television to a minimum to get your baby into the right headspace for bedtime. Allowing them to recognize the difference between night and day, and associating sleep with nighttime will help them to develop a solid schedule. 

2. Breastfeeding

High angle view of happy young mother breastfeeding baby

If you are breastfeeding your baby, then frequent feedings help to establish your milk supply and ensure that you can keep up with the demand from your baby. Studies suggest that mothers feeding around 10 times a day were more likely to produce enough milk for their babies.

Regular feeds can also help your milk to come in earlier. Studies show that mothers who were feeding regularly every two hours reported that their milk came in around 24 hours earlier than mothers who breastfed every four hours. 

3. Weight 

Frequent feedings are crucial to ensuring that your little one is gaining weight as they should be. It is a well-known fact that babies lose 5-10% of their weight in the first few days after birth, so it is important that they gain this weight back and then some.

Frequent feedings are the key- if your baby is fed less than every 2-3 hours ideally, their weight gain could slow down which can have an effect on their health. 

4. Hunger

Babies have tiny little tummies and during the newborn stage, they can even sleep through hunger. Crying is usually one of the last hunger cues, so if your baby is crying due to hunger, they are likely extremely hungry.

Some other signs you can look out for include finger sucking and lip-smacking, so if you notice that your little one seems a bit fussy, they are probably hungry.

Feeding them when they exhibit signs of hunger can also help your baby to fall back to sleep easier than they might by themselves. 

How To Wake a Baby

The best time to wake up your baby is when they are in a light sleep. You may notice they are fluttering their eyelids or moving around a bit, all of which indicate that they are in this lighter sleep cycle. 

Once your baby gets into a deeper sleep it will be harder to wake, though it is still possible. Some of these tips and tricks might help you to wake a baby who is in deep sleep:

1. Diaper

How To Prevent Diaper Blowouts

Changing your little one’s diaper is a sure-fire way to wake them up. Applying wipes to your baby’s skin might feel a little cold, which will usually wake them up. If not, moving their body as you change their diaper is sure to do the trick. 

2. Skin to Skin 

While it can be a time-consuming task during a late-night feed, usually, removing your baby’s clothes will help to cool them down quickly, thus waking them up. This is usually a last resort if nothign else works but it does work!

3. Tickling 

Touching your baby’s legs or arms, or even giving their feet a tickle will encourage them to wake up for a feed. If this doesn’t work. consider movingyour baby’s legs or straightening their arms to wake them. 


Is it normal for my newborn to not wake up to eat?

Some newborns can sleep through the feeling of hunger and although this is not the case for every newborn it is still considered normal. Babies younger than 4 weeks should not go for longer than 4 to 5 hours without food, ideally 3 to 4 hours.

When should I worry about my baby sleeping too much?

Newborns sleep a lot, around 17 hours a day. But if the amount of time they are sleeping is impacting their ability to eat at least 7/8 times a day it may be worth having a chat with your pediatrician.

What can cause a baby to sleep too much?

If you are dealing with an overly sleepy baby, you need to check that there are no medical issues causing it. Jaundice, infections, and medical procedures can all make your baby sleep more than normal. But fi you are concerned then you need to check this out with your pediatrician.

The Final Thought

Hopefully, these tips will help you to wake your baby up properly, and ensure that they are getting enough food in those crucial first weeks.

Feeding up to 10 times a day can seem like running a marathon, but as your baby gets fuller and starts to gain weight, the number of feeds will begin to drop, and you may soon find they sleep through the night. 

The importance of establishing a sleep routine also cannot be overlooked. This will help to get your baby into a healthy sleep pattern, and ensure that you get some much-needed rest!

But do remember that newborns are funny little creatures and have some strange behaviors that are perfectly normal for them.