Is your newborn feeding every 2 hours at night? Whether breastfed or formula-fed, learn how to stretch feedings and sleep a little longer.
Every 2 hours.
Almost on cue, your newborn wakes up after 2 hours screaming for yet another feeding. It doesn’t help when moms of other newborn babies—even younger than yours—are stretching their feeds, sometimes up to five hours at night.
Yes, she’s still in the newborn stage, so you understand that her tummy is small and her sleep is erratic. But weeks, even months, into parenthood and your little one still wakes up every 2 hours on the dot.
And so, the questions pile on.
How can you get her to sleep in longer intervals? Is it normal for her to still feed so frequently, especially when others seem to go longer between feeds? Could you be doing something that’s holding her back instead of encouraging her to eat more?
Weeks and months after welcoming my first-born home, I still felt stuck.
Frequent feedings seemed more understandable in the early days, but when you’ve been doing this forever, it can feel depressing. I didn’t know when I’d ever get a full night of sleep again and started to resent how often my baby nursed, especially at night.
In hindsight, I can see how short those weeks and months are compared to the grand scheme of things. But when you’re in that moment, every day can feel like an eternity, not knowing if or when life will feel normal again.
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How to handle your newborn feeding every 2 hours
Rest assured, feeding every 2 hours is normal, not only in the newborn stage but I’d say throughout our lives. Think about it: even adults tend to eat in 2-3 hour chunks, with snacks eaten between meals.
But the biggest concern you likely have is frequent feeding at night. Maybe you’re wondering when your baby will be able to eat mostly during the day and sleep at night. Because eventually, we all consume our calories during the day, even older infants. Why does it feel like yours is so far from that point?
First, an important note: a newborn isn’t going to sleep the whole night just yet. Your baby’s stomach is still too small to last the whole night. I sleep trained my kids to go 11-12 hours straight only once they were well past the newborn stage (around four to six months old).
That said, what do you do when your little one is still too young to sleep train, but you want to encourage her to go longer between feeds and stop cluster feeding? How can you arrive at a reasonable newborn feeding schedule?
The first step is to reach out to professional resources like your pediatrician, lactation consultant, or the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics). Your doctors in particular can make sure your little one has healthy weight gain and that your milk production is going well. Then, take a look at these steps you can try:
1. Don’t keep your baby awake too long
As a first-time mom, I assumed babies would sleep when they were tired. So, it wasn’t unusual for me to keep my baby awake for long stretches, unaware that he needed help falling asleep.
Only later did I learn that keeping him awake led him to feel overtired and cranky. The result? Frequent wake ups between feeds and a more difficult time settling him back down. In other words, there’s a good chance your newborn is waking up every 2 hours not out of hunger, but from feeling overtired.
Try not to keep her awake too long—90 minutes at most, and sometimes she might need to sleep as soon as 45 minutes after waking up.
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2. Feed often during the day
Feeding on demand is so important during the newborn stage, but tell that to any new mom and you might be met with dagger eyes. After all, it can be difficult to feel tied to your baby 24/7, especially if you’re the only one who can feed her.
But feeding on demand, especially during the day, ensures that she’s getting all the food she needs. Don’t try to cap her off or put her on a schedule. Instead, follow her lead and feed as often as she wants during the day. If you breastfeed, this can also maintain or increase your milk supply.
And hopefully, by feeding plenty the whole day, she has less of a need to wake up often at night. Don’t expect her to sleep through the night yet, but at least you’re filling her up during the day when she can start to take in most of her feeds down the line.
3. Feed extra before bedtime
The first stretch of sleep after bedtime tends to be the longest. This is when you can likely grab five hours of uninterrupted sleep compared to, say, four o’clock in the morning. Help your baby sleep longer for that first stretch by offering her a bit of extra food for her bedtime milk.
If you breastfeed, see if she can take a few extra minutes of nursing (or simply wait for her to pull away instead of putting a time limit). If you bottle-feed, try to add an extra ounce before setting her down for the night.
By topping her off with extra milk, you can ensure that she won’t wake up too soon after from hunger.
4. Dream feed
If you’re like most parents, you put your baby down for the night before your own bedtime. For instance, you might set her down at 7:30pm, then head to bed yourself at 10pm.
One trick that can pre-empt her first wake up is to offer a dream feed before you go to bed yourself. Let’s say you go to sleep at 10pm. Give her another feed at 9:30pm to top her off even further for the night. This allows you to feed her while you’re still awake and alert, and extends her feeding even more.
It’s okay if she’s groggy and half asleep as she feeds—there’s no need to wake her up all the way. This is more to give her a feed before she asks for it while you’re still awake.
5. Make sure your baby is actually eating
Does it seem like your baby wakes up right after you had just fed her? There might be a chance she’s not even drinking at all, which could explain why she shows signs of hunger so soon after feeding her. Instead of drinking, she might be half asleep and sucking for comfort, especially if she drifts off to sleep mid-feed.
How can you tell if breastfed babies are eating? Listen for a swallowing sound—your baby should actually be gulping milk down. Look at her throat to see if it moves with each gulp. If you don’t hear a sound and her throat doesn’t move, she just might be moving her lips and sucking.
Track her diaper changes, too. Note how many wet diapers she goes through and record the type of stools she passes. This can give you a clue whether she’s eating enough.
If you suspect that she falls asleep, burp her mid-feed, talk to her, tickle her, and otherwise ensure that she stays awake while she feeds.
6. Give your baby a chance to settle
Newborns are notorious for making all sorts of sounds, even while they’re sound asleep. But back then, I’d sit up right away the minute my little guy made a peep (it didn’t help that he was in the same room as me). I felt compelled to scoop him up immediately, fearing that those sounds would escalate into full-on cries.
I’ve since learned that those sounds, and even the small whimpers and cries, can often settle on their own. The next time you hear your baby cry, try to discern the type of cry first. Does she sound like she’s complaining and whimpering, or is she angry and in need of your attention right away?
If it sounds like she might settle down, wait one minute. She might not be waking up out of hunger. This is also a little practice that can help her overcome small discomforts.
A newborn feeding every 2 hours isn’t always easy to handle. Your baby finally falls asleep, only to rest for a short while before he seems hungry again. How can you get him to sleep longer at a time?
Don’t keep him awake too long, as frequent wake ups could be a result of feeling overtired. Feed often during the day instead of capping him at a certain time or by a particular schedule. Give him extra milk before bedtime and take advantage of that long first stretch of sleep.
Before heading to bed yourself, offer a dream feed to top him off for the night while you’re still awake and alert. Make sure he’s actually eating and not just sucking for comfort. And lastly, don’t feel compelled to respond right away—he might be asleep or making small sounds and eventually settle herself down.
You can do certain things to help you stretch your baby feeding schedule at night—instead of waking up every 2 hours as if on cue.
Get more tips:
- How to Create a Newborn Schedule
- Is Your Baby Never Satisfied After Breastfeeding? Here Are 4 Reasons Why
- Baby Feeding Every Hour (And Not Sleeping, Either)?
- 11 Ways to Cope with Newborn Sleep Deprivation
- 12 Things to Do When Your Newborn Fights Sleep
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