How Long Should a Newborn Sleep Without Feeding?

Updated Jan 25th 2023 | timer 7  min read

How long should a newborn sleep without feeding
Mandy Treeby

Written By Mandy Treeby Chief Baby Sleep Consultant

Most of us know newborns eat early and often – and then again, and again. In short, newborns eat a lot – and they need to eat to keep growing. But when does a newborn’s eating schedule and sleep schedule conflict? Does waking to eat deprive a newborn of precious sleep, or is it alright to let them sleep through a meal? This article answers those questions and more, including how long can a newborn go without feeding?


IN THIS ARTICLE:


How Often Do Newborns Eat?

Newborns typically eat 8-12 times each day in those initial weeks and should be fed on demand – that is, as soon as they cry out for a feeding.

Breastfed babies typically will cry for a feeding about every 2-3 hours.

Formula babies typically cry out for feedings around every 3-4 hours.

If your baby cries and it’s been about that length of time since their last meal, chances are they’re ready for more.

How Long Should a Newborn Sleep Without Feeding?

While most babies will let you know when they’re ready for their next feedings, some may not or there may be a time when your baby is quieter than usual. When that happens, remember that newborns should not go more than 4-5 hours without eating.

How Do I Know When My Baby is Hungry?

The most common way we adults know a baby is hungry is that they cry.

Aside from crying, other common signs a baby is hungry include:

  • Opening their mouths.
  • Putting hands or fists to their mouths.
  • Stick their tongues out.
  • Suckling the air or puckering their lips even if there’s no bottle or nipple present
  • Nudging or cuddling their mothers’ breasts.

Also, we know that it may be difficult to discern between your newborn’s cries right now – and that makes sense: babies use their cries for myriad purposes. Rest assured, you will soon understand what your baby is trying to say as their cries differentiate around 1 month.

Why Do Newborns Eat So Often?

Babies eat so often because they’re growing extraordinarily fast. In fact, your baby doubles their birth weight around 5 months, and then triple it by one year. This super charged growth requires lots of calories, which requires lots of feedings.

When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night Without Feeding?

Most babies are ready to night wean somehwere between 5 and 9 months. With that in mind your newborn will be waking to feed every few hours round the clock it’s important that you consult your pediatrican before dropping night feeds.

By the time your baby reaches 4-months their sleep will start to consolidate and you will find that waking to feed is happening just 2-3 times a night.

What is Dream Feeding?

Dream feeding is an easy practice in which you gently rouse your baby in the night and feed them while they’re half-asleep. You then put them back into their crib.

Used specifically for younger babies who need to eat and gain weight but also need a good length of sleep.

Note: Dream feeding is different from a night feeding. Babies wake more fully during night feedings, which is completely normal.

Tips for Night Feeding:

Here are some tips on how to make night feeding more efficient:

  • Be prepared: Your baby will likely wake up around the same time for their night feeding each night. To make night feedings easier for you, wake as soon as you hear them, if bottle feeding have everything you need at arms reach.
  • Share the Load: If you have a spouse or partner, trade off which night one does the night feedings, and which one performs other night checks.
  • Keep Lights Low: Keep your baby calm and in a sleepy state by dimming lights. Also, avoid talking to your baby – the sound of your voice will stimulate them.
  • Keep Diaper Changes Simple: While diaper changes are really only necessary when your baby has pooped, newborns do that a lot through the night. It can help to feed them, and then while they are drowsy, complete the diaper change in low light so as not to fully wake them.

When Do I Stop Night Feeding?

Typically somewhere between 5 and 9 months, this will depend on how well your baby is gaining weight, their calorie intake during the day and if they are taking formula or breastmilk. That said, always consult with your pediatrician to make sure your baby has gained enough weight to safely transition away from night feeding.

What is a Baby’s Feeding Schedule?

Though every baby is different, this chart gives you a general idea of when and how much babies should eat over their first 12 months. 

AGE

WHAT

HOW MUCH

HOW OFTEN

0-1 months

Breast milk
Formula

Nurse every 2-3 hours
2-3 ounces, every 3-4
hours

8-12 feedings/day
Continue to feed your baby on-demand regardless of breast milk or formula

1-2 months

Breast milk
Formula

Nurse every 2-3 hours
Approximately 4 ounces

8-12 feedings/day
6-8 feedings/day

2-4 months

Breast milk
Formula

Nurse every 3-4 hours
4-6 ounces

6-7 feedings/day
5-6 feedings/day

4-6 months

Breast milk
Formula
Infant cereal

Nurse every 3-4 hours
4-8 ounces
1-2 tablespoons

6-7 feedings/day
5-7 feedings/day

6-9 months

Breast milk
Formula
Infant cereal
Fruits or vegetables
Meats or beans

Nurse every 4 hours
6-8 ounces
2-4 tablespoons
2-3 tablespoons
1-2 tablespoons

5-6 feedings/day
4-6 feedings/day

What if My Baby Throws Up After Eating?

While spitting up is normal after eating, full on vomiting could be a sign of a food allergy or another illness. If your baby regularly throws up after eating, consult their pediatrician.

Do Newborn Babies Need Water?

Newborn babies should not drink water until they’re six-months-old. Breast milk and formula hydrate them while also providing most of the nutrient and electrolytes they need in these first few months.

Do Breastfed Babies Need Vitamins?

Yes. While breastmilk does provide most of the nutrients babies need to grow big and strong, doctors recommend a few additional supplements: most typically Vitamin D and Iron.

What if My Baby Wakes When It’s Not a Feeding Time?

If your baby wakes up at night and it’s been at least 2-3 hours since their last feed, try to avoid feeding and instead:

  • Wait a Moment: First wait a moment to see if your baby falls back to sleep by themselves.
  • Reassure From Afar: This minimizes disruptions and encourages your baby to soothe themselves back to sleep.
  • Keep Lights and Voice Low: If you do go to reassure your baby, keep the lights and your voice low, a gentle pat or shush may do.

When Do Babies Start Eating Solids?

Babies usually begin eating small amounts of solids between 4 and 6 months.

How can I help my baby develop healthy sleep habits?

Download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app, it will walk you step-by-step through these confusing early months, and beyond: this incredible app is designed to help you establish age-appropriate sleep schedules– a process that leads to better mental and physical health for years to come.

FAQs:

What is too long for a newborn baby not to eat?

Newborn babies must eat every 3-4 hours, but it’s usually every 1-3 hours. Newborns are growing very fast and therefore must feed early and often.

What happens if a newborn goes too long without feeding?

Waiting too long to feed your newborn can lead to rapid weight loss, jaundice, and other health issues down the road.

What if my newborn sleeps through a feeding?

It’s more important your baby get the sustenance they need, so if your baby is sleeping through their feedings, gently rouse them to make sure they eat.

Is it okay for newborns to not eat at night?

No. Newborns must eat frequently. One way to feed your newborn baby at night without waking them is by dream feeding.

Sources:

“Infant feeding: the effects of scheduled vs. on-demand feeding on mothers' wellbeing and children's cognitive development,” European Journal of Public Health.
“Sleep and physical growth in infants during the first 6 months,” Journal of Sleep Research.
“The effect of mild sleep deprivation on diet and eating behaviour in children: protocol for the Daily Rest, Eating, and Activity Monitoring (DREAM) randomized cross-over trial,” BMC Public Health.

Disclaimer:

How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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