Mouths To Feed- Days and Nights Mixed

Dear Gloria,

We think our two week old baby daughter has her days and nights mixed up.  She sleeps most of the day and then is up wanting to eat every hour or two at night.  Are we just going to have to deal with this or is there something we can do?

Mark and Beth B.


Dear Mark and Beth,

Great question.  Every new family deals with the sleep challenge to some degree, so you are not alone.  And it doesn’t last……..unless you want it to.  Let me explain.


The first two weeks are nuts.  You are going to the doctor, entertaining visitors, feeding constantly and sleeping whenever you can.  It’s chaos and that’s ok.  Now you are at your first real crossroads in parenting.  Do you continue to follow the baby’s lead or begin to teach her the difference between day and night?


But before we talk sleep strategies, it is important to know if everybody is healthy.  My simplistic check list for health at two weeks is “great gain” for the baby and “no pain” for the nursing mom.  If these are not true for you, see your pediatrician and lactation consultant (if nursing) quickly for assistance.  If you have “great gain” and “no pain”, you are ready for the sleep speech.


Option 1:  Change nothing.

If the baby is healthy, you can continue on with the current pattern and follow her lead in regard to feeding and sleeping patterns.  If you don’t mind the chaos, you don’t have to change anything.


Option 2:  Seize the day.

You cannot change the night at night.  You have to change the night during the day.  The more feedings you get in while the sun is up, the less you’ll do when the sun is down.  That’s logical, but easier said than done.


Until the baby is sleeping through the night, the general rule of thumb for daytime feeding intervals is every two to three hours from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next.  So, if she’s still asleep at 10 am after having fed her at 7 am, gently wake her for another feeding by undressing her down to her diaper and placing her skin to skin with you to encourage her to wake from deep sleep to a quiet alert state. 


If you’re struggling to wake her during the day, you may also find it helpful to have her sleeping in a quiet room during the day between her feedings.  If she is out in the bright and noisy den, she may be sleeping lightly which could prevent her from getting the deep sleep she needs to have an alert feeding next time.


What do you do about the “never wake a sleeping baby” rule?  I couldn’t agree more for night feeds with a healthy baby.  However, during the day, waking a baby for the purpose of feeding may be the key to everyone getting more sleep at night.


Gloria Dudney, RN, IBCLC, RLC is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has taught new parent classes for more than 10 years. 

Copyright 2007

Gloria Dudney, RN, IBCLC, RLC