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Baby Sleep: Expert Q & A

Should you wake your baby for feedings? How many naps does baby need? Our expert answers some of the most common baby sleep questions.
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WebMD Expert Column

Questions about your baby’s sleep needs can really keep a new parent up at night. Should you wake baby for feedings? How can you help your baby start sleeping through the night? Is co-sleeping safe?

To find the answers to these questions, WebMD went to Jennifer Shu, MD, an Atlanta pediatrician, medical editor of HealthyChildren.org, and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. She shared her thoughts on these and other top concerns parents have about their new baby’s sleep needs.

When should my baby start sleeping through the night?

Some babies sleep through the night within a week or two of being born. But most have their days and nights backward at first, sleeping more in the day and less at night.

Most babies will start sleeping at night at about four months of age. You won’t get an uninterrupted stretch of the baby sleeping 10-12 hours, but you will get about five hours and then another good uninterrupted stretch after a night feeding.

Don’t worry if your baby is four months old and still isn’t sleeping that long. You can help her along by letting her sleep at night, not waking her to feed, and by keeping things dark and quiet. Save the exciting, fun things until daytime.

How much nap time does my baby need?

Normally when babies are first born, everything is eat, sleep, eat, sleep, so you don’t really count any of that sleeping as naps. But somewhere between one and six months of age, babies tend to settle into a three-naps-a-day pattern, where each nap can last an hour or two, before going to a one-nap-a-day pattern after their first birthday. Most kids lose their need for naps by about 5 years of age.

Should I wake my baby for feedings?

I don’t recommend waking babies for nighttime feedings, because you want them to sleep. However, I would suggest you wake them for night feedings in their first couple of weeks if they haven’t yet gained back their birth weight -- babies tend to lose 10% of their weight after they’re born. Also, if they’re sleeping more in the day than the night, I do suggest waking them so they don’t go more than four hours without eating.

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