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Feeding and Sleeping Myths

Cook Children's pediatricians — with you every waking and sleeping moment of the way.

While newborns do sleep a lot, most moms and dads will tell parents-to-be to expect waking up every few hours for feedings. Babies start sleeping through the night at different times, but this stage will be over before you know it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says some newborns feed as often as every 1.5 hours, while others about every 3 hours. The AAP also says breast-fed newborns will feed 8-12 or more times per 24 hours once a mom's milk has come in and recommends that "if your baby isn't waking on his own during the first few weeks, wake him if 3-4 hours have passed since the last feeding."

Threre are some sources, such as "The Newborn Book," written by two pediatricians in New York, that have suggested it's possible to train a baby to sleep through the night by spacing out feeds to every 4 hours. However, increasing feeding volumes during the day to skip nighttime feeds, using medicine to induce drowsiness and letting a baby "cry it out" at scheduled nighttime feeding times are not recommended by the AAP or Cook Children's pediatricians, and could have serious consequences.. Babies differ in their feeding needs and preferences. You can, and should, let your baby set their own feeding schedule. If your baby is getting enough to eat, they will sleep well between feedings.

Here are a few additional myths surrounding feeding and sleep training and the facts a parent-to-be should know to help ease your fears and conerns:

MYTH: There is one "best way" to get your child to sleep through the night.
FACT: Some babies sleep through the night at 1 to 2 months of age, but some perfectly normal babies take longer. Babies should learn to fall asleep in their crib, and you'll quickly learn when they are hungry, tired or need a diaper change.

MYTH: Scheduling feeds, even from a very early age, poses no risk to babies.
FACT: Scheduling feeds from birth is dangerous and puts babies at risk. Your baby will let you know when they are hungry and establish their own schedule. Not feeding on demand puts moms at risk for problems establishing a good milk supply for breast-feeding. In addition, infrequent feeding places babies at risk for increased weight loss and more severe jaundice, which requires further treatment and testing.

MYTH: You should never feed a baby before the time you have scheduled for them.
FACT: A crying baby isn't always hungry. However, if the usual steps to comfort them (change diaper, rocking, etc.) do not work, it is reasonable to attempt to feed.

MYTH: If your baby's sleep is disrupted for any reason (teething, vaccines, hungry, etc.), a combination of Tylenol®, Benadryl® and Motrin® will help to "reset their clock."
FACT: If your baby is fussy and you think it might be pain from teething, a dose of Tylenol or Motrin is safe, but not along with Benadryl. Otherwise, medication shouldn't be used to treat a normal developmental stage. The risks far outweigh the benefits.

The first few days of nursing a new baby can be challenging. Be patient and ask your pediatrician if you have any concerns. We're with you every worry of the way.

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