How long should a newborn sleep without feeding?

Quick answers

Newborns need to eat frequently, about 8 to 12 times per day. Newborns should not go more than 2 to 3 hours without feeding.

When do newborns need to eat?

Newborns have tiny stomachs and need to eat frequently. In the first few days of life, they need to eat about every 1.5 to 3 hours. This equals 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Some newborns want to eat even more frequently than this in the first week of life.

Newborns give cues when they are hungry. These include:

  • Moving mouth and tongue
  • Sucking or rooting motions
  • Putting hands to mouth
  • Increased alertness or activity
  • Crying

Crying is a late sign of hunger. It’s best to watch for earlier cues and feed the baby before they start crying. Waiting too long can result in an upset baby who has more difficulty latching and feeding.

How often should a newborn eat?

In the first few days of life, expect your newborn to eat about every 1.5 to 3 hours. This equals about 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Here are some general guidelines:

  • 0-2 weeks: Feed every 1.5 to 3 hours (8-12 times per day)
  • 2-6 weeks: Feed every 2 to 3 hours (8-12 times per day)
  • 2-3 months: Feed every 2.5 to 4 hours (6-8 times per day)
  • 4-6 months: Feed every 3 to 5 hours (5-7 times per day)

Keep in mind every baby is different. Your pediatrician can help advise how often your specific newborn needs to eat.

How long can a newborn go without feeding?

Newborns should not go more than 2 to 3 hours without feeding in the first month of life. Some newborns, especially in the first two weeks, will need to eat even more frequently than this.

After the first month, some newborns can stretch to 3 to 4 hours between feedings. But most still need to feed every 2 to 3 hours until about 2 to 3 months of age.

Signs your newborn is going too long between feedings include:

  • Increased crying or fussiness
  • Acting restless or frantic when feeding
  • Decrease in number of wet and soiled diapers
  • Poor weight gain

If your newborn is showing these or other signs of hunger, try shortening the time between feedings. Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns.

How long can a newborn sleep at night without feeding?

Newborns often wake to feed at night in the early months. But some may sleep for slightly longer stretches, especially after 6-8 weeks of age. Here are some general guidelines for newborn nighttime sleep:

  • 0-2 weeks: Sleeps 1.5 to 4 hours between night feedings
  • 1-2 months: Sleeps 2 to 5 hours between night feedings
  • 2-4 months: Sleeps 3 to 6 hours between night feedings

Even when your newborn starts sleeping for longer at night, they still need to eat frequently during the day every 2 to 3 hours.

Why does my newborn need to eat so often?

There are several reasons newborns need to eat so frequently:

  • Small stomach size – A newborn’s stomach is tiny, especially in the early days. It can only hold about 1-2 ounces at a time.
  • Fast digestion – Newborns digest breastmilk or formula very quickly, in about 90 minutes. So they get hungry again soon after eating.
  • Rapid growth – Babies grow incredibly fast in the first few months. Frequent feeding provides calories and nutrients to fuel growth.
  • Immune protection – Breastmilk provides important antibodies. Frequent feedings ensure the baby continuously receives this protection.

As your baby grows over the first few months, their stomach capacity increases and they become more efficient at digesting. This allows them to start lasting longer between feedings.

What if my newborn wants to eat constantly?

Frequent feeding is normal for newborns, but some babies seem to want to eat around-the-clock. This constant feeding is often called “cluster feeding.” Some reasons it may happen include:

  • Growth spurts – Cluster feeding builds up your milk supply for your baby’s growing needs.
  • Evening fussiness – Some babies feed more frequently in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Comforting method – Sucking is comforting. More feeding may help soothe a fussy baby.

If your baby wants to feed constantly:

  • Respond to your baby’s cues – Offer the breast or bottle when they show signs of hunger.
  • Keep them close – Consider babywearing to provide closeness while keeping your hands free.
  • Take care of yourself – Rest, hydrate, and eat when you can. Ask for help if needed.
  • Contact your pediatrician – Rule out any medical reasons for excessive feeding.

With time, your baby should settle into a pattern of feeding every 2-3 hours. Contact your pediatrician if excessive feeding persists beyond the first couple weeks.

How to know if your newborn is eating enough

It can be challenging to know whether your newborn is getting enough to eat. Here are some signs your baby is eating adequately:

  • Having 6 or more wet diapers per day after about a week old
  • Having 3-4 stools per day if breastfed
  • Having 1 or more stools per day if formula-fed
  • Appearing satiated and content after feeding
  • Coordinated suck-swallow-breathe pattern while feeding
  • Steady weight gain after the first week of life

Consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your newborn’s feeding, wet diapers, stools, or weight gain. They can help determine if your baby is getting enough.

Signs your newborn is not eating enough

Some signs that your newborn may not be getting enough milk include:

  • Not having at least 6 wet diapers per day after the first week
  • Inadequate weight gain or failure to regain birth weight
  • Decreased activity or lethargy
  • Weak sucking reflex
  • Fussiness or inconsolability
  • Fewer stools than normal

If you notice any of these signs, talk to your pediatrician right away. They can check your baby and determine if supplementation or other interventions are needed. Don’t hesitate to ask for help ensuring your newborn is eating enough.

Ways to encourage your newborn to eat longer

If your newborn has a habit of eating for short periods, try these tips to encourage longer feeding sessions:

  • Unwrap them from swaddling or warm blankets before feeding so they don’t get too sleepy.
  • Change their diaper or undress them to help wake them up before feeding.
  • Gently rub their back, feet or tummy to provide stimulation.
  • Pump and offer expressed breast milk via spoon or cup if they don’t want to latch.
  • If bottle-feeding, use paced feeding techniques.
  • Offer a pacifier for non-nutritive sucking after feeding if needed.

Talk to a lactation consultant or your pediatrician if you have ongoing concerns about short feeding sessions. They can help assess if there are any underlying issues.

How to know when to wake a newborn for feeding

It’s normal for newborns to sleep soundly sometimes. But too long between feedings can be dangerous. Here are some tips on when to wake your sleeping baby:

  • During the first 2 weeks, wake them if it has been 3 hours since last feeding.
  • After 2 weeks, wake them if it has been 4 hours since last feeding.
  • Watch the clock during sleep – don’t wait for them to wake on their own.
  • Gently rub their back, feet or tummy to rouse them.
  • Undress them down to a diaper if needed to wake them fully.
  • Keep night wakings as calm and quiet as possible.

Aim to rouse them enough so they latch and feed effectively. Crying can make feeding more challenging. Be patient and allow time for proper burping as well.

Setting a newborn feeding schedule

Having a feeding schedule can help provide structure in those early chaotic weeks. Here are tips for setting a schedule:

  • Ensure baby feeds at least 8-12 times per day in the first weeks.
  • Consider feeding on demand during the day and having a loose routine at night.
  • Aim for consistency in timing, not rigidity. Baby’s needs come first.
  • Allow 2-3 hours between daytime feedings but respond earlier to feeding cues.
  • Feed at least once overnight until around 6-8 weeks old.
  • Adjust schedule as needed based on doctor’s recommendations.

Having a schedule helps ensure your newborn eats frequently enough. But stay flexible – some days baby will be more hungry than others. Staying responsive to their needs is key.

Balancing feeding and sleeping

The first weeks with a newborn involve a lot of feeding and sleeping. Here are some tips to balance both:

  • Watch the clock – feed at least every 2-3 hours during the day.
  • Don’t wait longer than 3-4 hours overnight for the first month.
  • Gently rouse baby if longer sleeping intervals occur.
  • Provide stimulation during feeds to keep baby awake.
  • Put them down drowsy but awake to avoid sleep associations.
  • Learn baby’s sleepy cues like yawning or averting gaze.

Aim to prevent overtiredness which makes sleeping and feeding more difficult. But also ensure tummy time and awake time for development occurs. Both feeding and sleeping are so important in these early days.

How dad can help with newborn feeding

Dads play a key role in newborn care as well, including with feeding. Here are some ways dads can help support the feeding process:

  • Learn how to spot baby’s feeding cues.
  • Bring baby to mom for night feedings.
  • Burp and soothe baby after feeding.
  • Give mom a break by giving an occasional bottle.
  • Change diapers before and after feeding.
  • Cuddle and bond with baby by holding them skin-to-skin.

Taking over some newborn care responsibilities allows mom to rest and recover. Supporting the feeding process also helps dad bond with baby in those precious early days.

Involving siblings in newborn feeding

Older siblings often want to help care for the new baby. Feeding is a great opportunity for involvement under supervision. Consider allowing older children to:

  • Hold the bottle while you control the flow.
  • Read or sing to the baby during feedings.
  • Help burp the baby by patting their back very gently.
  • Rock baby after feeding to provide comfort.
  • Fetch diapers, wipes, blankets or other needed items.
  • Give positive reinforcement by telling baby “Good job eating.”

Sibling involvement teaches responsibility, empathy and caregiving skills. But always ensure close adult supervision for safety, and have realistic expectations of what’s age-appropriate.

When to seek medical advice about newborn feeding

Occasional feeding concerns are common. But contact your pediatrician promptly about any of the following:

  • Poor weight gain or failure to regain birth weight
  • Fewer than 6 wet diapers per day by one week old
  • Excessive sleepiness, lethargy or decreased alertness
  • Difficulty latching or sucking effectively
  • Refusal to eat
  • Green or bloody vomit
  • Gagging or choking during feeds

Other signs like fever, jaundice or diarrhea also warrant a prompt call to request an appointment. Don’t hesitate to seek medical advice – early intervention can prevent complications.


Feeding a newborn round the clock is exhausting but necessary. To ensure your newborn thrives, they should eat about every 2-3 hours in the early months. Signs of hunger should not be ignored. While establishing a feeding schedule can help provide structure, it’s also important to follow baby’s lead and be flexible to their needs. Pay close attention to input and output to ensure they are getting enough. Seek medical help promptly for any concerns about nutrition or hydration. With time and patience, parents and babies eventually adapt to the frequent feeding required in those first few months.

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