What to Do About a Sleepy Newborn

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One of the first questions well-wishers often ask new parents is, “How is your baby sleeping?” Most new parents sigh in response, exhausted and overwhelmed by the frequent night-waking of their little ones. Some parents, though, have a different experience. While most newborns wake at least every three hours in early infancy, there are some sleepy newborn babies that sleep well beyond the expected amount. While new parents usually appreciate the rest, they also sometimes worry about how much their little one is sleeping.

Should you wake a sleeping baby? 

Whether you’re breastfeeding or formula feeding, most pediatricians recommend that you wake your baby to eat every three hours until they regain any weight that was lost after birth. Most babies lose a little bit of weight in the days immediately following their arrival, up to 10% is considered normal, and most regain this lost weight within two weeks. General guidelines suggest that unless your sleepy newborn is having other issues it’s okay to let them sleep through the night once they’re back up to birth weight.

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When does a baby’s sleepiness signal that something may be wrong?

If you have specific concerns about how much your baby sleeps, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician. Most doctors will say that as long as your baby is gaining the appropriate amount of weight, having enough wet and dirty diapers, acting alert when they’re awake, and not experiencing any other concerning symptoms, their sleepiness is nothing to worry about. If your sleepy newborn is losing a significant amount of weight, not gaining weight, or not wetting or dirtying their diaper as frequently as they should, or if their skin or eyes are looking a little yellow, sleepiness may be a symptom of feeding troubles or newborn jaundice.

Why might my baby be sleepy?

It’s tough to tell exactly why some babies sleep more than others but, in general, there are some factors that may make baby sleepier than their peers. Often, babies who were born bigger (and whose tummies are capable of holding more milk) sleep longer than smaller babies who need to eat more frequently. Babies born early are sometimes overly sleepy until they begin to “wake up” around their due date. Newborn jaundice can also cause a sleepy baby. 

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If you have a sleepy newborn and are feeling worried for any reason, be sure to contact your doctor. If they let you know your little one is happy, healthy, and growing, do your best to enjoy the rest!

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What to Do About a Sleepy Newborn

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. She is writing a memoir on pregnancy, motherhood, and sisterhood and lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. ... More

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