Understanding your baby’s sleeping and eating patterns

by Kaiser Permanente |
Young adult female mother feeling exhausted and breastfeeding newborn daughter at home.

Sleep is essential for keeping you and your baby happy and healthy. In the first 2 weeks, your baby might sleep more during the day. This is common, since they are still adjusting to the cycles of day and night.

As your baby gets older, they will stay awake more during the day and sleep more at night. They are also likely to breastfeed/chesfeed more often. Newborns may feed up to 10-12 times every 24 hours.

Recognizing hunger cues

It’s important to be able to recognize your baby’s feeding cues, such as:

  • Licking or smacking their lips.
  • Opening and closing their mouth.
  • Putting their hands or fingers into their mouth.
  • Searching with their mouth for something to suck on.
  • Sucking on their own tongue, hands, or blankets.

Don’t wait to feed your baby — whenever you notice a hunger cue, offer a breast. This includes at night if your infant wakes up.

Managing nighttime feedings

It’s normal for babies to wake up several times during the night to feed. As your baby gets older, the number of times they wake during the night will decrease.

Infants usually have sleep cycles that last 60 minutes. Adult sleep cycles typically last about 90 minutes. Don’t worry — your baby will eventually sync their sleep schedule with yours.

When your baby wakes to feed at night, be sure to keep the room dark and quiet. This encourages your baby to go back to sleep after they’ve been fed. Your baby should feed for as long as they’re hungry. It may take up to 30 minutes to completely empty one breast.

When your baby finishes on one side, place them on your chest. This helps them burp and keeps them comfortable by avoiding gas that can keep them awake. After they’ve burped, offer the second breast. Let your baby breastfeed until they are satisfied. Burp them again before putting them back to bed.

It’s normal to feel like you have less milk in the evening

You might notice that you have less milk in the afternoon and evening. This is completely normal. The baby eventually takes longer stretches at night between feeds. The milk that is made every hour accumulates in the breast resulting in more milk in the morning.

Levels of the hormone prolactin, which helps stimulate the production of breast milk, surges between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. This makes those night feeds important as they stimulate prolactin and protect your milk supply until the baby is taking significant solid foods around 9 to 12 months old.

Sleeping near your baby

Experts recommend that your baby sleep in the same room with you for at least the first 6 months. However, you should never sleep in the same bed as your baby — this can be dangerous and increase the risk of accidental harm to your infant.

You should only bring your baby into your bed to comfort or feed them. When you’re ready to go to sleep, put your baby back in their own bed. Be sure to always lay your baby on their back to help lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.