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How Long Can A Baby Go Without Eating? Helpful Info About Feedings

How Long Can A Baby Go Without Eating

How long you should let baby sleep if a meal has been missed depends on your baby’s age, whether they were healthy birth weight, how often they typically sleep, and more.

Newborn babies do little more than eat and sleep until a few weeks have passed after delivery. So knowing how long you can let baby sleep or if you should let baby sleep through the night can be confusing.

Babies sleep a lot, and a newborn baby must be encouraged to adopt and develop healthy sleep habits, but they also need to eat sufficiently. Read on as we discuss how long can a baby go without eating and other concerns.

We will share information about baby sleeping patterns, baby feeding schedule ideas, and when it’s okay for a baby to sleep through the night without feeding.

How long can a baby go without eating?

Some babies come home from the hospital after delivery and can sleep through the night if left to their own devices. 

These babies fall asleep at night, seem content to snooze all night, and then wake the following day. However, allowing this to occur is not a good idea.

The debate of waking a sleeping baby to feed is ongoing, with contradicting opinions.

Some parents will tell you to let an infant sleep. Others will tell you to stick to the feeding habits and schedule your little one is used to, regardless of whether they are sleeping or not.

Should I wake my baby to feed?

This is the big question of the article, and unfortunately, it is the most difficult to answer. 

Most healthy babies who are of newborn age will sleep for a total of 17 hours in a day – spread out in the form of shorter naps and longer shut-eyes.

Sleepy baby

Newborn babies cannot tell the difference between night and day. 

When baby wakes, it is often because they are cold, have a wet diaper that needs changing, or they are hungry. This generally occurs every two to three hours.

This internal cycle can be slightly changed and manipulated by developing a feeding schedule. Knowing whether it’s okay to let a little one snooze instead of feed is where things get a little murky, though.

Let’s look at some facts that have been collected about a baby’s sleeping patterns and need for food.

Battle of the sexes

Most babies will wake up if they are hungry, but girls tend to sleep longer than newborn boys before waking up at feeding times.

Breast milk and hungry baby

Breast milk is much easier to digest than formula. Therefore, a breastfed baby’s sleep schedule is likely to be more disturbed by needing to feed more frequently.

How Long Can A Baby Go Without Eating

Formula-fed babies

If you have chosen formula feeding for your infant, you may notice that your little one wakes less often at night to feed. Formula-raised babies sleep for a longer duration of time because it takes longer for the food to digest. 

This makes them feel full faster and longer.

How long should a newborn sleep at night without eating?

A few factors should be considered when determining whether to wake up a baby or let the newborn sleep. Keeping your baby healthy and safe should always be your top priority.

Knowing what matters when it comes to deciding to wake newborns or babies younger than toddler age is essential.

Baby’s birth weight

A baby’s weight gain is significant in the first few weeks of life. If the baby is gaining weight at a pace your doctor is happy with, then missing one feeding may not be a huge deal. 

Just prepare for a tantrum, unlike anything you’re used to when the baby does wake up for the next feeding.

If your baby struggles to gain weight or was born at a low birth weight or prematurely, then you should never let the baby sleep through the night without feeding, especially if they are newborn.

Baby’s age

The American Academy of Pediatrics does have guidelines regarding how often nursing mothers or formula-feeding mothers should feed their babies. 

This varies by age and baby’s health needs and concerns, but the rules of thumb regarding these guidelines, backed up by organizations such as Stanford Children’s Health, should not be ignored.

Newborn

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that daytime feeds should not be spaced longer than three hours apart. Daytime naps exceeding this length of time should be interrupted. 

Many babies will wake up themselves to eat, but if yours does not, constantly wake baby up after that three-hour threshold has been met.

It’s okay if the baby sleeps longer during the night at this age, but not by much. At this newborn stage of life, you should never allow your baby to sleep for more than four hours before waking them for nighttime feedings.

This should ideally continue until the baby gains enough weight for your doctor to okay letting them sleep for long periods without disturbances for a night feed. On average, babies start to gain back lost weight from birth within two or three weeks.

Three months old

From the age of about three months, you should work to create a rigid bedtime routine, as well as a schedule for feeding during the night. 

Full-term babies are better able to adjust to such a schedule, as these babies grow more on target than preemies tend to do.

Any sleep period of six hours straight is considered an overnight sleep cycle. New parents should never let babies of a young age sleep longer than this without feeding.

Sleep training

At around six months of age, you can begin sleep training. 

Sleep training is when you work towards developing a regular sleep schedule for your baby, depending upon how many hours you and your doctor have decided it is appropriate for your baby to sleep at once.

This training takes a long time and may be met with some challenges. That’s perfectly normal. However, sleep problems are more common in babies who do not get on a schedule. 

When your baby is getting enough sleep, they develop in a more linear and proficient fashion.

How to train your baby to sleep

Expert advice can help you make a detailed plan, but if you have a new baby, you may want to start good sleep habits that will lead to an easier transition in the future so that sleep training will be a breeze.

1. Eliminate sleep props

A baby who can only go to sleep with a bottle, pacifier, in a rocking chair, or being held is experiencing negative sleep associations. This means that they start to equate going to bed with having an extra feeding, or a pacifier, etc.

While it is fine to feed your child right before bed, especially if they’ve gone hours without feeding before bedtime, you don’t want to regularly associate your little one’s bedtime ritual with eating.

Not only can this hinder your child’s ability to go to sleep on their own, but it may result in your child displaying hunger signs, even when they have had enough milk or formula. 

Expert advice suggests that putting the baby to bed without expecting a prop will help your child develop good sleep habits.

2. Practice independent sleep

Put your child in their bed and leave the room. Do this at the same time every night. 

You will most likely meet some resistance and have a few sleepless nights before your child understands that they can sleep on their own without the aid of a prop.

You can check the monitor to ensure the baby stays secure and safe, but don’t go back into the room and get your baby out of bed. If you’re sure your infant has had enough milk before you put them down for the night, they are fine to go a few hours without eating.

Dirty diapers, on the other hand, are another story. If you suspect your child’s diaper needs changing, you can remove them from their bed, change them, and then deposit them back in the crib.

3. Hold your ground

Some parents see sleep training as a cruel or mean practice, and you will almost certainly hear some negative opinions about it. 

It is important to remember that you are not putting your little one in a crib, closing the door, and walking away until the following day.

There are gentler ways to sleep train your infant, and doing so can benefit them enormously and help them avoid sleep problems later in childhood. 

If it’s truly not for you, that’s okay. But don’t decide not to try to sleep train based on the opinion of any of your peers without first doing your own research and consulting your doctor.

How Long Can A Baby Go Without Eating

How to wake up a newborn for feeding

Babies can sleep a lot. 

If your newborn-aged infant has slept for four hours and has not woken up to feed, then you need to wake them. The following are a few ways in which you can do so effectively.

  • Hold your baby upright and feed in an upright position
  • Tickle the bottoms of baby’s feet until they wake up
  • Expose skin so that they will wake up
  • Talk to your baby and turn on soft lighting
  • Remove them from the room they associate with sleep

It can be challenging to wake a sleepy baby to feed them. 

Depending on how many hours have passed since they fell asleep, it can feel like an uphill battle to keep them awake enough to feed them. 

Trying the suggestions above will more than likely yield positive results.

Conclusion

As previously mentioned, those first months are the most critical in any baby’s life so it’s important that they get the proper nutrition they need to help them grow and develop. This means that you may have to wake your baby up to ensure they are being fed every four hours, at minimum.

Never allow a newborn baby to sleep more than four hours without being fed. This may mean that you have to wake them up. 

Doing so can be easier if you try a few tricks, like sitting upright with them or tickling their foot.

As your child ages, you can go a bit longer without feeding them at night and start to sleep train at around six months. Just be sure ask your doctor when it’s the right time to allow your little one to sleep through the night, without waking them to feed.

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