The Care and Handling of Babies

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Feeding time, bath time, and play time; what's colic all about? What equipment do you need? You have lots of questions, and parenting expert Ann Douglas had lots of answers, when she visited WebMD Live on June 15, 2004.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MEMBER QUESTION:
My 10-day-old baby feeds for one hour and then sleeps for two to three hours. When should I wake her for feedings and when should I let her wake naturally on her own?

DOUGLAS:
If your baby is at a healthy weight and your doctor doesn't have any concerns about your baby's overall health you can probably not worry about waking your baby up for feedings. Your baby is already feeding at three-hour intervals, and that's a pretty normal schedule for a healthy newborn.

If you stick with a demand feeding schedule your baby will naturally start feeding more often if she needs to increase your milk supply, because she's hungrier all of a sudden. That's the beauty of demand feeding, after all; it's totally based on supply and demand and takes a lot of worry out of feeding a baby. So this is one thing you can scratch off your worry list. Good luck.

MEMBER QUESTION:
My baby is 9 weeks old. About a week ago, he was sleeping from 7p.m.-8 p.m. until 6 a.m. with only one nursing in the middle of the night. We thought he would be sleeping through the night any day now. But, instead, now, he is waking up crying several times a night and only nursing for five to eight minutes before falling fast asleep. Why is this happening and how do break him of this new habit?

DOUGLAS:
It sounds to me like your baby may be going through a bit of a growth spurt. Sometimes babies who have been sleeping through the night or almost sleeping through the night fairly reliably will start nursing much more frequently in an effort to boost mum's milk supply. This tends to happen every couple of weeks and it's very normal. It's also a temporary phenomenon, and this more frequent nursing schedule should settle down after a week or two when your milk supply has increased enough to meet your baby's needs.

In the meantime try to get a little extra rest if you can during the afternoon or early evening so you have the extra sleep you need to cope with the added nighttime parenting demands.

What you also want to bear in mind is it's important to help your baby distinguish between night and day in the interest of promoting healthy sleep patterns over the long term. If you get in the habit of keeping your interactions with your baby to a minimum in the middle of the night, simply feeding your baby, changing him as necessary, and putting him back to bed without a lot of conversation and playtime, you will find he will quickly learn the difference between nighttime, when nobody spends a lot of time playing together, and daytime, when everyone is very social in your family.

Hope this helps to reassure you.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I have a 3-month-old baby who sleeps about 13 hours a night (7 p.m.-8 a.m.), with one feeding in the middle around 3:30 a.m. Should I try to move the 3 a.m. feeding up to 11p.m. and wake her up for a feeding before we go to sleep? Or should we not mess around with our good fortune, and just let her be? Can I expect that feeding to disappear at some point on its own? In other words, at what age do babies sleep through the night?

DOUGLAS:
Personally I would opt for plan B -- not messing with a good thing. The fact you're able to get basically 13 hours of sleep each night with one nighttime feeding will make you the envy of the majority of parents on your block. I would simply wait until your baby, who is still quite young, by the way, to give up that one nighttime feeding on her own.

It's quite unusual for a very young baby to consistently sleep through the night, although one of my four children did so from three weeks of age. It is more common for babies to start sleeping through the night at around 6 or 7 months of age; however, I would add that one of my other children was still waking in the night at a little over 2 years of age. So there's really no such thing as a "typical" age at which children reliably sleep through the night. It varies a great deal from child to child.