Is your baby feeding every hour and not napping or sleeping well? Here’s how you can handle when your little one nurses nonstop.
First let me say, mama, that the newborn period can be rough.
You feel like you were a normal human just a few short weeks ago and now, well, you’re a walking milk producer and baby just won’t settle.
You’re exhausted, weary, and ready for your newborn to sleep.
➡️ The good news is this: with a few tweaks you can stop feeding every hour.
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Here’s why your baby feeds every hour
If your baby feeds every hour, they are “snacking.”
Snacking means they are drinking enough fore milk (the less nutrient dense milk that lets down first) that they are filled up enough to doze off in mama’s arms.
Or, some babies, will stop feeding after a few minutes and just stare up at you with those Big Newborn Eyes.
Either case… baby is snacking instead of taking a full feed.
If you want to get a handle on what’s going on, use our daily baby logs to get down on paper exactly, step by step, what’s happening, so you know how to go forward.
How to get your baby to stop feeding every hour
If you want your baby to take full feeds, the first thing you need to do is get them on a proper newborn breastfeeding schedule.
You aren’t going to become a slave to the clock, but you’re going to stop the snacking.
Instead of cluster feeding on purpose, right now, you’re cluster feeding by accident.
How do you do that?
By only feeding baby every 2.5 to 3 hours and then, at those feeds, giving baby full feeds.
Newborns will naturally only need to feed every 2.5 to 3 hours if they’re taking full feeds each time.
If your baby has a habit of snacking, they will not be the ones to stop it, you’ll have to.
Here’s how to keep baby awake during breastfeeding
When baby feeds for 5 minutes then nods off, you’ll need to swoop in and keep baby awake. This will help baby get as much milk in as possible and will help them to take better naps.
- Rub baby’s cheek
- Rub baby’s hands or feet in circular motions
- Unswaddle baby (a must if you want to avoid day night confusion)
- Use a wipe or wet wash cloth to rub on baby during feeds
- Stop feeding and hold baby up, speaking to baby
- Take baby outside or somewhere that’s a change of scenery
- Make noise, get near siblings, talk to baby
- Keep the lights on
The reason baby doesn’t sleep well when they feed every hour
Your little one will likely not take good daytime naps if they are not taking full feeds.
They aren’t full enough to stay drowsy and asleep as they transition sleep cycles.
When they transition from active to passive sleep (or vice versa) if they aren’t full and are hungry, instead of just continuing the nap, they’ll become fully alert and ready to feed.
And then, because they only took a short nap, when you feed again for 5 to 10 minutes, they’ll be lulled back into a sleep.
➡️ Continuing the cycle of accidental cluster feeding and an overtired baby.
- The Biggest Baby Sleep Myth That Backfires Every Time (And Makes Over Tired Babies)
- The Ultimate Guide To Baby Sleep Times (Naps & Bedtime)
How to stop the cycle and get on a good routine
The first thing you need to do is to stop baby from snacking every hour.
Encourage full feeds.
If baby is older than 6 weeks and wants to feed after one hour, consider offering a pacifier (we use these stuffed animal ones) instead.
This may help baby get back to sleep for a longer nap, and will mean the next time you feed baby will be hungry enough to eat a full feed.
Do the best you can.
Baby has been in the snacking habit and may resist the change, but eventually you’ll see that you have a far less whiny baby on your hands when they have full tummies and are well rested.
How to get your newborn to nap better
After you make sure that baby has full feeds, you’ll want to work on the napping…
I encourage you to read my full post on baby sleep here – Foolproof Baby Sleep Tips — Routines, Habits & Strategies.
Here is how to approach napping with your baby:
- Newborns should only be awake for around 45 to 90 minutes at a time (including feeding!) so your newborn routine and your newborn sleep schedule should have a nap after every single feed.
- Don’t rock baby to sleep in your arms and then try to put him in the crib because when he transitions through the sleep cycles he’ll realize he’s not in your arms… and he’ll wake up early.
- Establish a basic routine with your baby. You can follow this newborn routine here or modify it slightly.
- Put your baby to sleep drowsy but awake.
- Establish some wind down routines for your little one prior to nap.
- Focus on cluster feeding in the late evening hours which will help baby top up and sleep better throughout the night.
- Identify any sleep props your baby has (things that prevent him from transitioning and sleeping well on his own) and replace those with sleep associations.
Recap and FAQ… How to get baby to stop feeding every hour and start sleeping
Why does my baby feed every hour?
Short answer… because you let him. Encourage baby to take full feeds and then baby won’t need to feed sooner than 2.5 or 3 hours between feeds throughout the day.
Perhaps even less at night.
Is ten minutes a full feed?
If baby will feed for ten minutes then nap and wake up to feed around 2.5 hours later, it might be.
My daughter fed no longer than 15 minutes per feed, but she could go 3 hours between feeds so, for her, it was a full feed.
Why does my baby want to breastfeed constantly?
If your baby wants to feed constantly, but never feeds that much, then it’s likely an association between feeding and comfort.
You can create other positive associations by cuddling, singing, rocking, baby massage, and other things that will help you to feel bonded to baby (so you can enjoy baby now!) but not be open for milk business all day.
Is feeding every hour cluster feeding?
Yes and no.
Cluster feeding is generally something a breastfeeding mother does on purpose in the late afternoon early evening period (feeding every 2 hours, say) to help give baby all the nutrients he needs so he will sleep later and longer.
Feeding every hour is more like an accidental cluster feeding and if baby isn’t having full feeds then it’s more like Comfort Nursing, not cluster feeding.
About those growth spurts…
Do babies feed every hour when they are going through a growth spurt?
If your baby is going through a growth spurt they will want to feed more often.
This helps your milk supply increase. It’s how you can know if baby is getting enough milk.
If baby is feeding every hour two and taking these feeds seriously – full feeds – then it’s likely a growth spurt or milk supply issue.
Or if baby is trying to feed every hour or two and only feeding for five minutes here or there, it’s not likely a growth spurt.
Why does my baby nurse for 5 minutes and then cry?
This could be a number of things.
Baby could have uncomfortable gas.
Or baby could have a food sensitivity to something you’ve eaten. If this persists past a few days, I’d go in to the doctor and rule out the above causes.
Why does my baby always seem hungry and never satisfied?
This could be your milk supply. Here’s how to know if baby is getting enough milk.
Could be that baby is going through a growth spurt which means baby is more hungry.
Baby might be teething and eating is not comfortable so he’s not feeding well and in pain. Try pain management for babies who are going through teething.
Why is my newborn feeding for hours on end?
Short answer: they don’t.
They may stay at the breast for a long time, but that doesn’t mean they are actively feeding. If your baby will take a pacifier you’ll see that they will also suck at the pacifier while sleeping.
Encourage your baby to be awake for feeds and then, after 30 to 45 minutes, take baby off the breast and let them take a nap in their own crib.
I’ve created a free email series just for you! There are truly only a few reasons why babies and toddlers have struggles sleeping… really, I mean it. I am going to teach you the main 3 reasons and how to start making small changes to help your baby go from:
- fighting sleep to embracing it
- night wakings to sleeping through
- needing you to jump through hoops to going to sleep on their own
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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