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Intermountain Moms

Understanding Normal Newborn Behaviors and Breastfeeding Patterns

By Kayleen Lowe

Mar 27, 2015

mom nurse

As a new parent to be, you imagine and hope for the perfect “Gerber” baby, right?  Your baby will eat for 10-15 minutes every 3-4 hours, will sleep through the night by the time he is a week old, and will only cry a little when  getting his diaper changed.  You envision lots of beautiful hair, no rashes or birthmarks, and you are certain he/she will be the cutest baby ever born.  Well…. as far as the eating, sleeping, and crying go, you may find the information below to be very helpful.      

If you are prepared for and know ahead of time about normal newborn behaviors and breastfeeding patterns, you will know that there is nothing wrong with your newborn and will be less inclined to believe it is all related to a hunger issue and that “formula” will fix it all.

This first 24 hours is when we see this “GOOD” baby.  He will eat, sleep, and cry a little, but then after 1-3 days, reality sets in and babies will want to eat more. They cry more and are more aware of their environment. Moms are stunned at the difference in a baby’s behavior and feel that they are doing something wrong, that they aren’t feeding their babies enough, or that all this crying and fussiness is related to you not having enough milk.  However, this is not the case.  It is normal for babies to feed frequently.  It is normal for babies to go through these changes.  It will not last.  Patience and understanding is key.  Also important are monitoring and knowing the recommended guidelines for the number of breast feedings and counting the number of wet diapers and messy diapers in the first couple of weeks.

Baby’s newborn behavior will fluctuate between different “sleep and awake infant states,” in the first 24 hours or so.  “These infant states influence the way an infant will respond at any given time,” (1) and they will help you as a new mother to understand and respond better to his needs.  For example, in the quiet sleep state, a baby can and will generally sleep through any kind of noise, such as vacuuming, for example.  This may not be the best time to try and feed him.  Alternately, if your baby is in the awake infant state and drowsy, you might be able to awake him enough to feed.  The quiet alert state is the best time to offer a feeding since he/she is more attentive to the environment.  This is why it is encouraged to do feedings within the first 30-60 minutes after delivery.  Crying is an infant state but this is also the newborn’s form of communication and a signal that something must change.  It isn’t always related to hunger, but if he is hungry, it is a late sign and babies will generally have a more difficult time latching on and will need to be calmed down prior to an attempt to breastfeed.  

Sleeping behaviors will also be a little different than anticipated.  Here are some general guidelines: 

2-6 Weeks

Able to sleep 2-4 hours at a time

6-8 Weeks

Sleep becomes more concentrated during the nighttime.  Baby more awake during the day.

3 months

Able to sleep up to 4 hours at one time-typically with the longest stretch at nighttime.

6 months

Able to sleep up to 6 hours at one time.


Knowledge of newborn behaviors and breastfeeding patterns will prepare you for that sweet, cuddly, perfect baby that you pictured in your mind. 

References:  Lactation Seminar given by Wendy Wright, MBA, IBCLC, RLC.  “Breastfeeding:  New Strategies for Improved Outcomes”.  Lactation seminar sponsored by:  PESI HealthCare.