Does your baby keep falling asleep while nursing? Are you wondering whether this is OK? It is!
It is common for a newborn to be very sleepy. The size of a newborn’s stomach is very small. Their need for sleep is often greater early on than their need for food. Some babies even lose weight for a bit, but weight loss won’t go on for long for a healthy baby.
It isn’t a problem if an older baby falls asleep nursing either, unless you find it a problem. A baby might nurse a bit here and there for an hour then want to be fed again in another hour. If this kind of feeding doesn’t fit your schedule, you can take steps to encourage your baby to stay awake and nurse more consistently for a shorter period of time.
Keep in mind as well that you want your baby to get the fatty milk that comes as your breast is emptying (sometimes called “hindmilk”). Whether you do this by nursing frequently (keeping your breasts relatively empty) or by nursing until empty on one side before switching to the other, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure that your baby is getting the full benefit of the fatty milk.
How to Keep a Baby Awake
Many mothers have developed gentle ways to keep a baby awake long enough to nurse thoroughly.
- Start by changing your baby’s diaper before feeding. If you use a cold cloth to wipe the baby’s bottom or against her face and back, your baby will start the feeding stimulated.
- Don’t put your baby’s clothes back on after the diaper change. Some babies stay awake longer with skin to skin contact.
- Tickle his toes. Be aware of whether this is fun or irritating for the baby, but it is a common way to keep breastfeeding babies awake.
- Sing to your baby. Your baby loves watching you. If you do something interesting, you might find that she stays awake just to see what you will do next.
- Use the cold washcloth again. Brushing your baby’s cheeks with a cool washcloth can cause an intake of breath and more awareness—at least for a short time.
- If you nurse on both sides at a feeding, stop in between and play for a bit. Sing and laugh. This is similar to the idea of changing diaper before feeding. If your baby is stimulated to start, he is more likely to stay awake.
Or, Just Let the Baby Sleep
Chances are you need more sleep yourself. If your baby wants to sleep, maybe you can take advantage and sleep as well. If you have a soft, comfortable chair or if you nurse in bed, this works better than sleeping sitting up.
If you don’t need the sleep, but you do need focus time, can you do your work with your baby on your lap? If you have set up a nursing station with water, phone, notebook, book, computer, or whatever it is you need to do, your baby’s sleepy nursing time could be a good time for you.
One of my babies was a leisurely, sleepy nurser, and I didn’t try to change her patterns. I went on with my work by nursing where I knew I needed to be next. Sometimes, especially when I was nursing a toddler and pregnant, I just slept.
In general, it isn’t a problem that your baby falls asleep while nursing, unless you find it a problem. You can help your baby adjust to your schedule, but your baby also needs you to adjust to her needs. If your baby is growing, alerts at other times, and happy, do what you can to go with the flow.