UCB Parents Advice about Breastfeeding
Baby Falling Asleep while Nursing
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Breastfeeding and Sleep
Our newborn falls asleep at the breast within five
minutes of the beginning of feeding. We have tried
various methods to try to rouse him, with varying
degrees of success. The result is that feedings are
drawn-out and take a long, long time. Any advice?
We are under a Dr's care and the baby's weight is being
monitored, and we have made use of TWO lactation
consultants! Our poor baby is managing to gain weight,
but extremely slowly. Has anyone experienced this, & are
there any suggestions on what we might do, in order
to get our infant to nurse more vigorously. Thanks!
My newborn did that also, then needed to nurse again in an hour--all night
long. I finally figured out that I was picking him up at the first squeak
so he wouldn't cry and he really wasn't hungry and ready to eat yet. I
moved him out of the bedroom so I couldn't hear the squeaks and made him
really yell before I fed him. He was then awake and hungry, the feedings
were spaced out longer and I got some sleep!
My son did the same thing. On the advice of a lactation consultant, we got
a cold washcloth adn stroked it on his cheek or forehead to keep him awake
while eating. We also (at various times) spoke to him, patted his back
while eating, tickled his feet, and stopped his nursing to burp him
frequently. These methods worked with varying success, and didn't seem to
trouble him much (he actually slept though them sometimes, but it worked
often enough to keep doing it). The good news is that he grew out of it
pretty soon, that he was gaining weight nonetheless, and that he is now a
champion nurser and thriving at 6 mo. I think long feedings are pretty
normal at this stage, and it will get better very soon, I promise. Hang in
For the parents who are concerned about their newborn falling asleep too
soon at the breast -- try to relax. Your doctor is monitoring the
situation; you've seen two lactation consultants. You haven't said whether
any of them are concerned, but I suspect that if they were, you'd be
telling us so.
Healthy newborns have been so well fed for so many months, many of them
don't come into the world with roaring appetites. For many newborns, sleep
really is more important than eating.
Some babies fit themselves well into a parent-defined schedule of eating
and sleeping, and some do not. It sounds like Baby wants to set her/his own
schedule -- five minutes of milk, 'X#' minutes or hours of sleep. That
means that Mom will need to be available to him/her all the time, not just
when it's convenient. This is harder for Mom (and demands more assistance
from Dad), but these rhythms can be experienced naturally and comfortably
if you can accept Baby's schedule as the right one for all of you. It will
probably be easier for you all if Baby sleeps next to Mom, so that nursing
can happen with the least disruption to anyone, any time of the day or
night. (Mom should be sleeping as much as possible during these post-partum
inally, about your statement --
> ... Our poor baby is managing to gain weight,
>but extremely slowly.
I think that any baby referred to as "newborn" is way to young to judge
against a scale of "normal" weight-gain. Newborns very typically *lose*
weight after birth for a while, so if yours is gaining, you're doing
alright! Relax! Your baby isn't "poor," or to be pitied in any way. Your
baby is blessed to be born into your caring family. Listen to what s/he is
telling you: I know there is enough food, therefore I don't have to guzzle.
I know I can relax, therefore I will sleep now. I feel safe here, I feel
secure. I know I am loved.
When our son was a newborn, he fell asleep at the breast, too. We didn't know
what to do because one nurse said he must eat every 2 hours, and the other
said that we shouldn't give him a bottle or he'd get nipple confusion. We'd
wake him up every two hours and fight with him, trying to get him to nurse.
It was so awful! We finally went to the doctor, and she said he HAD to eat
every 2 or 3 hours because he had severe jaundice and low blood sugar. So we
gave him a bottle, and I pumped, which eased my engorgement. After a couple
of bottles, Sammy took the breast and stayed awake! My own theory is that he
was too hungry to stay awake because he had so little energy. So I'd try
pumping and giving your baby a bottle. I was afraid of nipple confusion, but
it didn't happen. Just to be safe, you might try the Avent bottles because
the nipple is wider and more similar to a mother's nipple (see my e-mail about
the Avent pump, also). (I don't own stock in Avent, though it sure seems like
Good luck! I empathize so much! I wish I'd known about this list when I was
going through that.
My infant daughter fell asleep a lot during nursing in the first few days.
We finally figured out that what we needed to do was put her down--alone.
As long as she was in my arms--even when being actively washed with a damp
rag, for instance--she felt safe and stayed asleep. Putting her down for 5
or 10 minutes resulted in an *awake* baby, and one that was ready to nurse.
It felt very counterintuitive to us (and is hard to do when you are
worried!), but it worked. Good luck!
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