How am I supposed to breastfeed my newborn, 8+ times in 24 hours, if I can barely keep her awake?
Why does my newborn fall asleep as soon as he starts to breastfeed?
How can I keep my newborn awake while breastfeeding?
These are very common questions that I get asked from moms on a weekly basis. Newborns are so sleepy. And if they've had a long, challenging journey into the world, they are often even sleepier!
So, what is a new mom to do to keep her little one active and efficient while breastfeeding?
In order for your baby to gain sufficient weight and to stimulate an adequate (and hopefully copious!) milk supply, your baby needs to breast feed 8 or more times in a 24-hour period. Many newborns are very sleepy in the first few weeks, making it difficult to keep them awake to have really ‘efficient’ feeding sessions. An 'efficient’ feeding session may be characterized by active sucking at breast for a total of 15-20 minutes, with less-vigorous sucking throughout the rest of the feeding. You should hear swallowing throughout the feeding, as well. Your baby should also be meeting his/her diaper counts and gaining weight that is appropriate for his/her age.
If your baby seems to fall asleep often at the breast and is not having 8 or more ‘efficient’ breastfeeding sessions 8 or more times in 24 hours, you can use the following techniques to help him/her until he/she begins to stay awake on his/her own.
Tips fo keep your newborn awake while breastfeeding:
- Loosen his/her clothes or undress him/her down to his/her diaper. Skin-to-skin contact will keep him/her warm while feeding.
- Dim the lights in the room. Newborn babies are very sensitive to bright lights and they may cause him/her to close his/her eyes and fall asleep.
- Gently rub the palm of his/her hand with your thumb. Babies have a feeding reflex there and this stimulation often helps to rouse them and remind them to keep feeding. This also works if you rub along your baby's backbone or his/her foot.
- Use breast compressions (picture squeezing your breast like an orange and holding it for 10 seconds at a time.) This should give your baby a squirt of milk in his/her mouth and wake him/her up.
- Switch to the other breast when your baby begins to lose interest in active nursing (this is called switch nursing.) As soon as your breast is removed from his/her mouth, this should wake him/her up. Also, when he/she latches on the other breast he/she should get the benefit of another let-down as he/she vigorously sucks. You can do this every few minutes, if needed. Your baby should eventually begin to stay awake on his/her own.
- Burp and change your baby’s diaper. Sometimes this change of position will rouse him/her enough to go back to breast and try again.
If your baby continues to have difficulties staying awake for a full feeding at breast, it is worth it to have a lactation consultant observe your breastfeeding session.
Most of this sleepiness is very temporary and you will be amazed by how efficiently your baby will breastfeed as he/she becomes older and stronger.