Information on Breastfeeding

Your Sleepy Baby


Babies are sleepy after birth for a variety of reasons such as labor medications and the birth process itself. Your baby will be alert and eager to nurse the first couple of hours after birth, and then fall into a sleepy phase. Circumcision or other physical trauma may also send the baby back into a deep sleep for several hours.

You'll need to try to arouse a sleepy baby for feedings eight to ten times in a 24 hour period, until he is able to set his own schedule to be fed. If he has not awakened himself for about 3 hours, try to rouse him. If he just will not wake up no matter what you try, lay him down and try again in 30-40 minutes.

Why wake a sleepy baby?

He needs to practice! Also, sleepy babies tend to get sleepier when feedings are missed, rather than active and frantically hungry (as we might expect).

A baby is easier to arouse if he is in a state of light sleep. You'll be able to tell this by noticing more stirring or sucking movements. These are called early feeding cues. His eyelids may flutter meaning he is in dream sleep. He may breathe harder or more irregularly, and startle easier. It is during this time when gentle rousings will usually produce a cooperative baby.

Watch for these early feeding cues; don't necessarily expect them to be on a regular schedule. Some babies are pretty regular, but many vary considerably, especially during the first week or two. Respond to the baby's feeding cues and you won't be trying to wake him from a deep sleep. He'll work himself into a more predictable rhythm over the next week or so.

Recommendations for waking a baby:

  1. Unwrap your baby. Take those warm snuggly blankets off! Undress him down to his diaper.
  2. Change his diaper (even if not needed).
  3. Clean your baby's cord with an alcohol swab.
  4. Rub or walk your fingers up his spine, shoulder blades, bottom of feet and head.
  5. Wash your baby's face with a warm wash cloth.
  6. Burp him away from your body. (Sit him in your lap, supported, instead of letting him cuddle into your body or shoulder.)
  7. Rhythmically and slowly sit him up and lay him down, supporting his head and back. (Be careful not to jackknife him.)
  8. Lay your baby on his back on a hard surface like a table. You may use a thin blanket under him, but otherwise he should be unwrapped. Don't cuddle him up close to you, but watch over him closely, talking and stroking him, turning him back onto his back if he curls up on his side. After a few minutes he will usually wake up. Keep talking to him.
  9. If the baby has dozed off during a feed, try some gentle massage of your breast or hold your breast with firm compression for 20-30 seconds. Sometimes this will trigger a milk ejection reflex (let-down) and a baby will start sucking more actively when they find milk draining into their mouth.
  10. For a baby who tends to fall asleep at the breast without really nursing, try using the side-lying position to breastfeed. Both mom and baby lie on their side, facing one another. Use pillows behind your back, under your head, between your knees — whatever it takes to make you comfortable. Put a rolled up blanket behind the baby to keep him from falling backward. Baby nurses on the lower breast without much holding or cuddling from you (after he is latched on). Since your arms are not around him and he is not snuggled quite as close, he may not doze off as quickly. Once you get the hang of it, this is a very relaxing way for you to get a little extra rest, too.

© COPYRIGHT 2012, Bosom Buddies, Inc. Lone Tree, CO 80124