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Babies have erratic schedules – they sleep when they want, feed when they want, and basically keep the entire household on its toes! When the baby finally falls asleep after a lot of crying, it seems like a crime to wake her up.
However, what if it is time for her to feed and she still continues sleeping? Should you be bottle feeding or breastfeeding a sleepy baby, and if so, what is the best way to do it?
Tips for Bottle Feeding or Breastfeeding a Sleepy Baby
Is breastfeeding a sleepy baby recommended by doctors? What about bottle feeding? We have prepared for you a list of important pointers to remember when feeding your sleepy baby – either breast-milk or formula milk.
1. Follow The 2-Hour Rule
In the first few months after birth, your baby’s digestion is super speedy! She will need frequent feeding as her tummy gets emptied every couple of hours (even as soon as 90 minutes after feeding). Thus, one of the crucial breastfeeding tips for newborns is frequent feeding. Experts recommend the 2-hour rule i.e. wake your baby up every two hours for feeding. A sleeping baby may not be able to convey the need to be fed and it is not necessary that hunger will wake her up. This is why it’s important to do this proactively.
2. Keep Baby Lightly Awake when Feeding
While breastfeeding a sleepy newborn, it is helpful to lightly wake them up. It is a very common experience of new moms that the baby falls asleep nursing. Even if your baby is not fully awake, she can still feed. However, if you are having trouble, it is a good idea to try one of the following and lightly rouse your baby:
- changing the diaper
- giving skin-to-skin contact
- massaging your baby’s back
- talking to your baby
Note: Always burp your baby after feeding so the milk goes down properly. This is even more important when feeding a sleeping baby as the feeding posture might not be optimal.
Watch: Simple Tips to Keep Sleepy Baby Awake for Breastfeeding
3. Note The Difference Between Breastfed & Formula-Fed Babies
Babies have very speedy digestion, which is why they have the need to feed every couple of hours. However, while a breastfed baby might require feeding every two to three hours, formula-fed babies can go 4-5 hours between feedings. Infant formula takes longer to digest than breastmilk. Proceed accordingly.
4. Waking Up to Feed is a Healthy Sign
If your baby frequently wakes up for feeding, don’t panic. It does not indicate that the baby is not getting enough milk; it only means that she needs milk more often! It has been noted that babies who frequently wake up to feed have better bowel and urine outputs. It is a totally healthy sign.
5. Don’t Postpone Feeding Because Baby is Sleeping
Sometimes, especially when the baby has fallen asleep after a lot of difficulty, we try our best not to wake her up. We try and make as little sound as possible around the house so she can sleep peacefully. However, if it is her feeding time as per schedule and she is still sleeping, please do not hesitate in waking her up.
It is possible that your child is just too tired to wake up even when she is hungry. An infection or medication might also slow down the regular hunger cues she displays – e.g. waking up and crying. According to experts, waking a sleeping baby to feed is important. It is always best to stick to your feeding routine even if your child is sleeping to ensure her needs are being met even when not communicated.
6. Stimulate Your Newborn’s Suckling Reflex
When your baby is a few months old and has been feeding regularly, her suckling reflex has matured. She can now suckle even in her sleep which makes it easy for you to feed a sleeping child. However, for newborns, this suckling reflex might require some stimulation. You can do this through the following methods:
- Talk to your baby gently while stroking her cheeks
- Massage these areas: your baby’s chin, below the belly button, the baby’s palm
- Practise skin-to-skin contact
7. Continue Feeding Till One Breast is Emptied
So, how long should breastfeeding sessions last for a sleepy baby? Experts recommend that you should continue feeding your baby till at least one breast is emptied. This will ensure she gets both foremilk and hindmilk (this is fat-rich and essential for growth – one of the breastfeeding tips doctors recommend for weight gain in babies too!).
Depending on your baby, the session can last from 15 minutes to more than half an hour – it is subjective, and is best to let your baby decide her own pace. Likewise, when bottle-feeding too, let your baby decide when she is full and look for the signs described in #8.
8. Ensure Baby Doesn’t Fall Asleep While Feeding
Since your baby was in the middle of her nap, it is possible that she is still sleepy and might doze off mid-feed. Also, the act of suckling is a sleep inducer. This is one of the common sleepy baby breastfeeding problems.
To make sure you don’t have the scenario of baby sleeping through feedings, keep checking for suck-swallow-breath pattern in your baby’s cheek, jaw and ear. Make sure she is still suckling on your breast and feeding. If she does fall asleep, try to rouse her again by burping her, repositioning, or putting some breast milk on her lips.
9. Observe Signs That Your Baby is Full
When feeding a sleeping baby, it is also important to track the signs that your baby is full. If you see the following signs, it indicated you can now stop feeding and let the baby fall back to sleep:
- Closing lips
- Turning her head away
- Stopping sucking
10. See The Doctor if Baby Shows Signs of Lethargy
Babies tend to need a lot of feeding, especially in the first few months. They are growing up fast and use up all the milk quickly. This is why they will often cry out for milk, even through the night or when they are napping. However, if your baby seems lethargic and doesn’t tend to wake up for feeding, it could signal a problem. If you suspect that your baby shows low energy levels and feeds less often, it is best to discuss with the paediatrician.