Baby Sleeping While Breastfeeding- How to Keep Him Awake
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It’s really the most relaxing feeling when your baby falls asleep while nursing, all cuddled up in your arms. It feels heavenly to look at that peaceful face, sometimes radiantly smiling in his sleep. However, have you ever questioned yourself if this is okay or why your infant falls asleep during feeding? Yes, it is, but not all the time! So, when is it not okay, you may ask? We will answer all your questions in this article.
Why Does Your Newborn Fall Asleep While Breastfeeding?
It is quite natural for babies to fall asleep while breastfeeding during the first few months, especially after a bath. Most of the time, an active and playful baby calms down with breastfeeding and falls asleep. All this is innate, and there is nothing to worry about. Babies have no set pattern or routine for the first few months or sometimes even the first two years of their lives.
For the first few months, a baby may sleep 14 to 18 hours a day, and sometimes even more. Hence, a baby falls asleep while nursing because it just happens to be your baby’s time to sleep. Your baby may be tired, and breastfeeding will not only feed your baby but also calm him down and put him to sleep.
Is It Okay to Breastfeed A Baby to Sleep?
No, there is nothing alarming if your newborn falls asleep while nursing. However, it should be noted that feeding and sleeping activities should be separate from others. Babies who are nursed to sleep eventually associate feeding with sleeping, which becomes a habit for them in the long run. Therefore, mothers should maintain feeding and nursing separately, it is best to keep your baby awake while breastfeeding. If your baby keeps falling asleep while breastfeeding, it should be mentioned in the doctor’s consultation.
Why Some Newborns Are More Sleepy Than Others?
Have you been wondering why some newborns sleep longer than others? Here’s why:
- Some babies get tired easily and fall asleep after a brief period of nursing.
- Some babies may not get enough milk to fill themselves, even after 20 minutes of sucking, and hence, give up in frustration and fall asleep.
It can be devastating for a mother to realise that the baby has fallen asleep without being properly fed. She may later realise that her baby is not gaining weight because of the same reason. Look out for the following signs to ensure that your baby is full at the end of the breastfeeding.
- Your baby is alert and fully awake at the beginning of the nursing.
- You can hear him swallow something during the feed.
- Your breast feels light and less full at the end of the nursing
- Your baby’s hands are open and relaxed, and the arms hang down droopily.
The above signs indicate that your baby is full and there is nothing to worry about.
Please remember that if your baby falls asleep while nursing with a fist and a tense look on the face, it may mean that your baby is still hungry and frustrated after continuous sucking.
If your baby doesn’t get full breastfeeding, he will get up every half an hour for more feeding, and both of you will not get enough sleep. In this case, you may want your baby to stay awake during the feed. Also, if you are planning to wean your baby from the breastfeeding and sleeping association, then the following tips to keep a baby awake during breastfeeding may work.
Signs That Your Baby Is Hungry
There are some telltale signs that your baby is hungry, which you will notice alongside him falling asleep while breastfeeding. If you are unsure of why this occurs, make sure to look out for the following signs.
1. Type of Crying
A low-pitched cry that rises and falls in low bursts indicates your baby is hungry. However, you are likely to notice other signs first.
2. Sucking on His Fist
If you see your baby sucking on his fist, it means he is hungry. This is one of the first signs of a hungry baby.
3. Restlessness and Disturbed Sleep
When hungry, your baby will take shorter naps and wake up feeling restless and move around in his crib. This is usually accompanied by crying.
4. Opening His Mouth While Feeding
When drinking milk, your baby may open his mouth and continue sucking even after the breast or bottle is empty. This indicates he is hungry.
Tips to Keep a Baby Awake During Breastfeeding
Firstly, try and fix a day sleeping and nap schedule. Start your day by giving yourself a 30 or 90-minute window and feed the baby at the start of the day, as soon as the baby is awake. Give the next feed after the nap. This way, the baby will be wide awake while nursing because he has just finished his nap. However, if your baby’s sleeping cycle is 120 minutes or longer, then you may want to give the second feed 20 minutes before the nap so that your baby doesn’t wake up too early due to hunger.
If you feel that even after devising a predictable feeding and nap schedule, your baby is not taking a full feed and falling asleep amidst the nursing, then these tricks on how to keep a baby awake during feeding will help you:
- Break the suction in between by putting your finger in between your breasts and the baby’s mouth.
- Switch breasts after short intervals or when you realise your baby is falling asleep.
- Drip some milk in one corner of your baby’s mouth to encourage sucking again.
- Compress your breast to make the milk flow faster during the feed.
- Keep a wet cloth handy to wipe your baby’s head, tummy, and feet in between feeds. This will keep him awake and encourage him to suck again.
- Burp the baby by making him sit in an upright position.
- Use less sleep-inducing feeding positions like football or straddling positions.
- Tickle your baby under the arms, feet, or neck from time to time to keep him awake.
- Keep your baby’s feet uncovered during the feed.
- Change the diaper before the feed so that it feels fresh.
- Keep a dim light on in the room.
- Play some light music in the background to keep him engaged with the environment.
- Gently run a finger down your baby’s spine during the feed.
- Feed him as soon as he is awake.
How to Break Your Baby’s Habit of Sleeping During Breastfeeding?
If your little one has gotten into the habit of falling asleep while breastfeeding, it is not too late to break this habit. Since babies are evolving and learning new habits daily, it is easy to break this habit as well. Here are some tips that may help:
1. Maintain feeding and sleeping routines separately
Establish a healthy routine for your baby in which feeding and sleeping schedules are at a gap and not one after the other. Between your baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule, you can incorporate some reading time, playtime, or a stroll. This will help your baby eventually understand that sleeping does not immediately follow feeding.
2. Try a pacifier
Nighttime nursing is not the only method to soothe babies to sleep. Instead, you can try a pacifier to soothe them. American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a pacifier for babies in replacement of a bottle or a nipple. In addition, pacifiers are great in reducing the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Do remember to give a pacifier to a baby until they are a month older and have an established breastfeeding routine.
3. Soothe your baby
You can soothe your baby to sleep using plenty of other soothing and calming methods, such as using white noise, singing a lullaby in a soft tone, or placing their crib next to your bed until they fall asleep.
1. Can your one-month-old baby sleep throughout the night without feeding?
During the initial months of their life, newborn babies do not sleep at a stretch, whether day or night, as their tummies are tiny and feeds are little and frequent in the initial months. They typically wake up at night at an interval of three to four hours for feeding. If your newborn baby sleeps more than 5 hours at a stretch, you should consult your doctor without any delay.
2. Is it normal to put a baby to sleep without burping?
Most babies tend to do well with burping after every feed and before falling asleep, as it helps pass any gas left from their tummies that may trouble them later. However, some babies don’t find this a clear solution to relieving their babies from gas troubles. Therefore, it all depends on finding what works best for your little munchkin.
Falling asleep while getting breastfed isn’t a big deal, as the baby may do it when tired. However, it does become a problem if he is unable to drink enough, which may make him underweight. Use the above tips to keep him active and prevent him from falling off to sleep too quickly.
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4. Helping your baby to sleep; Australian Breastfeeding Association; https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/resources/helping-baby-sleep
5. Sexton. S, Natale. R; Risks and Benefits of Pacifiers; American Family Physician; https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2009/0415/p681.html; April 2009
6. Better Sleep for Breastfeeding Mothers, Safer Sleep for Babies; National Institute for Children’s Health Quality; https://nichq.org/insight/better-sleep-breastfeeding-mothers-safer-sleep-babies
7. Sleep in Your Baby’s First Year; Cleveland Clinic; https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14300-sleep-in-your-babys-first-year