Tips to Keep Baby Awake While Breastfeeding

By Amanda Pare

May 25, 2020

I am a mom to three beautiful little ones, a wife, a fitness and nutrition advocate and a Registered Nurse, certified in both Alberta and Saskatchewan. As a labor and delivery and postpartum nurse with more than seven years of hands-on medical experience, I have had the pleasure of supporting hundreds of families in welcoming new babies into the world. Through it all, I have played a part in stories of incredible joy and unbelievable hardship.

While feeding our little ones can be comforting for them, they can doze off before they have taken in a full feed. Breastfeeding is naturally sleep inducing and it offers an easy and effective way for Mamas to put their babies to sleep. Especially in those first few weeks with your newborn as they tend to be extra sleepy and may not take in a full feeding. There is a hormone released while breastfeeding called Cholecystokinin that naturally makes the baby feel full and drowsy during and following a feed. Studies show the younger your infant is, the higher the concentration of this hormone.

There are times you should keep your baby awake while breastfeeding. If you find it difficult to keep your baby awake while feeding, try some of these tricks to keep them interested and active when feeding. This will help ensure they are taking an effective feed so they will stay full longer and hopefully sleep longer stretches for you. If your little one doses off soon after feeding they will not take in an effective feed, which can make it feel like your little one feeds constantly around the clock and is not getting long stretches of sleep. You may also want to move your little one away from feeding to sleep and these tips can be helpful for making that transition.

What is an effective feed?

Your baby’s jaw should be making big, open movements.You should hear your baby swallow every few sucks. If your baby appears to be “flutter sucking” where they take small shallow sucks, they won’t be effectively transferring milk. Flutter sucking is also referred to as sucking for comfort.

Tips to keep baby awake:

  • Unwrap your baby from their blanket or swaddle.
  • Undress your baby if they are warm or change their diaper; as this helps wake babies up.
  • Put baby skin to skin before feeding. You may also want to feed them soon after they wake up from a sleep.
  • Massage your baby’s scalp in a circular motion at the crown of their head.
  • Use a lukewarm wet washcloth to wipe their face and hairline.
  • A bath

  • Try stroking the palm of your baby’s hands or the soles of their feet. You can also try stroking your baby’s cheek with your finger while feeding.
  • Gently blow air on babies cheek or forehead.
  • Change nursing positions if you find the baby becomes more sleepy snuggled in one position. Usually babies are more cuddled in when you use the cross cradle position. Try using the football hold where you can see your baby’s face.
  • Try switching breasts if your baby has lost interest after they have finished actively feeding off one side.
  • Burp your baby sitting upright on your knee as opposed to over your shoulder so you can see your baby’s face and this is less likely to make them sleepy.
  • Try some breast compression for at least 6 seconds. If your baby is taking long pauses while feeding or they start to “flutter suck” then encourage your baby to take big sucks and swallow using some breast compression.
  • Try to decrease the amount of stimulation like noises and light in the area you are feeding your baby. You can also talk, sing and make sounds that will catch your babies attention.

If your little one is fairly new and you are struggling to keep your baby awake and taking effective feeds after trying some of these tricks and tips; please reach out as we are here to support you!

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