A sleepy baby needs to be awakened to breastfeed to get enough milk and help the mother to establish a healthy milk supply. During the first few weeks of nursing, babies need to breastfeed at least 8 times every 24 hours.
As newborns tend to ‘cluster nurse’ (i.e. breastfeed frequently at certain times of the day and go longer between feedings at others), do look at each day as a whole, rather than attempting to nurse at certain set intervals (for example, rigidly every 2 hours).
Different babies will respond differently to the following waking techniques. Do experiment and find a gentle and effective way to wake your baby and keep him interested in nursing until his sleepiness passes.
- Try arousing baby when he is in a light sleep cycle. Although baby’s eyes will be closed, look out for rapid eye movements under the eyelids, arm or leg movements, sucking/lip movements, changes in facial expression
- Dim the lights, as bright lights may make baby close his eyes
- Loosen or remove blankets
- Unwrap baby down to the diaper if the room is warm
- Talk to baby. Try to make eye contact
- Hold baby in an upright or standing position
- Lay baby on his back on a firm, flat surface
- Rub or pat baby’s back…you can try to walk your fingers up baby’s spines
- Change baby’s diaper
- Gently rub baby’s hands and feet
- Give baby a massage or bath to increase baby’s skin-to-skin contact with you
- Wipe baby’s forehead and cheeks with a cool, damp cloth
- Circle baby’s lips with a fingertip
- Express milk onto the baby’s lips
Keeping Baby Alert at the Breast
- Make sure the hand supporting the breast keeps weight of the breast off baby’s chin
- Use breast compression to keep milk flowing
- Switch breasts as soon as baby begins to lose interest in sucking
- Burp the baby or change his diaper between sides to keep interest high
- Try nursing using the football hold rather than cradle hold
- Massage baby’s crown in a circular motion while nursing