It’s the middle of the night and you’re exhausted, but your little nugget has woken up hungry. The problem is, as soon as they are comfortably latched (to nipple or bottle), they drift off to sleep. You know that if you let them sleep, they’ll only wake up again wanting food. But how do you keep that sleepy baby awake long enough to fill their little tum?
Know When It’s Normal And When It’s Not
Baby falls asleep while breastfeeding – this almost always happens. Whether you are breastfeeding or using bottles, babies just can’t seem to keep their eyes open while drinking milk. In most cases, this is completely normal and to be expected. After all, your little one is busy growing and building brain connections. And that is a lot of work for a little guy!
But there are some instances when you’ll want to be cautious. If you are breastfeeding and your infant has been struggling to latch, sometimes they will fall asleep before they’ve gotten enough milk. They’ll do this because they aren’t getting enough milk and tire easily, or they may become frustrated, and well, falling asleep is one coping mechanism.
If your baby was premature or had any other birth-related issues, monitoring their intake and output (dirty diapers) is sometimes par for the course. But whether or not you are breastfeeding, you’ll want to observe your child closely if they are unusually lethargic or don’t express the usual behavioral signs of a hungry baby.
How To Tell If Baby Is Getting Enough Milk?
There are a few things to look for during feeding times. Get to know their feeding behaviors and rhythms. Are they fully awake when they begin to feed? How long do they typically feed? Do you notice them swallowing after suckling? If you are breastfeeding, does your breast feel noticeably softer after a normal feeding session?
If you are bottle-feeding, note the amount of milk before and after each feeding. Monitoring their weight can be an easy way to diagnose this problem; work with your pediatrician or midwife if this is the case.
Consult A Lactation Specialist
Whether or not this is your first baby, keep in mind that each baby is different. Where one child may have nursed easily, another may not have it so easy. So don’t feel ashamed to seek professional guidance if you are concerned at your child’s feeding behavior.
For new moms, most hospitals will have a lactation nurse or specialist on call to assist with beginning feedings. It’s always a good idea to take advantage of their skillset and recommendations. Ask them to help you get set-up if you’re having trouble getting into a smooth routine, or have them observe a feeding session even if you’re confident about your process. They may be able to offer insights or tips that could help in the long-run, especially if you encounter problems later.
Techniques To Help Baby Feed Easier
The way you feed your child may be having an impact on their ability to get enough milk. Make sure both you and the child are comfortable. Babies like to be cuddled close to the body. This helps them feel secure and enables them to focus on the job of eating. If your baby is squirmy or unsettled, try modifying environmental factors with lighting adjustments and ambient sound or soft music.
Observe your child while they are eating. Switch breasts or adjust the bottle if you notice your little one losing interest in active feeding. You can also change position, pause for a burping session, or change a diaper if you need to adjust your feeding rhythm.
Sometimes, baby can get too cozy. Brand new babies are often exhausted after the experience of childbirth and are especially susceptible to falling asleep during the first few feedings. In these cases, it is often recommended that you undress your baby (as long as the room temperature isn’t cold). You can also stimulate them by gently rubbing or massaging their back or limbs while they are feeding. The constant contact and change in sensation are sometimes enough to keep them awake and engaged.
For babies that struggle to latch, try breast compression to encourage more milk to flow. Again, a lactation specialist can help show you how this is done. Also, if you are breastfeeding, consider what you ate. Could something in your diet be causing extra gas or acid reflux? These may also interfere with feeding ease.
When Is It Okay For Baby To Sleep After Feeding?
But, is it really a problem when baby falls asleep after feeding? Not in all cases. Like mentioned above, drifting off to sleep with a full tummy is completely normal. There is some controversy around whether or not to let them sleep after eating. Some folks argue that this behavior creates a habit that is hard to break when it comes time for sleep training.
But, remember: each baby is unique. While that may certainly be the case in some babies, it isn’t a hard rule. The hormones in milk (both breast and formula) are primed to get baby sleepy. As long as your baby’s feeding behavior is healthy and they maintain a healthy growth rate and aren’t experiencing any other feeding related problems, it’s probably ok to let them fall asleep afterwards.
Keep in mind that as a parent, you will constantly be in a position of behavior observing and modification. This means that you’ll want to work towards a comfortable feeding routine – but, know that this will have to change as times as well. Be open to learning more about babyhood and developmental stages. New phases of development or growth will often affect your baby’s moods and reactions. As a parent, you will quickly learn how to be flexible and open to assessing your baby’s needs.