When you’re breastfeeding your baby, it’s easy for them to drift off to sleep. Breastfeeding is comforting and relaxing, so it only makes sense that your baby might fall asleep. While it might not seem like a big deal, keeping your baby awake while breastfeeding can be a good idea.
Why Do Babies Fall Asleep While Breastfeeding?
Because nursing is so comforting, many babies feel safe and secure. When they feel this way, it’s easy for them to fall asleep.
It’s natural for babies to fall asleep while nursing for this reason. Even if a baby is active or playful before nursing, they can calm down and fall asleep quickly while nursing. Sleepy babies fall asleep at the breast very easily.
Early in a baby’s life, they can sleep anywhere from 14 to 18 hours daily. When you are breastfeeding them, it might just happen to be when they are tired.
According to one study, cholecystokinin (or CCK) is a sleep-inducing hormone that is released when a baby is nursing. This hormone supposedly can make your baby feel full, which, in turn, makes them feel drowsy too. This could be causing your baby to fall asleep while nursing.
Why Should You Keep Baby Awake While Breastfeeding?
There are a couple of reasons you might want to keep your baby awake while breastfeeding. These may or may not apply to you and your little one specifically, but they are worth keeping in mind.
1. Preventing the Association Between Food and Sleep
When your baby uses food to fall asleep, they can become dependent on it. If this happens, your baby will always prefer nursing before falling asleep.
This may sound sweet, but it can be an inconvenience to parents. Plus, it can make it hard for anyone else, such as a grandparent or babysitter, to put your baby to sleep.
2. Make Sure Your Baby is Eating Enough
When babies are very young, they sleep a lot. You might feel like your baby is always sleeping. Because of this, your baby is likely to fall asleep while nursing.
Sometimes, this can lead to your baby not eating enough. They may not be able to stay awake long enough to eat a full meal.
In this case, your baby might also not gain enough weight. By keeping your baby awake while breastfeeding, you can ensure that they are getting plenty of milk by having a full feed.
3. Improve Milk Flow
Suppose your baby falls asleep while nursing. This can affect your milk supply. Your body will make less milk if your baby is drinking less milk.
4. Working on Sleep Schedules or Routines
Every time your baby eats, you might not want them to take a nap. Depending on what kind of schedule you’re trying to get your baby on, sleep times and meal times are probably different.
If breastfeeding time isn’t your baby’s time to sleep, you will want to keep them awake through the feeding.
Then, they can go to sleep when it’s the right time, according to the schedule. If you allow your baby to fall asleep while nursing, you’re going to mess up their sleeping cycle and routine.
Should You Keep Your Baby Awake While Breastfeeding?
It’s important to note that this is a personal decision that a parent must make for their baby. Some parents don’t mind that their babies fall asleep while breastfeeding. Others want to avoid the food and sleep association or want their baby to be on a specific schedule.
You should start by observing your baby’s behavior while breastfeeding. You can also keep an eye on your baby’s everyday behaviors relating to sleep and hunger.
For some parents, it’s convenient to nurse a baby to sleep. However, this might not work for other families.
It’s a good idea to evaluate your situation and your baby’s sleep schedule before making this decision.
You might notice that your baby is actively sucking. In this case, they are truly eating. Sometimes, moms will see their baby sucking for comfort or for helping them fall asleep.
Do Newborns Need to Stay Awake While Breastfeeding?
When newborns are breastfeeding, it’s nearly impossible to keep them awake because of how much sleep newborns need.
It’s not a problem for newborns to fall asleep while breastfeeding.
If your newborn has jaundice or has problems gaining weight, it is a good idea to keep them awake while nursing. In most cases, newborns can fall asleep while nursing.
A newborn baby’s sleeping schedule requires them to get lots of sleep throughout the day.
How to Keep Baby Awake While Breastfeeding
If you want to keep your baby awake while breastfeeding, there are plenty of ways to do this. You should try each one out and see what works best for your baby.
Some babies will respond to different techniques better than others. A good starting point is creating an environment that’s specific for eating rather than sleeping.
Here are a few methods you can use to keep your baby asleep.
- Turn on the lights. If you nurse your baby in a dark room, they are more likely to fall asleep. Keeping the lights on can help your baby to stay awake. The dark can be a signal that it’s time to go to sleep.
- Switch breasts. When your baby is nursing, you can change from one breast to the other. This quick change will help to keep your baby awake while nursing.
- Move around while feeding baby. You can stay seated while nursing your baby if you’d like to. It can be a good idea to shift every once in a while, so your baby doesn’t have a chance to fall asleep. You might adjust the baby’s position or the baby’s head so they stay alert.
- Keep your baby cool. If the baby gets too warm, they will feel very comfortable and ready to go to sleep. You can unwrap baby from their blanket or take their clothes off. This will keep them cool, so they aren’t too snuggled up.
- Do breast compressions. Another way to keep your baby awake is by giving them a rush of warm milk. Gently squeeze your breast with your thumb and fingers. This will cause your baby to actively suck and then swallow the milk.
- Add some noise to the environment. You don’t want your baby to be overwhelmed by the noise while breastfeeding. A little bit of noise can help your baby to stay awake. You might play music, talk to your baby, or sing a song to your baby.
- Rub baby’s hands or feet. While a baby is nursing, gently rubbing their hands or feet can help to keep them alert. You may also rub their back or stomach.
What to Do If Your Baby Won’t Stay Awake While Breastfeeding
You might try a few of the ideas mentioned but see no results. It’s important to note that all babies are different. So, they are all going to respond differently to other techniques. For this reason, none of the ideas mentioned may work for your child in particular.
If you have tried everything to get your baby to stay awake while breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. You have a couple of options to choose from.
1. Consult your Pediatrician
First, you might talk to your baby’s pediatrician to get some guidance. They might be able to help you figure out if your baby falling asleep while breastfeeding is even a problem or not.
One reason to start by talking with your pediatrician is that you likely already have a pediatrician for your baby. The pediatrician can offer advice specifically for your child.
If their advice doesn’t work, it might be worth it to talk to a lactation consultant. If you have easy access to both professionals, you can consult either one.
2. Consult a Lactation Consultant
Another option is to speak with a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant is there to help you with any challenges you might face while breastfeeding.
Bottom Line: A Fed Baby is Always the Best Kind, No Matter How it Happens!
Whether you decide to keep your baby awake while feeding is up to you as a parent. In some cases, it can be a problem if the baby falls asleep while nursing.
Keeping your little one awake while breastfeeding is helpful if you’re trying to prevent the baby from associating breastfeeding with sleep. You might also want to keep the baby awake to ensure that they get enough milk.
There are a handful of ways to keep your baby awake while breastfeeding.