Tips For Keeping Your Baby Awake While Nursing

Babies are biologically designed to fall asleep at the breast. Not only is it comforting and relaxing to be close to mom, but there is also a hormone in your milk designed to make your baby feel sleepy and full. Here are some tips that have helped us, moms, at The Baby’s Brew!

Some babies can empty the breast in just a few minutes, but others are much sleepier eaters and can take much longer to get a full feeding in. There are some ways to tell if your baby has had enough to eat. This includes when your baby has been actively sucking and you can tell that your breast is less full and also when your baby has been gulping and swallowing during the feeding. 

Newborns especially are often sleepy at the breast, but when is it an issue? When your baby is too sleepy and not finishing eating it can lead to engorgement, breastmilk supply issues, and slow weight gain for the baby. If you have concerns about if your baby is getting enough milk, consult your pediatrician. A lactation consultant can be a wonderful resource also! They can weigh the baby before and after a feeding to get accurate information about how much milk your baby is getting. 

  • Get them undressed- Skin-to-skin contact is great for bonding and also for nursing! Also, it helps to make them a little uncomfortable without clothes so they stay awake. When trying to keep them awake, try to just undress the baby to a light layer or completely undressed as long as the temperature allows it. 
  • Gentle Stimulation- Gentle stimulation can help keep your baby awake. Try stroking your baby’s forehead, tickling their feet, or rubbing their jaw to keep them sucking. 
  • Turn the lights on- Make sure to keep the lights on during nursing sessions. Young babies are still learning the difference between night and day and keeping the lights on can help them to understand that it's not time to sleep. 
  • Cool washcloth- A cool washcloth on their forehead or neck can help make them a little uncomfortable and keep them awake. 
  • Switch positions- Switching positions can wake the baby up with movement. When they have to re-latch they wake up a little also. Personally, I love the football hold so I can look at their little face. If they are looking up at you, you can also see when they are starting to fall asleep and you can adjust them. 
  • Burp often- This also falls under the switching positions, but lifting the baby and burping often can help to keep the baby awake. 
  • Breast or bottle pressure- add some pressure to the breast to keep the flow going. Also, it helps to put a little milk on your nipple so they are ready to eat right away. My husband liked using Como Tomo bottles when he was doing the feedings because he could add a little pressure to the silicone bottle to keep the flow going. 
  • Make some noise- Sing or talk to the baby and try to keep their attention. When they are very small a little distraction is good to keep them awake. As they get older you’ll want a distraction-free nursing environment or they will be too distracted to eat. 
  • Set them down in a crib- Sometimes being away from mom’s scent can wake them up. 

Let us know if you have any other ideas that have worked for you! If you have a partner, make sure that they are able to help out too! The Baby’s Brew Warmer will warm your breast milk to the perfect body temperature so there is an easier transition between bottle and breast! 

Q&A

How many hours of sleep should a baby get?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sleep length can vary by the age of your baby. Newborn to 3 month old babies typically sleep somewhere between 14 and 17 hours in a 24 hour period. Four months to a year old babies tend to sleep between 12 and 16 hours. As they get older, most of the sleep length will be overnight with fewer naps. 

When do babies start sleeping through the night?

Many babies are able to sleep through the night at around 6 months old. Some babies will take longer to reach this milestone, but the experts suggest that you can begin sleep training around 6 months. 

What are ways to keep my baby awake while nursing?

Some was to help wake up your babu while nursing are to get them undressed,  gentle stimulating touch, turn the lights on, cool washcloth, switch positions and burp often, apply breast or bottle pressure, make some noise and set them down in a crib.

Is sleepy nursing bad? 

When your baby continually falls asleep at the breast it can lead to further issues. You can become engorged because baby isn’t emptying the breast or baby could have growth and weight delays because they aren’t getting enough calories. 



Written by: Kristen Bickel

Kristen is a mom of 4 and an employee at The Baby’s Brew.

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