Keeping Baby Awake During Breastfeeding

Gently preventing your baby from nodding off while feeding will help to foster better feeding and sleeping habits. 

 

Many babies have a cute tendency to nod off when they are feeding. Warm and cosy on the breast or cuddling in with a bottle, they drop off mid-feed and don’t want to be woken for another hour.

While super-cute, this isn’t ideal. Keeping your baby awake at feeding time is important to avoid a feed-to-sleep association. That is, your baby gets into the habit of needing a feed in order to fall asleep. So how do you keep her from nodding off while feeding?

Understand sleeping patterns

Babies need a lot of sleep. Homeostatic pressure is the build-up of ‘need for sleep’ over time. In newborns, this pressure builds quickly; as babies grow and develop, it gradually lessens. Newborns can generally only tolerate around 45 to 90 minutes of wakefulness before needing to sleep. Toddlers can go for much longer – with stretches of up to five hours of being awake before needing to sleep again.

Also bear in mind that a newborn’s circadian rhythm or ‘body clock’ does not properly develop until about six months of age. This clock is a 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, and also signals hunger and digestion.

How to keep your baby awake

Keeping your baby awake while feeding will help to foster good feeding and sleeping habits.

Observe your baby and keep track of her natural biological patterns of sleep and hunger. Once you know the patterns, then feed her at the times she is most awake – either right after waking up or well before she is ready for sleep again.

Also create an environment for eating, not sleeping. Here are some tips:

  • Feed her in a lighted room – darkness sends a signal to their body that it’s time to sleep.
  • Keep things cool – unwrap the swaddle or take her out of her sleep sack or pajamas before feeding. Your baby may associate warmth and wrapping with sleep time, so exposing her chest and feet to the air will send her an ‘awake’ message.
  • Don’t be afraid to move – move your baby around and burp her to keep her alert. If she seems drowsy, remove the bottle or gently unlatch her and change positions to rouse her. You can also gently blow air on her cheeks or forehead (avoid blowing air directly into her face), stroke her bare feet or change her nappy.
  • Make some noise – while a feeding environment should be calm and not too stimulating, playing music or singing and speaking with your baby while she feeds is a nice way to bond while keeping her engaged and awake. 

 

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