If it’s possible, nursing is the best thing a mom can do for her baby. In fact, a mom’s most important “job” in those first two weeks after the baby is born is to establish a good milk supply. In order to do this, newborns need to nurse a minimum of eight times, and optimally ten to twelve times, during every twenty-four hour period.
Nursing however, has a tranquilizing effect on babies (mom’s too!), which is great for older babies (what better way to put a little one to sleep?), but not so for the newborns who love to use the breast as a pacifier and end up falling asleep mid-session, causing them to not receive enough of the high-fat hindmilk.
Here are some tips on how to encourage a sleepy baby to nurse:
- Undress him down to his diaper, and get some skin-to-skin contact.
- Dim the lights in the room. Newborn’s eyes are sensitive to light, and bright lights may make him want to keep his eyes closed.
Talk to him and try to make eye contact.
- Increase stimulation. Rub his back and stroke his scalp in gentle but firm circles, squeeze gently in the cavity between his neck and collarbone, tickle his hands or feet,walk your fingers up his spine, move his arms and legs in a bicycling motion, play pat-a-cake, or circle his lips with your fingertip. Keep talking to him and trying to establish eye contact.
- Change his diaper and burp him before offering the other breast. Most newborns hate this, and it may make him mad enough to wake up and nurse. Try switching breasts as soon as his sucking slows down, even if it has only been a few minutes,hen go back to the other breast and let him fall asleep on that side if he wants to.
- Wipe his face with a cool, damp cloth.
- Try nursing in the football hold rather than the cradle hold. Babies breastfed in the cradle hold tend to fall asleep more readily.
- Express milk onto his lips or dribble milk into his mouth with a dropper or syringe to keep him swallowing while feeding.
If you have a sleepy baby, remember that the most important thing is making sure that he gets enough to eat. Monitor his urine and stool output and his weight gain closely, especially during the first couple of weeks. If he is not gaining weight adequately, consult a lactation professional for advice on how to increase his weight gain.
Do you have a sleepy baby? What do you do to keep him/her awake during feedings?