Our 6-day old boy (our first) keeps falling asleep at the breast in the middle of a feed. As a result, he never gets as much as he needs to be full and gets upset about 30-45 minutes after a feed. He rarely gets to the 2nd breast before falling asleep.

Any suggestions on getting him to stay awake regularly? He was born 4.3kg (9lb 9oz) so he's a big boy and I'm guessing needs a lot of milk to keep him satisfied, which he just isn't getting in one go.

In the first 4 days he would feed for about an hour at a time and finish satisfied. Now we're lucky we get 15 minutes out of him before he falls asleep (usually forgetting to swallow and making a mess of himself when he comes off).

asked 02 Jun '10, 08:54

Mark%201's gravatar image

Mark 1
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Our daughter was the same way and she was also a slow eater so without assistance I was pretty much feeding her constantly. She was also a big girl (8lbs 10 oz). Here's what the public health nurse suggested. She had me strip her down completely either right to the diaper or with just a onesie so she didn't feel so comfortably warm when nursing that she would fall asleep. She also had me tickle her feet to rouse her and finally if all else failed she had me use a damp cloth (not too cold) and as she would fall asleep I would wipe her face to wake her.

She suggested not changing her as soon as she woke (unless it was absolutely necessary) and waiting until she fed from one side, change her to stir her and then offer the other side. If I'm remembering right this whole routine only lasted a couple of weeks (maybe not even that long). Afterwards if she fell asleep nursing it was generally because she was full and would sleep happily for a couple of hours.


answered 02 Jun '10, 11:14

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Tammy ♦♦
accept rate: 18%

edited 03 Jun '10, 00:13


great list of hints

(02 Jun '10, 12:02) brandstaetter

+1 Great points, I was also told to tickle my daughters feet slightly, ensure that she was never too warm and also to caress under her chin once in a while when it seemed like she was nodding off.

(02 Jun '10, 15:01) Emi

These are great, thanks heaps for the advice, we'll give it a go next time. We've just had a horror night for settling so he'll be sleeping for a while now (we pray!)

(03 Jun '10, 00:38) Mark 1

+1 we were also given similar tips for our lactation consultant

(05 Jun '10, 00:55) Lin

Went through the exact same thing with our boy (but he was 5 lbs 14 oz.). He would feed for 20+ minutes on both sides... and the whole time my husband and I would do everything from moving his little arms and legs around, using wet cloth, stripping him. We changed his diaper between breasts to help keep him awake too.

I don't remember exactly how long that took, but I think it took about 2-3 months for him to feed completely without falling asleep. So it must be a phase most babies go through (they do say that sucking is a hard job for little babies).

(09 Jun '10, 18:24) ekim

There have been lots of good points made already. I just want to add a comment about what you said about you're lucky if you can get him to nurse for 15 minutes now. Babies (and mommies) need to learn how to nurse. So at first, they are not very efficient at sucking and it takes a long time to get the milk out. As they get more practice, they get more efficient. Which is a good thing! Can you imagine if it took the baby an hour to nurse for months and months 8 or 12 times a day? When my little guy was a newborn it took him an hour to feed, as well. Within a few weeks, he would only need about 10 minutes. Sometimes he would want both breasts and sometimes he would only want one. That's the thing about nursing on demand, you have to let him have as much or as little as he wants. But I would recomment you keep offering the breast frequently to help establish your milk supply.

Also, like Neen said, comfort nursing is common at this early age (and even at later stages). During my prenatal classes, the lactation consultant told us that there is a gland in the areola that creates a scent that smells like amneotic fluid. A newborn baby has had his whole world turned upside down, but he can go to his mother's breast for a little smell of home. That must be very comforting.


answered 02 Jun '10, 23:10

cat_g's gravatar image

accept rate: 25%

I wouldn't worry about that all too much. You will need some time to come to a regular schedule.

As long as it is bearable for the mother, let him feed whenever he wants. I guess that it will change again in a few days.


answered 02 Jun '10, 09:33

brandstaetter's gravatar image

accept rate: 24%


We also just re-watched a Setting DVD that our hospital gave us. Looks like he might be over-tired and comfort feeding. We've been doing demand-feeding for almost 48 hours now, so we'll see how it goes.

(02 Jun '10, 09:49) Mark 1

It is really early days yet. When my kids were a similar age to your son they would often only have one side. I would make sure they started on the other side with the next feed.

Even once they were a little older both my children would still often fall asleep after one side in the middle of the night. One thing I would so they wouldn't wake up 30 mins later would be give them one side and change their nappy. This normally would wake them up enough to finish the feed.


answered 02 Jun '10, 10:38

K%20D's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%

Cluster nursing for comfort is really, really common in the early days of nursing, and at intervals thereafter. If your wife has lots of milk (and it sounds like that's not one of your worries), don't worry about him only feeding on one side at a time. I had oversupply issues with all of my kids and never fed on more than one side at a feeding. After breastfeeding is well established, her body will automatically adjust to what's feels like "normal" to her. My second oldest completely rejected my right breast for some reason when he was 3 months old and happily nursed and gained weight on only my left breast until he weaned when he was 2 years old! (He started solids at 1, but only ever nursed on my left side.)

If your wife has lots and lots and lots of milk like I do right after it comes in, she does need to make sure he's "emptying" one breast at a regular feed (differentiated from comfort nummies) so he's getting his hind milk, it helps to make them feel full, and prevents a lot of upset tummy troubles. So every few hours she probably wants to do all of those "keep baby awake to finish his supper" things that Tammy mentioned.

When my youngest was about your sons age (he was a big little guy too, 10 lbs at birth) the Public Health Nurse came for her visit. I was just about to sit down and nurse him so she asked if she could weigh him first, and then weigh him again after he ate. He nursed for about 10 minutes and after she weighed him she looked at me in surprise and said, "He just ate 8 ounces in 10 minutes! Efficient little man!" The big babies can get a lot of milk down in a short time.

So, I'd guess that he's probably getting enough to eat and just needs Mommy to calm down enough to sleep. Being a brand new person must be an unsettling experience after all!


answered 02 Jun '10, 16:37

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accept rate: 30%

+1 I totally agree with you Neen.

(02 Jun '10, 22:56) cat_g

We are having the same problem and this advice seems great. I am excited to bring them up with my wife. I have no solution, but one tip to add. No matter how common these difficulties are, she may start to feel like she is doing something wrong.

Keep seeking out different things to try, but during the process, it's important for you to give her as much support as you can. Whenever you see or hear about breastfeeding, it's well established and both mommy and baby have gotten used to it. She may look at them and wonder if theres something wrong with her, but I'm sure it didn't start that easy for anyone.

Remember that all babies are different and it may take a lot of trial and error. Keep reminding her of how great she is doing.


answered 05 Jun '10, 04:04

moh605's gravatar image

accept rate: 33%

+1 very good point. Breastfeeding is not easy and I remember feeling so bad, like I was an inadequate mother because of all the difficulties we had.

(05 Jun '10, 12:53) Tammy ♦♦

You might be interested in this research project http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/116/4/e494 which showed that informed, supportive fathers were highly beneficial in increasing the success of breastfeeding.

(06 Jun '10, 15:07) Meg Stephenson
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Asked: 02 Jun '10, 08:54

Seen: 9,025 times

Last updated: 05 Jun '10, 04:04