Sleepy Baby

Some problems may make it difficult to keep baby awake while trying to breastfeed.

Things that may Cause Extra Sleepiness in Baby

•    Any drugs given to Mom during labour especially during a C-section birth. The drugs pass into baby’s system while inside Mom.

•    Invasive procedures during and after birth such as injections, circumcision, heel sticks, aggressive suctioning, etc.

•    Baby was born prematurely.

•    Jaundice causes lethargy. The phototherapy treatment that is given to treat jaundice can cause extra grogginess in baby.

•    Mom and/or baby are ill or have health problems.

•    Baby is not taking in enough milk due to feeding problems or low milk supply. This can cause baby to become weak and therefore sleepy.

•    Baby is in an overstimulated environment.

•    Separation of Mom and baby after birth can cause prolonged crying and fatigue.

Signs that your Baby is Unusually Sleepy

•    Baby does not wake up often enough for feeds. Baby is also not woken up easily.

•    Baby falls asleep very soon after latching on.

•    Baby has low urine output, less bowel movements than expected and is gaining weight very slowly or not at all.

•    Mom may become engorged due to baby not removing enough milk from the breasts.

•    If baby sleeps with his/her eyes tightly shut, with a tense facial expression and is flushed or pale in the face, it could indicate that baby is overstimulated.


•    Try to feed baby in a quiet, dim lit room that is in a calm environment.

•    Breastfeed on demand. Feed baby as often as possible. Stay as close to baby as possible, consider using a baby sling for breastfeeding and closeness. Babies who are held close to Mom, breastfeed more often.

•    Recognise and know different feeding ques.

•    Skin to skin contact is great for bonding and will help Mom recognise feeding cues earlier.

You can Encourage Alertness in Baby by:

•    Talking to baby.

•    Putting baby’s hand to his/her mouth.

•    Tickling or touching baby’s hands or feet.

•    Rubbing baby’s face.

•    Allowing baby to smell a used nursing pad.

•    Holding baby in an upright position.

•    Use an upright breastfeeding position.

•    Taking baby out of a swaddle wrap.

•    Changing baby’s diaper.

•    Use breast compressions while breastfeeding, to help the flow of milk. This will also help baby get in more of the fattier hind-milk during a feed.

•    Move the breast a little in baby’s mouth to get baby sucking again.

•    Wipe baby’s face with a cool face cloth.

•    Put some breast milk in a syringe or eye dropper before breastfeeding. When baby latches on, drop some of the milk into the corner of baby’s mouth.

Things to Avoid

•    Bright lights.

•    Avoid swaddling if baby is over sleepy.

•    Avoid the use of pacifiers.

•    Avoid rocking.

•    Avoid warm room temperatures.

•    Avoid supplements.

Top of sleepy baby page

Other pages on breastfeeding problems connected to this page

* Signs that baby is getting in enough milk

Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)
Reference: Breastfeeding councillor course information through on breastfeeding problems / physiology of breastfeeding / latching problems / sleepy baby.

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Site by BFeeding Mamma, Tracy Behr. Currently studying through Child birth International (CBC, CBD). Also an accomplished author and Mommy of two.


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