Sleepy Baby

sleeping baby, tired baby

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

If you are worried about the amount of milk your baby is receiving:

Things that may Cause Extra Sleepiness in a Baby

  • Any drugs that are given to the mother during labor especially during a C-section birth. The drugs pass into the baby’s system while in utero. 
  • Invasive procedures during and after birth such as injections, circumcision, heel sticks, aggressive suctioning, etc. 
  • The baby was born prematurely. 
  • Jaundice causes lethargy. The phototherapy treatment that is given to treat jaundice can cause extra grogginess in a baby. 
  • The mother and/or her baby are ill or have health problems. 
  • The baby is not taking in enough milk due to feeding problems or low milk supply. This can cause a baby to become weak and therefore sleepy. 
  • The baby is in an overstimulated environment. 
  • Separation of the mother and her baby after birth can cause prolonged crying and fatigue.

Signs that your Baby is Unusually Sleepy

  • The baby does not wake up often enough for feeds. The baby is also not woken up easily. 
  • The baby falls asleep very soon after latching on. 
  • The baby has low urine output, fewer bowel movements than expected and is gaining weight very slowly or not at all. 
  • The mother may become engorged due to her baby not removing enough milk from the breasts. 
  • If the 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 the baby is overstimulated. 

Sleepy Baby Tips

  • Try to feed your baby in a quiet, dim lit room that is in a calm environment. 
  • Breastfeed on demand. Feed your baby as often as possible. Stay as close to your baby as possible, consider using a baby sling for breastfeeding and closeness. Babies who are held close to their mothers, breastfeed more often. 
  • Recognise and know different feeding cues. 
  • Skin to skin contact is great for bonding and will help the mother recognize feeding cues earlier. 

You can Encourage Alertness in your Baby by: 

breastfeeding, nursing baby, baby being breastfed
  • Lots of skin to skin contact will encourage your baby to breastfeed more often. Kangaroo care is recommended. 
  • Talking to your baby. 
  • Putting your baby’s hand to his/her mouth. 
  • Tickling or touching your baby’s hands or feet. 
  • Rubbing your baby’s face. 
  • Allowing your baby to smell a used nursing pad. 
  • Holding your baby in an upright position. 
  • Use an upright breastfeeding position. 
  • Taking your baby out of a swaddle wrap. 
  • Changing your baby’s diaper. 
  • Use breast compressions while breastfeeding, to help the flow of milk. This will also help your baby get in more of the fattier hind-milk during a feed. 
  • Move the breast a little in your baby’s mouth to get baby sucking again. 
  • Wipe your baby’s face with a cool face cloth. 
  • Put some breast milk in a syringe or eye dropper before breastfeeding. When your baby latches on, drop some of the milk into the corner of baby’s mouth. 

Things to Avoid

  • Bright lights. 
  • Avoid swaddling. 
  • Avoid the use of pacifiers. 
  • Avoid rocking.
  • Avoid warm room temperatures. 
  • Avoid supplements. 
Top of sleepy baby page

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

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