It’s pretty normal for newborns to spend their early days snoozing but is it a cause for concern when your baby falls asleep while feeding? Ensuring your infant gets a good feed is essential for their growth and development. So, how do you make sure they stay awake when feeding? Read on as I tackle this question asked by many concerned parents!
Newborns may fall asleep during feeds due to post-birth adjustments, jaundice, or day-night confusion. Babies can be tired, have latch issues, or feel too warm to stay awake while feeding. External stimulation can also hamper sleep during feeds.
- Hormones, getting tired, poor latching, and being overly warm are all common reasons why a baby falls asleep during a feed.
- Babies fall asleep while they’re still hungry because they associate feeding with sleeping or have an underlying medical condition.
- Newborns normally sleep most of the time until their third or fourth week and tend to stay awake for longer after one month.
- Some babies fall asleep after consuming only 1 oz of formula because they’re only a few days old or are sick.
- External stimulation, moving your baby’s arms, singing or playing music, changing positions, and engaging the baby are all simple tricks to keep them awake during a feed.
Reasons baby falls asleep while feeding
Due to a hormone called cholecystokinin or CCK
A hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) is activated in your little one’s tum as soon as they latch and start to suck during feeding. CCK makes your baby feel secure, full, and satisfied and with so much contentment they’re going to nod off to sleep – even while they’re feeding!
A common question asked by many breastfeeding mothers is why they get tired when feeding their babies. The answer is CCK – this hormone is also activated in the mom as soon as she starts nursing her little one. Within five minutes of this hormone being released, both baby and mom will feel sleepy!
The baby is tired
Adjusting to life outside the womb is an exhausting experience for newborns and younger babies tend to tire easily in their first days after birth. Younger babies may struggle to get it right between day and night sleeping as well which can affect their feeding patterns.
We learned very quickly that despite some sleepy feeds, our baby daughter made up for it by having enough feeding sessions during a 24-hour period.
The baby has a shallow latch
Sleepy babies can have a shallow latch which causes less stimulation for the milk to flow. If your little one isn’t getting enough milk, it could make them sleep more and harder to wake for a feed.
Engorged breasts make it difficult for your baby to latch especially if they’re dozy. Ensuring your baby latches properly will prevent this problem from happening and allow your little one to get a full feed. If your baby is pushing the bottle out with their tongue it could be because they’re battling to latch to the nipple. Using a breast-shaped bottle could be the solution.
Babies get sleepy when they’re warm
When our baby daughter was snug and warm she had no problem falling asleep, day or night! However, she didn’t always wake up for her feed, especially in her early days, and removing her blanket and stripping her down to her diapers did the trick.
Babies get sleepy if the room temperature is too high or if they’re overdressed on warm days.
You use a teat of the wrong size
Your baby might be falling asleep because of the slow flow rate of the teat you’re using. This means that probably you haven’t upgraded yet to a larger teat size! 🙂 Here’s an article where I mentioned this.
Baby falls asleep while bottle-feeding but is still hungry
If your baby falls asleep while bottle-feeding but wakes up again every 10 to 20 minutes they could still be hungry. The following reasons could be why your little one falls asleep when bottle-fed:
- Associates feeding with sleeping: Some babies associate feeding with sleeping and as soon as they start sucking they fall asleep even while they’re still hungry.
- Underlying medical conditions: Infections, infant jaundice, or other illnesses could be causing your baby to fall asleep as soon as they bottle feed.
- Day and night confusion: Younger babies can get their day and night all mixed up, making them too tired for daytime or nighttime feeding even if they’re hungry.
Babies may stay awake while feeding after 1 month
As soon as I realized that it was normal for our newborn baby to sleep almost 24 hours a day for the first three weeks, I was more relaxed about having to wake her for feed. Newborns sleep pretty much most of the time in the first few weeks of their life however, their sleep cycles are shorter than adults – they will stir every 40 minutes.
Once your baby reaches a month old, they start to stay awake for longer during the day as they get into a more regular nighttime sleeping pattern. This helps them to stay awake for longer during their daytime feeds and establish a feeding routine.
Baby falls asleep after 1 oz of formula
Newborns only need 1 oz of milk every 3 to 4 hours for the first couple of days. From day 4 or 5, they should be drinking between 1 ounce to 2 ounces of milk at every feed, increasing to 3 ozs from day 6. However, it may take 1 to 2 weeks before your little one settles into a regular feeding routine.
If your baby doesn’t wake for feeds, is losing weight, and has fewer wet and dirty diapers, there could be a cause for concern such as:
- Infant jaundice which makes newborns very sleepy
- A respiratory or heart condition
- Viral or bacterial infections
Taking your baby for a checkup with a pediatrician can help identify the underlying reason for your baby falling asleep after only 1 oz of formula.
How to stop a baby from falling asleep while bottle feeding
Move your baby’s arms
As odd as it seems, moving your baby’s arms similar to flapping chicken wings will keep them awake during a feed! Moving your infant’s arms even when they’re in a light sleep encourages them to keep on sucking from the breast or bottle. However, avoid vigorous movements which could cause more distress for your baby.
Tickle your baby’s toes
An external stimulus such as tickling your baby’s toes or stroking their feet helps keep them awake and alert during a feed. Light stimulation of your baby’s toes causes a reflex response and helps them to stay awake. Running your fingers gently up and down their arms, stroking the top of their head, or softly patting their cheeks creates the same response.
Check your baby’s latching
If your baby isn’t latching properly, the milk flow will be slower. Not getting enough milk can make your baby sleepy. Signs of a good latch include:
- The baby’s mouth is open wide around the breast and not just on the nipple.
- Your baby is making clear swallowing sounds.
- The baby’s lips are turned outward.
When looking at the pros / cons of silicone bottles, one advantage is that they encourage better latching for babies switching from the breast.
Try lowering the temperature in the room
If the room temperature is too warm, your baby is going to become sleepy very quickly. Keeping your baby’s room at the right temperature ensures they’re comfortable without being dozy. The best room temperature for babies is between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This way, they won’t be too hot (or too cold) for a feed.
Make sure your baby is in the right feeding position
The right feeding position could be the only solution you need to keep your baby awake during a feed. While the semi-upright position is best for a safe and comfortable feed, sitting your little one can help them wake up if they’re falling asleep mid-feed. Laying your baby flat isn’t only a choking hazard but it’ll likely cause them to doze off while feeding.
Show your baby a toy while feeding to keep them focused
Once your baby has started sucking on the bottle, bringing their attention to a toy will keep them stay focused and awake. A crib mobile, hanging toy, or musical rattle are good distractions for keeping your baby alert during a feed. But, make sure they don’t get too distracted and stop feeding!
Change your baby’s nappy mid feed
Changing positions during a feed can help your baby stay awake and you can do this by doing a diaper change mid-feed. Picking up the baby and moving them around prevents them from getting sleepy during a feed and is an excellent option when bottle-feeding. However, a word of caution – removing the bottle mid-feed could cause your baby to get irritable!
Sing or speak to your baby when feeding
Singing or speaking to your baby during a feed keeps them engaged and alert. Playing music can also help but make sure it isn’t too soothing as they’ll fall asleep rather than stay awake! Our daughter loved listening to her favorite nursery rhymes while feeding and she also loved it when I chatted to her during a feed.
In most cases, there’s no need to panic when your baby falls asleep while bottle feeding. As a father myself, it took time for me to get used to my baby daughter’s sleep cycles and establish a feeding routine that kept her awake during her feeds.
One danger of letting a baby fall asleep is that there’s a risk of tooth decay as I wrote about it in an article I wrote about not to give your baby a bottle while in bed.
One last tip! Knowing whether to give your baby a bottle before or after breakfast can help you schedule feeds when your little one is more alert!