Help Me, Helen! How Can I Stop My Baby Falling Asleep on the Breast?

Helen Borg is a senior midwife and infant feeding specialist who heads up the drop-in breastfeeding clinic at Mater Dei hospital. As mentioned in the series intro, Helen will cover common issues that can arise when feeding your newborn, giving professional advice and reassurance to help make your journey run smooth.

Q. What can I do to stop my baby from falling asleep during feeding?

Mother and babyIf your baby is constantly falling asleep on the breast before they have finished their feed, it could be for a couple of reasons. It may be that your baby is feeding in an environment conducive to sleeping, in which case you should try to make the baby a bit more uncomfortable by not having her so warm and cosy. In summer I would cool the room down, and in the winter I would switch any heating off. Avoid wrapping the baby, remove any caps because that will make the baby warm and sleepy.

If you watch animal mothers feeding, they nuzzle and they lick their young throughout the whole process. This is their way of saying “stay awake, get on and get finished” and we need to do a bit of the same. Instead what we tend to do is stroke them and smile at them and make them even more relaxed! Try to be a bit more vigorous and keep rubbing them in the spots that will annoy them, like their ribs, between their should blades, etc. Almost like a firm massage rather than a stroking action.

Baby falling asleepYou also have babies who use your breast as a comforter, and these you can spot because they actually change the way they suck on the breast, from active feeding motions, to a more passive suckle. During a 30 minute feed, a 5-10 minute passive feed is acceptable, but if they’re doing two hours of this, then they need to get out of that habit.

We do live in a world where we have substitutes for these things. Dummies, soothers, pacifiers, love them or hate them, they can replace a breast for those babies looking for comfort. The suckling action in a baby releases hormones within them that relaxes and calms them, so if you get a baby who is naturally highly strung (just like we get grown ups who are naturally highly strung), they tend to regularly seek out things that have a calming affect. The problem with that is the busy lifestyles of today don’t really allow us to just sit down and let the baby suckle for two hours at a time. If you can do that, all well and good, but if you can’t, you might want to just go ahead and let them use a dummy.

For more infant feeding advice from Helen Borg, visit our Help Me, Helen! section. You can also follow us Facebook and Instagram for instant updates in your newsfeed.

When it comes to spare equipment for new mums, the breastfeeding clinic relies on donations, so if you have any of the following that you no longer need, you can drop them off at the clinic where they will be gratefully received!
-Breast pumps
-Nipple shields

-Milk storage bags or containers
-Breast pads

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