What You Should Do If Baby Falls Asleep While Nursing

Young babies—particularly newborns—tend to fall asleep while nursing. It is both common and normal. But should you wake a sleeping baby? Read on to learn more.

Woman breastfeeding her baby

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If there is one thing you've come to expect from your newborn, it's that they constantly want to be fed. Every two hours, like clockwork, they start to stir and cry as a tell-tale sign that it's that time again. But what happens when, after they start nursing, they drift back to sleep?

While well-meaning advice would suggest you never wake a sleeping baby, you might wonder "should I rouse my little one to make sure they finish nursing?" Read on to learn why young babies fall asleep while nursing and what you should do about it.

Why Do Young Babies Fall Asleep While Nursing?

Getting used to life outside the womb takes a lot of energy. Everything is new, after all. But, in addition to the new experiences and sensations, during nursing, a hormone is released that makes newborns feel extra sleepy. This can cause them to doze while feeding.

Another reason young babies tend to fall asleep while nursing is related to how they're latching. When your baby doesn't latch properly, the flow of milk might be too slow to keep them awake. Once you begin nursing, check to make sure your baby is sucking and swallowing. If they don't seem to last past a few minutes, gently break the latch and try again.

Is This Ever Cause for Concern?

During the first few months of your baby's life, they have fairly frequent checkups—so make sure you mention this to your child's pediatrician if you're worried it may be a problem. But, more likely than not, your child's doctor will bring it up if there's reason to be concerned. For example, a baby with jaundice may not feed well or be sleepier than usual. If your baby is experiencing this, their doctor will know before you leave the hospital.

Another common concern involves your baby not gaining weight (or losing weight) because they aren't getting enough during each nursing session. When in doubt, chat it out—with their doctor and (if you have one) your lactation consultant.

What Should You Do If Baby Falls Asleep While Nursing?

If you find your little one dozing off during their feeding sessions, try one (or more) of these tricks to keep them awake.

Switch sides

If your little one's suckle slows down after a few minutes—or they appear "milk drunk" before they've had much of an opportunity to nurse—you may want to try sitting them up. Once they're alert enough, switch sides and have them continue on the other side of your chest.

Tickle their toes

While it probably won't have them bursting into giggles, tickling your child's toes is a great way to keep them alert. It will also wake them, if they've fallen asleep while nursing.

Check their latch

If your baby is not latched correctly, they can get sleepy. This is because your baby is not getting enough milk and/or is struggling to drink. If you find your baby is falling asleep while nursing, you can and should check their latch. Nursing sessions should last 10 to 20 minutes, depeding on your child and their age.


Another way to encourage your baby to stay awake is via skin-to-skin contact. This is because, if your baby is all swaddled and secure, they are more likely to fall asleep. (Just think of how you feel when you're wrapped up cozy in bed, snug as a bug in a rug.) Placing baby on your skin and tickling their toes will help them stay awake and alert.

The Bottom Line

Newborns are sleepy by nature. But if you're concerned that your baby is sleeping too much, or getting too drowsy to finish their feedings, have a conversation with their doctor. They'll make sure that they are healthy and gaining weight and will rule out any medical issues.

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