Say the word "sleep" amongst parents of young children and you can easily solicit conversation that ranges from how to get more shuteye to safe sleep practices to why kids like to fool you into thinking you can have a bedtime schedule. (Babies think adults with plans are hilarious.) But there are other sleep topics that, perhaps, don't get as much talk time, like kids who sleep in weird positions (my daughter always ends up horizontal). And what about sleep habits while breastfeeding? You might wonder, why does my baby fall asleep while breastfeeding and can I do anything about it?
It's a pretty simple reason, actually. "Babies fall asleep while nursing mostly because they are satisfied and content," Leigh Anne O’Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and parenting coach, tells Romper in an email interview. And who can blame them? Especially snuggled in so close to you.
Beth McMillan, an Ottawa lactation consultant, agreed, telling Today's Parent, "Babies are biologically designed to sleep at the breast. It’s clear from the composition of the milk and the baby’s hormonal response to nursing that babies are meant to go to sleep in association with breastfeeding. Human milk even changes over the day to have more sleep-inducing components during the evening and at night.”
But while it's super presh to witness a baby trying to nurse while simultaneously fighting off sleep, chances are likely you are going to be trying to keep your baby from nodding off in order to ensure they are properly fed. When that's a case, you'll want to have a few tricks up your sleeve.
First of all, check your latch. After all, a shallow latch may cause your baby to lose interest and fall asleep, according to The Bump. Giving your little one skin-to-skin contact can also help rouse them from sleep, as well as tickling their feet or legs to keep them awake, the website noted.
You'll also want to make sure that you don't perceive sleepiness as a sign that your baby is full. If you do, then it could result in too little weight gain for your baby and a decreased milk supply for you. In order to keep your little one alert, Today's Parent encouraged moms to try switching to the other breast when the baby begins falling sleep. You can also try squeezing your breast between thumb and fingers as your baby is sucking — known as breast compression — to encourage your baby to nurse longer.
And while in most instances it's completely normal for a baby to snooze while breastfeeding, O'Connor says it is important to keep a close eye on breastfeeding newborns to make sure they are not falling asleep from fatigue and/or lack of sufficient milk. "If there is a problem such as a tongue tie or low milk supply or prematurity, one needs to be seen by a professional who can assess the situation," she says. "An IBCLC is the best source to determine milk intake."
But she reiterates, "In most cases, babies fall asleep after they have had enough milk and their sucking needs are satisfied."
And don't be surprised if during those early months, it's "practically impossible" to keep your newborn awake, according to KidsHealth. "Once babies get older, however, most doctors advise against nursing a baby solely for the purpose of getting him or her to sleep," the website noted. "Doing this regularly may prevent your baby from learning how to fall asleep on his or her own."
And, guys, I think it's important that we remind each other of this: This whole sleep conversation can sometimes feel a little endless. But that's what the super strong coffee and friends are for, right?