Nursing A Newborn: Keep Baby Awake!

Photo by Candid Memory Photography

I know I have mentioned in the past to work to keep baby away while breastfeeding. I even have a couple of different posts with ideas on how to do that. But I don’t think I have adequately stressed to you the extreme importance of this.

I didn’t do Babywise with Brayden until he was 9 weeks old. When Kaitlyn was born, I was a bit of a novice for the first couple of months. She was a sleepy baby. She was always hard to wake up to eat. As soon as she started to eat, she would doze.

At one point while I was working through troubleshooting the reason she was not falling asleep well before naps, I had the thought come to me that I needed to make sure she didn’t fall asleep while nursing.

Read: Feeding a Newborn: How Long is a Feed?

This was no easy task! But I put my effort into it, and it worked! She started falling asleep for naps without crying again. Over the years, when helping moms figure napping out, I am often urged to mention this falling asleep while eating thing. I get great feedback from people after they try it. I finally realized I needed a post stressing the importance and significance of this.

Why is this? I have only theories for you, but here they are.

One is that if baby falls asleep and takes a quick catnap, baby will not be tired enough when nap time rolls around. You will have a  hard time figuring out optimal waketime because of the power nap. You will know a newborn should go back to bed after 45-60 minutes, but your baby’s body might not be ready.

It also might mean baby doesn’t eat well enough to last until the next feeding.

You also might not have enough stimulation time not eating because it will take baby longer to eat due to the napping.

All are probably true.

So please, work to keep baby awake while you are feeding! This will probably mean zero distractions for you. No books. No TV. No entertaining other children. This is your life! Don’t worry, it will get better soon. Try to enjoy it for what it is.


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11 thoughts on “Nursing A Newborn: Keep Baby Awake!”

  1. Thanks for this post. A good friend of mine is having trouble with this exact thing right now. Although now it has gotten to be that she won't go to sleep unless she starts to nurse her then she can put her down. I think this will be most helpful to her. I just started my own blog, check it out at

  2. My baby is 4 months old and I have done BW since she was born. She was the sleepiest baby I have ever seen. It was VERY frustrating to nurse at first because she would ALWAYS try to fall asleep. Throughout the feeding we would take her clothes off, use a cool cloth, move her top arm around and keep talking to her to keep her awake for feedings. It used to take 45 minutes to feed her EVERY FEEDING! This kept on until about 3 months…and although it was frustrating and time consuming its WORTH IT. Now she nurses in 15 min and has stayed in the 90th to 95th percentile in height and weight since she was born. Not to mention she naps well and has STTN since she was 3 weeks old! Its worth the effort to keep them awake for feedings!

  3. Not only does it help with naps and getting a full feeding, it is important for baby to stay awake so they eat enough to be healthy!My baby was very sleepy as a newborn. In the hospital it took him a long time to latch on and then he would fall asleep before taking one suck! Partially because he was so sleepy and it took us a week to learn how to nurse, I had to pump and supplement for a while as well as work very hard to keep him awake for the first 2 months or so. On advice from my lactation consultant, I undressed him down to the diaper before feeding, changed his diaper between sides to wake him up again (worked better than undressing him) and got him dressed, and then nursed on the second side. I was constantly rubbing his head, hands, toes, moving his arms and legs, and sometimes using a wet cloth to keep him awake. However, now he has nursed fine without any supplement for 4 months and is able to stay awake through feedings. He is gaining weight well. His naps and bedtime also go better when he doesn't fall asleep nursing.

  4. Thank you so much for this post and the helpful comments! I just read Baby Wise for the first time and finish last night. My son (our first) is 3 months old and a very sleepy eater! I never feed less than 1/2 hour and almost always go 45 minutes and occassionally an hour. He has been on a 2 hour schedule naturally, so this has been a killer! I have been really reluctant to pump as I will just have to feed again right away, but am heading back to work in a few days.I constantly rub him to keep him sucking, but he still seems like he is asleep. The helpful tips of the undressing, changing diapers, burping and wet cloths are something I will take advantage of. I am hoping the new BW routine will help as well, since we were not on a good nap routine before. I just felt like it was out of my control before or that there was a big problem. Now I feel like I have a solution.

  5. Hi! I'm a new mommy and doing my best to follow Babywise without stressing myself out. I'm a teacher which means I tend to be a very strict schedule follower. The flexibility part is hard for me. Anyway, my baby is 7 weeks old and from the start we had some nursing issues. She is a very sleepy nurser. She is improving, but it takes 45 min to an hour for her to nurse. I really have to work at keeping her awake, but most often her eyes are closed. I don't take her off the breast because I can see she is still sucking and swallowing. When she stops for a prolonged period, I do take her off, but she fusses and mouths to be put back on. I put her back on and we continue. Sometimes I even top her off with a 1 oz bottle of expressed milk just to make sure she is really full! This really cuts into her waketime. I have been keeping her up for about 1 hour 15 min, but I'm thinking this may be too long. My concern is that she's not really getting much waketime since she is nursing for so much of it. Another issue is her napping. She is the queen of the 45 minute nap, which I know is affecting her ability to nurse effectively. I thought it might be the 45 min intruder and sometimes it seems that she is hungry and will take a full meal, but that's certainly not always the case. I was reading on the blog and came across a post that mentioned that if a baby sleeps during nursing, they aren't likely to take a good nap. Do you think that's the problem here? I really don't think I can get her to nurse any faster. Today I'm pumping and feeding her a bottle to speed up her feeding time to see if it's the long nursing sessions that are the problem. I really hate to give up nursing. I feel like we get stuck in the horrible cycle of not sleeping well because of not feeding well and not feeding well because of not sleeping well! Of course some days are better than others. Any advice would be so appreciated!!

  6. Kelly,I would strongly guess that she is not really eating the whole time you think she is. It sounds like how my oldest was, and as I have looked back on things, I think he was taking little catnaps along the nursing way. I think that is a good chance at what is affecting your naps. You don't have to give up nursing. You can just work to make sure she is awake. Talk to her, try to make sure you see her eyes every so often. When you take her off, if she looks for the breast without opening her eyes, I think there is a good chance she is power napping. Good luck!

  7. My little one is just a couple of days old. She sleeps and nurses with her eyes closed every time. I try to keep her awake and it doesn't work… What do I do?

  8. My daughter is 3 months old and we have been struggling from birth to implement babywise. Though we have the 3 hr schedule down, she is a really poor napper. She has long wake times, or skips naps and sleeps 30-45 mins when she does nap. She constantly falls asleep while nursing even though she does drink quite a lot while snoozing and gains weight very well and is now starting to go 3.5-r hrs between feeds. How can I keep her awake and how do I break the vicious cycle of her not naping enough and then power napping when she nurses? Please please help me out


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