Sleepy Newborns: Work to Feed for 10 Minutes

What do you do when baby just won’t wake up to eat when it is time for a feeding? How do you get baby to wake up and what point should you be worried?

Feed sleepy baby hero image. Mom and newborn baby.

It doesn’t seem right, does it?

Not only are you super tired from taking care of a newborn, but even during the feeding sessions–a moment when you might relax for give or take 20 minutes–you have to work like crazy to keep that little baby awake.

It does get better. Baby eventually gets better at eating and better at staying awake and you will be able to let your mind wander, read a book, or watch a show…whatever suits your fancy.

But you are not there yet. You are still working on it.

What do you do at these times?

How To Keep a Sleepy Newborn Awake for Feedings

Start by trying to keep your little one awake during feedings.

There are a couple of posts on this blog that provide ideas for keeping baby awake during the feeding. Head on over to those posts to get the ideas.

When Will Baby Stay Awake for Feedings

In The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, Hogg states that bottle-fed babies are less likely to fall asleep while eating once baby is 6.5 pounds (page 99).

She explains that a breastfed baby falls gets sleepy after about 10 minutes of eating because of the oxytocin in the milk. She says premature and jaundiced babies are also likely to fall asleep while eating.

We all know how important it is to keep baby awake to eat if we believe in The Baby Whisperer or Baby Wise. We are looking for baby to get full feedings.

“…if the sleepy-baby pattern continues for more than three feeds, you might be accidentally turning your baby into a snacker”.

(page 99)

You also will likely teach baby to need to eat to fall asleep and will make it hard to establish a routine.

Baby won't wake for feedings pinnable image

What To Do When Baby Just Won’t Wake Up to Eat

I have definitely experienced those feedings where you couldn’t get baby to finish out that feeding. With Katilyn, I often had feedings where I couldn’t even get her to start eating, much less finish.

In those cases, I did as Babywise says and let her sleep another 30 minutes and then tried feeding her again.

With McKenna, I often faced the feedings where she would zonk out after feeding for about ten minutes. Hogg says to spend only 10-15 minutes trying to wake baby at that point. After that point, the oxytocin will be in full effect and she will be in the sleep part of her cycle.

I know some of you are having mini panic attacks when your baby doesn’t take that full feed or falls asleep while eating.

You are concerned about ruining her for life. You want to “start as you mean to go on” and you want to avoid starting bad habits. You want to stick to that schedule.

Take a deep breath. Relax. It will all be okay.

Just expect and accept that there will be feedings that the baby will not stay awake for.

I really like Hogg’s advice to try for 10-15 minutes and then move on with the day. That means you try for 10-15 minutes if baby fell asleep eating, then go about your schedule as normal.

Do not fight it longer than 10-15 minutes.

This gives mom a timeline. Work at it for that long, then move on and try to move on without the stress.

All of my babies have fallen asleep during feedings. All of my babies have had times they didn’t take a full feed because they fell asleep before they were done eating. Two of them wouldn’t start a feed when I wanted her to (notice I said her; I never had that issue with Brayden).

And you know what? I think all of my kids are pretty darn awesome. We all made it out okay. We are all happy and healthy today. I survived to tell the tale.

You will be fine.

Your baby will be fine.

Work for 10-15 minutes and then move on.


Keep in mind that I am encouraging you to not worry about the occasional feeding that doesn’t go as planned. Remember that Hogg warns against three in a row.

One or two isn’t an issue, but if three happens, you need to evaluate the situation and perhaps change your game plan somewhere. But for those occasional feedings that aren’t quite right, relax, put your baby down for a nap, and go take your own nap.


This post originally appeared on this blog in June of 2010