Keeping a Sleepy Newborn Awake for Feedings

I work with several companies and links to any products within posts are affiliate.

One of the most important things during the first days of a baby’s life is making sure they are getting full feedings.

keeping sleepy baby awake for feedings

A full belly is important for the baby to thrive, for a nursing mother to establish milk supply, to ensure a nursing baby is getting the nutrient-rich hind milk, and to begin laying the groundwork for sleep training in the future. {You can read my tips for starting Babywise from birth here!}

A sleepy, snuggly newborn is so sweet and precious.

However, that same sleepy newborn can be a source of frustration when he or she simply will not wake up for their feeding time! Here are some tips for how to keep a sleepy baby awake to ensure a full feeding:

1. Skin to Skin: Unswaddle and undress your baby and even expose your skin so you are both skin-to-skin contact.

This not only forms a great bond but also gets a baby to start eating!

2. Tickle Feet, Side and Chin: Babies typically find tickling a little bit uncomfortable.

By tickling the bottom of the feet it helps to wake them from sleeping.

Sometimes you have to tickle a little harder to really get them to wake up!

The chin is another great place to tickle to get them going!

3. Look for Active Suck: Often babies will fall asleep and start sucking for comfort, rather than actively sucking.

Be on the lookout for the “lazy sucking” as it’s a signal that your baby is snoozing rather than eating!

You should be able to see the jaw actively moving to signal eating vs just sucking.

4. Sleepy Hand Test: This little trick was so helpful for me!

While nursing lift the baby’s arm in the air and then let go of it. If their little hand just falls down limply, then they are full on asleep.

If they stiffen the hand then they are awake!

You can also look at a baby’s hand while nursing to see if they are awake or asleep: if it’s in a fist then they are awake, if it’s relaxed then they are asleep.

5. Wash Cloth: When I would nurse I would wet a washcloth prior to starting the feeding and have it beside me in case I needed it.

You can wipe the baby’s face or head with the wash cloth and it will help wake them up.

6. Burp: Burp breaks always help! Varying the position of the burps also ensures freeing up all that trapped gas as well as getting them to be more alert.

7. Diaper Change: When my babies were little I stopped changing the diaper prior to the start of the feeding and instead I’d change it mid-feeding.

By taking the diaper changing break it would help split up the feeding some to keep them stimulated and awake.

8. Quick Switching: The recommendation for a full feeding is typically to nurse on one side for 20 min, burp, then nurse on the other side for another 20 minutes.

One way to get a sleep baby to wake up is to divide up the feeding differently.

You can do 5 min on one side then burp and switch then another five and burp and switch  over and over again until you have reached the 40 min feeding marker or know your baby is full.

9. Change Positions: There are a variety of positions for nursing a baby.

The most commonly used one tends to be the cradle hold. This is a very cuddly position and can cause a sleepy baby!

By changing positions, especially using the football hold type position, it helps prevent the baby from sleeping.

10. Dim Lights: Most of the time you think “bright lights = awake baby” but actually the opposite is true.

Babies tend to close their eyes in bright lighting so by dimming the lights it’s actually easier for a baby to open their eyes and remain awake.

When I talk to new moms my #1 piece of advice is always to focus on full feedings and keep that baby awake while eating!

It is often a lot harder of a task than it sounds like it would be! Do you have any tricks to add that help keep a sleepy baby awake and eating?

Sharing is caring!

Emily Parker

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

You can read more about our family on my About Me page. Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

1 Comment

  1. Letakix
    August 10, 2018 / 8:01 pm

    Your family is so adorable! Thank you for sharing your tips for keeping a newborn awake. I am currently nursing a 2 week old and he likes to snuggle and sleep through his nighttime feedings! Will try your tips out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *