Newborns sleep most of the day, which can interfere with feedings.

Breastfeeding a Lazy Eater

by Jennifer Oster

During pregnancy, many moms-to-be dream about breastfeeding their newborn with ease. The reality is that breastfeeding isn't always as easy as it looks -- it is a learning experience for both mother and child. One common challenge is nursing a newborn who is sleepy most of the day and may fall asleep at the breast. Some mothers call this "lazy eating" or "lazy breastfeeding." Don't let your sleepy little one discourage your decision to breastfeed, though. This issue is not only common, it is also simple to resolve.

1. Newborn Sleep Patterns

Newborns sleep a lot -- in fact, they can sleep approximately 16 hours total per day! Some babies, especially those under two weeks of age, may sleep for several hours at a time, which can interfere with feedings if they are still sleepy. Many pediatricians recommend waking your newborn to feed if she has gone for more than three or four hours without nursing. While sleep is important, it's even more imperative to ensure that your baby is getting the nutrition and hydration that she needs.

2. Feeding Schedule

Newborns should nurse 8 to 12 times per day or more. Many moms take the "feed on demand approach" and respond to their baby's hunger cues, but when your infant would rather sleep than eat, there may be an issue. Try keeping track of her feedings by writing them down; write down the time that she nursed, which side she nursed on and for how long. If you notice that it's been more than a few hours without feeding, wake your baby gently and offer the breast.

3. Keeping Baby Awake while Breastfeeding

Newborns may be so sleepy that they fall asleep at the breast or seem disinterested in feeding, so you will need to stimulate the baby so that she'll stay awake. Some tips include gently rubbing the bottom of the baby's foot, lightly stroking the crown of her head, rubbing the baby with a cool, damp washcloth, stroking her ear or running your finger down her spine. If you have a slow let-down. meaning, your milk comes out slowly, your baby may become bored or tired. To help, massage your breast and squeeze gently -- this will allow the milk to flow into her mouth more easily. Remember to switch breasts as needed. If you feel that you need additional support, contact a local Lactation Consultant, Lactation Counselor or the La Leche League.

4. Concerns

So, how do you know if your sleepy baby is getting enough to eat? This can be a huge concern for breastfeeding mothers since it's impossible to tell for sure how much milk a breastfed baby is getting. Diapers are the best indicator. If your baby is peeing and pooping regularly, it usually means that she's getting enough breastmilk. Newborns two days and older -- up to six weeks -- should be producing approximately five to six wet diapers and at least three poopy diapers per day. If you notice that your baby's output is less, contact your pediatrician immediately.

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