If your baby does not suck vigorously when presented with a breast or a bottle nipple, he might need a little extra encouragement. Preterm or sleepy babies often need gentle stimulation to get them interested in suckling. Stimulating your baby to suckle might be somewhat challenging. With perseverance, you can teach your baby how to actively suckle so he can eat effectively.
Remove your baby’s clothing, except for her diaper. Hold your baby against your skin for direct skin-to-skin contact, advises international board certified lactation consultant Karen Zeretzke, with La Leche League International. Skin-to-skin contact helps rouse a sleepy baby and often helps encourage the baby to suck.
Talk to your baby to encourage suckling, suggests Lamaze certified childbirth educator Jacqueline Levine, writing for the Breastfeeding USA website. Say his name in a singsong voice to get his attention. While you talk and sing, stroke your baby’s cheeks to stimulate suckling.
Use massage to stimulate suckling, advises physician Melodie de Jager, with the Baby Gym Institute. Massaging the crown of the baby’s head or applying gentle pressure to the baby’s chin and just below the belly button might help stimulate the baby’s urge to suckle. Applying gentle pressure to the baby’s palm might also stimulate suckling.
Take the baby off the breast or the bottle and stimulate the baby with activity. Change the baby’s diaper or walk around with the baby for a few moments to try to increase the baby’s alertness, suggests the Pediatric Associates website.
Stop trying to stimulate the baby if she becomes agitated, warns international board certified lactation consultant Kelly Bonyata, with the KellyMom website. The baby’s frustration might create an aversion to suckling, which could be difficult to overcome. Instead, stop and calm the baby down and then try again a short time later.
Seek the advice of a medical worker if you cannot get your baby to suckle effectively to feed. Your child’s physician might recommend an evaluation with a lactation consultant. Some babies need extra time overcoming sleepiness to learn how to suckle.