I have a newborn that's a couple days old, still on colostrum, and we're struggling to get the baby to breastfeed on the 1-3 hour cadence that our doctor recommends. The complication is that our baby has a bit of jaundice which makes her tired such that she falls asleep promptly after latching.

What are the recommended ways to keep baby awake and feeding without getting her angry/frustrated and unable to continue feeding?

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    Call your pediatrician or the lactation counselor where you delivered. You don't want to wait for the right answer to show up here.
    – Marc
    Feb 11, 2014 at 22:34
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    Agreed, I've already called a lactation help line at our hospital and got some advice there, but was wondering what others have found. Plus there's not a good answer to this question on the Internet and so I thought future parents would benefit if this was able to be answered here.
    – bobmagoo
    Feb 12, 2014 at 0:41
  • Not really an answer, but an alternative approach - as long as the baby stays latched on while they fall asleep, you can get some more milk into them by doing some manual breast compressions while they sleep. I think I'd only do this if you have a reason to believe her intake is below what is needed, though - and I would measure that based on output (wet and dirty nappies).
    – Vicky
    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


You should definitely call the lactation counselor if you haven't already. They will give individualized advice that no one here can. In addition, they will also provide some reassurance that your baby IS getting enough to eat, that you are doing ok, and that your baby is going to be ok. Call them.

In the meantime:

1) Tickle the baby's feet
2) Change the baby's diaper (you probably need to anyway)
3) Lower the lights. (Babies are used to total darkness and will close their eyes in bright lights, which obviously encourages sleep)
4) Undress a bit of baby here and there. The jostling disturbs them as well as the cold air. Don't completely undress, just expose an arm here and then a little chest there.
5) Try an "unfamiliar hold" such as the football hold if you've been doing crossover, or vice versa.
6) if your baby favors one breast over the other, offer the less favorite one first- she might stay awake for a "second course" from her favorite.

Those worked for my sleepy babies. That being said, newborns only nurse for a few minutes tops anyway, so make sure your expectations are realistic. AND, as your lactation counselor most likely mentioned, they only NEED a few minutes anyway.

  • These are good suggestions. I'd add: my sister-in-law lightly flicked her son's nose or gently blew in his face. Singing to my eldest worked, but put the younger one to sleep even faster. The younger one liked to listen to nonsense noises (like 'om nom nom nom') and that would keep him awake long enough to nurse.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Feb 12, 2014 at 14:24
  • Thanks for the great tips. Marking as the answer but with a few comments. First, babies nurse as long as they need to feed, 10-40 minutes in our case, less so in yours. The other big thing we learned from the lactation consultant was that if you lead breastfeeding with baby's chin rather than the nipple, you'll have a much better time. That greatly reduced the amount of effort we had to do to keep baby awake and gave the baby room to suck at her pace, including drifting in and out of sleep.
    – bobmagoo
    Feb 12, 2014 at 20:30

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