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We have a newborn baby girl, and she keeps falling asleep at the breast during feeding. This makes the feeding session super long, because we constantly have to try to find ways to wake her so she can finish eating.

What makes this worse, is that our baby girl has a really hard time falling asleep in her bassinet. We have tried a few different swaddles, and none of them seem to work all that well. So our girl is exhausted, and understandably falls asleep while feeding.

Does anyone have any tips or advice on how to keep a newborn asleep in bassinet? Currently she is averaging around 11 or so hours of sleep per day, which seems low relative to everything that’s out there.

For ref, she is one week old.

Thanks!

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    I can sleep like a plank of wood - go to sleep and wake up in the same position. So when we faced similar issues with our 3 I would lay them on my chest and put the duvet over them and my arms holding the duvet down. They would sleep almost instantly hearing my heartbeat and gradually feeding got sorted. They never slept like that with their mum because they can smell the food :) ... Gave her chance to sleep as well. – Solar Mike May 25 at 20:12
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    Another point is that newborns won't feed to a planned schedule - no matter what any nurse / medical prof etc says, they will take what they need when they want and stop when they want. If she wants little and often then she will do that. We worried about that as well, but if you start thinking about what she takes over 12 or 24 hours instead of what she takes per feed then it can reduce your worries. Assuming healthy of course. – Solar Mike May 25 at 20:19
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    Does this answer your question? Baby breastfeeds for only 5 mins before sleeping again – deworde May 29 at 8:00
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    Same with us except my daughter used to sleep in the bassinet for the first month. After that she did the same as ur daughter. Now she is 15 months old but still sleeps on her mother feed latched. Doctor says this habit is not good but we couldn't make her sleep otherwise. Also don't worry about sleeping 11 hours. – Lakshay May 29 at 17:32
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    The best “lactation consultant” we had had 4 kids of her own and countless babies as she was a midwife just about to retire... a trackrecord that is hard to beat. The first one was just out of studies and had no kids... – Solar Mike May 30 at 18:53
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TL;DR: Your baby's fine. They know what they're doing. Talk to your wife about what she needs from you to survive this difficult period. Chuck your feed schedule into a closet and don't come back to it for at least a month.


We constantly have to try to find ways to wake her so she can finish eating

Unless she's underweight or not putting on weight or you're struggling with producing milk or your doctor has given you special guidance, you don't have to do this. You can try and enforce a feeding schedule for your own sanity, and there's nothing wrong with making that call, but do note that a newborn daughter doesn't know what time is, let alone what time it is.

If she was properly hungry, she wouldn't be going to sleep, she'd be on that boob till she was good and finished. If she's content and comfy, she'll pass out, secure in the knowledge that food'll be there when she wakes up. You can expect small frequent "snacks" that will slowly become longer "meals", but babies are people, sometimes they're just "snackers" for months until they're old enough that you feel comfortable to enforce a schedule.

So what is normal? Well, how long have you got? Because there’s a lot of normal. A newborn should feed a minimum of 8-12 times in 24 hours. That means some might be going every 3 hours and others will be feeding more frequently than 2 hourly. Some babies may feed every 10 minutes every hour. Some may feed for 10 minutes every 2 hours. Some may feed for 40 minutes every 2 hours. For periods in the day, a younger baby will often cluster feed and not be happy away from the breast for any longer than a few minutes at a time. This natural cluster feeding may dominate an evening.

A very common call to the National Helpline goes like this: “My baby used to sleep in the evenings and now he’s awake for 3-4 hours. The only thing that seems to settle him is the breast. I feel like I must not have enough milk as he’s on there for ages. Surely there can’t be anything there.” As the baby swaps from breast to breast, getting small quantities of very high fat content milk and decompressing at the end of a long day, they know exactly what they are doing.

And soon their patterns will change again. Some babies will start to longer intervals in the day as the months go by. But NOT all will.

It's absolutely fine and normal, especially in the first month. The main reason you might want to enforce longer feeding schedules is to protect the mother's sanity, which is really important, but the baby doesn't care about mummy's sanity, the baby is literally developmentally incapable of caring about anything other than their immediate needs.

What makes this worse, is that our baby girl has a really hard time falling asleep in her bassinet.

Yeah, she'd clearly rather sleep on Mummy. Mummy is comfortable and has food on tap. The bassinet, no matter how nice, is fundamentally "not Mummy". You can expect this attitude to continue for as long as they think they can optimistically get away with it. One viable approach to support Mummy is to have one formula bottle on stand-by so that Daddy can take his shift as the mattress of food.

Currently she is averaging around 11 or so hours of sleep per day, which seems low relative to everything that’s out there.

Eleven's potentially low, but not unusual. Also, newborns tend to sleep in little bursts, so even if you're timing it, you're probably not noticing some of the cat naps, especially as your brain will be fried from your own lack of sleep.

For ref, she is one week old.

Note that this is a tiny period of time, and her behaviour may change rapidly within the month. As long as she appears healthy, just do whatever's easiest for now. If she wants to snack constantly and pass out on Mummy, and Mummy can live with that situation, let them do that, and have Dad do all the work that requires mobility or free hands.

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Keep in mind that a week ago, during the delivery, your child entered a world that is very different from what she experienced before. It is possible that she needs the comfort of the familiarity of her mother's heartbeat to relax enough to go to sleep.

That could be a reason why falling asleep alone in the bassinet doesn't work, but she does fall asleep easily while at the breast.

What you could try is

  • put her in the bassinet when she falls asleep during feeding. Apparently her body finds sleep more important at that time than food.
  • see if she will fall asleep in the arms of a parent (without feeding) and then put her in the bassinet
  • if putting her down wakes her up again, see if you can make a sleeping arrangement for her where a parent can lie next to her until she is asleep and then get up without moving/disturbing the baby.
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My wife and I just had a baby a little over a couple months ago and had a similar issue. Baby kept falling asleep at the breast but not so well in the bassinet. One thing I noticed (and this could just be special to my case) is that it seemed like my wife's body temperature was putting baby to sleep (as she's very hot natured). I started staying up nights to give my wife a break from the constant feedings and I was feeding baby with bottled breastmilk (Dr. Browns bottles). I am not hot natured (I always feel cold when my wife is hot) and baby would eat 2.5 to 3 oz from the bottle right before bed from me and be knocked out for a few hours (before baby was 1 month old too). Since I concluded (in my specific case at least) that baby was cold, and my wife and I liked sleeping with the temperature at 67 F, we made sure to keep socks on baby dressed in either a onesie under the "Love to Dream" brand swaddle (great for self soothing if not using a pacifier) or no onesie under a "Halo" brand sleep sack (the one with the velcro wings) with baby's arms to the side. Every baby is different of course. Try experimenting with the thermostat to see where you're baby's sweet spot is at and then adjusting baby's sleep wear with what you find comfortable. Our baby will usually cry when too cold but not when too hot, so be cautious. Also, for my wife's sake we started using a boppy to lay the baby on while breastfeeding to keep a layer inbetween my wife's hot body and baby, or temporarily turning on the AC for feedings and that worked really well for us (not 100% perfect, but nothing is. Also we live where it's hot most the year, so maybe in other cases it would be "turning the heat down during feedings"). When we put baby down at night, we rock baby a little and when baby's asleep, we quickly but gently set baby down in the bassinet and walk away quickly while setting a timer on some white noise (my baby likes running water, but all babies are different. I now think her favorite white noise is actually my wife snoring). Biggest take away from my experience so far, imho, is baby sleeps much better and longer on a full (but no too full) stomach before bed.

Those are some tricks that worked for my wife and me at least. Hope that's helpful in some way!

EDIT:

Also, I was specifically told by my doctor never to wake baby for feeding (unless baby has a specific condition which requires it, like jaundice). We had that same question. Let baby sleep as long as baby needs or can. They will wake when hungry. :)

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