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The Napping Nurser

When I asked some of my fellow moms what they wish they knew when they started out breastfeeding.  One topic that came up was what you should do when your baby wants to fall asleep at the breast, only to wake up 5 minutes later wanting to nurse again.

When this happens I will ask the mom a few questions to help determine what should be done, if anything.

1.  Is the baby latching on correctly?  Breastfeeding is much easier, more efficient, and has better milk flow when the baby is latched on correctly.  If the milk is not coming easily for the baby than they might fall asleep out of disinterest.  Check out this link for great images and video of a good deep latch.  http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/breastfeeding/Pages/positioning-and-attachment.aspx

2.  Is the baby awake and alert?  Trying to get an infant to actively nurse as they are entering a light REM sleep will not be as effective as nursing a baby in the quite and alert stage.  Keeping baby in this stage can be done through skin to skin contact, a cool wash cloth on the forehead, or even a gentle tapping of the feet.  Learn about the different behaviours of each stage of alertness here: http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/ResourceCentres/PregnancyBabies/NewbornBabies/NewbornBabyBehaviour/Pages/States-of-Alertness.aspx

3. Is baby actually drinking at the breast before falling asleep?  The way to tell if a baby is drinking is to watch for several strong sucks, eg. mouth open wide, pause, and then close.  Here is a good video showing the difference between just sucking and actual drinking.  http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=vid-28hrbaby
If the baby is actually drinking, they may be an efficient nurser and actually fill up faster than you think.

So, if we find that the baby is indeed latched correctly, is quiet but alert at the beginning of the feeding, and does start the feeding with actual feedings but quickly tapers off what I would look into next is the flow of milk from mom. 

According to the International Breastfeeding Centre,

"In the first 3-6 weeks of life, many babies tend to fall asleep at the breast when the flow of milk is slow, not necessarily when they have had enough to eat and not because they are lazy or want to pacify. After this age, they may start to pull away at the breast when the flow of milk slows down. However, some pull at the breast even when they are much younger, sometimes even in the first days and some babies fall asleep even at 3 or 4 months when the milk flow is slow."

If it is the case where the flow of milk is slowing down I would encourage the mother to try breast compressions to help stimulate the letdown reflex and bring more milk, which often prompts the infant to start nursing again.  For complete directions check out this link http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8:breast-compression&catid=5:information&Itemid=17

Usually corrections made on one or a combination of these points helps increase feeding times.  If you still are having issues I would recommend you contact your child's pediatrician or a lactation consultant to rule out any other cause for lack of interest with nursing.

Good luck and hopefully both you and baby will be nursing and sleeping happily soon.

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