Sleepy Baby

Many babies are sleepy during the newborn period.  Sleepiness is normal unless it interferes with a breastfed baby’s milk intake and weight gain.  Some causes of a sleepy baby are: 

1.     Difficult labor and /or delivery

2.     Jaundice or infection

3.     Mother’s milk “coming in”

4.     Too much stimulation

5.     Use of certain medications during and after delivery

6.     A full stomach from milk and/or air

7.     Overheating from overdressing or being in a warm room.

A sleepy as your baby may be this will resolve within a few weeks. In the meantime, if your child is not gaining weight well he or she will need to have mother-led breastfeedings. Mom will need to frequently stimulate baby to awaken before and during breastfeeding. Using breast compression, increasing nursing frequency or duration will also help weight gain. Nurse baby a minimum of 8 times a day.  Avoid the use of a pacifier


Some Suggestions for Arousing Baby Before Breastfeeding

1.     Try waking baby in a light sleep cycle, you will notice sucking and limb movements

2.     Remove or loosen blankets and clothing

3.     Talk to the baby–make eye contact

4.     Hold baby upright or standing

5.     Bend baby into gentle sit-ups (Bend at HIPS never at the waist)

6.     Rub head, hands or feet or pat back and walk fingers up spine

7.     Change the diaper

8.     Massage or bathe

9.     Wipe forehead and cheeks with a cool, damp cloth

10.  Circle the baby’s lips with a finger tip

11.  Dim lights

12.  Place baby on back and gently roll from side to side.


Keeping Baby Interested

1.     Keep the weight of the breast off the baby’s chin

ą A rolled and taped up wash cloth can be placed under a larger breast to support its weight and keep it off the chin

2.     Try nursing using the football hold so the baby is more upright rather than the cradle hold, which is more of a laying down position

ą Reclining while using the football hold raises the baby’s head higher, which decreases sleepiness even more.

3.     Express milk onto the baby’s lips to get baby started

4.     Burp the baby or change the diaper between sides to keep interest high

5.     Massage the baby’s crown in a circular motion while nursing and/or continue to stimulate baby by rubbing hands, feet or back

6.     Continue to talk to baby while feeding

7.     Switch breasts as soon the baby begins to lose interest in sucking

8.     As a last resort, “Super Switching” is sometimes recommended-this means moving the baby back and forth between breasts after a few minutes of sucking and several times during a feeding.


If nothing seems to be working and your baby’s skin is turning yellow and/or has less than 3 teaspoon-sized stools or 6-8 clear-colored wet diapers EVERY DAY, call your healthcare provider.

Authored by Christine Betzold, MSN NP CLC.  May be reproduced without further permission for instructional or educational purposes only.  User assumes responsibility for content. Updated 3/16/09.