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Do I need to wake my baby?

Never wake a sleeping baby? Some babies fall asleep easily. You may need to wake your newborn for feeds. 

wake baby

In most cases healthy, thriving newborns will wake when they need to feed and so get enough milk. Feeding your baby when they show early hunger signs can help them to attach and feed more effectively.

If your baby is sleepy, it will be easier to pick up their feeding cues if you keep them close to you. 

Waking your baby 

If your baby is extra sleepy in the early days, you may need to wake them to make sure they get the milk they need. Here are some tips: 

  • Undress and unwrap your baby and hold them skin-to-skin

  • Express a little colostrum by squeezing your areola. Let a few drops fall into your baby’s mouth. 

  • Change your baby’s nappy. 

  • Try different feeding positions

  • Give your baby a warm bath. 

  • Place your baby on your lap with their legs near your tummy and head on your knees. Gently support your baby, raise them into a sitting position, like doing a 'sit-up'. Repeat a few times. 

  • Gently massage their back in circular motions. 

  • Stroke their feet and hands.

Helping your sleepy baby to feed 

Babies can breastfeed even when not fully awake. But some newborns fall asleep quickly during a feed and may need encouraging to start sucking actively again.   

Once your baby is feeding, some of the ideas above can be used to keep them awake and feeding. Some other tips are: 

  • Switch breasts each time your baby’s sucking slows or they start to get sleepy.  

  • Take baby off, wake them again and start on the other side. You can continue switching sides like this so long as your baby stays awake and feeding. 

  • Breast compressions can help your baby get more milk at the breast. When their sucking slows or stops, breast compressions increase the flow of breastmilk. This encourages your baby to suck and swallow and get more milk.   

Even if you have a sleepy newborn who needs waking for feeds in the early weeks, this will change. Your baby will probably be awake for longer. They might not always go to sleep after a breastfeed. Soon enough you will be able to relax and let your baby set their own individual feeding pattern. 

Watch your baby for signs that they are getting plenty of milk: lots of poos and wet nappies and increasing alertness.

When should I be concerned?

Some babies may be very sleepy for medical reasons (eg jaundice, infection, heart problem). Sometimes pain relief medications used during the birth are still affecting the baby. Check with your doctor if you’re worried about your baby's behaviour.  


© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022