Remember that time I had a baby who would nap for longer than 30 minutes on the dot? Neither do I! To be fair, newborn Harper loved to sleep. In fact, she slept so much those first few days I was distraught over getting her to breastfeed. It wasn’t bad enough I looked like a hot mess, I also felt it. When I called the lactation consultant to beg her for help she was out of town on vacation in the mountains (who else would this happen to?).
So at our 48 hour visit with the nurse at the midwife, I sobbed hysterically (as I’m sure most new moms do) over not really being able to get her to nurse. I was legitimately at the point of looking up videos on YouTube. Yes, I was desperate. After I finished my momentary breakdown, this nurse, who undoubtedly knew I was a hormonal mess (read: crazy) bestowed upon me the best advice that changed me as a 48-hour-old mom entirely. Now maybe for some ladies these things were no-brainers, but for me, they were nothing short of a revelation.
As I have come to understand, there is a never-ending debate on whether or not you are supposed to wake a newborn to feed them. From my own experience and understanding, babies need to gain weight to thrive, and the only way for them to do that is to eat regularly (have you ever tried to feed a hangry newborn? Nothing short of impossible). If we didn’t wake Harper, she would just keep sleeping. Me one year in is laughing at the idea of waking her, because I’d pretty much burn someone’s house down if they woke her from a nap. I digress!
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How to Get Your Newborn Baby to Breastfeed
If your little nugget will not wake up to eat, there are several things you can try:
1. First, get that baby out of their cozy onesie. A cold baby is an alert baby. For our little’s first week or so, I could only get her to nurse if she was just in a diaper.
2. If this doesn’t work, hand off the baby to dad (or if he’s not around, a grandparent). Have dad hold the baby, but not in a cuddly way. Eric would hold Harper away from his chest until she realized she wasn’t being snuggled, got upset, then he would give her back to me and she would finally eat.
3. If that still doesn’t work, try the “pick up, put down” method. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Dad picks baby up, puts baby down (repeat) until baby is somewhat upset, but not too upset, and ready to nurse.
Now, I realize these methods may not seem like the gentlest route. This is simply what worked for us, and from talking with other mom-friends, what worked for them too. There are most certainly gentler approaches such as skin-to-skin (which I did constantly), and babywearing in a newborn wrap, such as the Moby (which I did/loved) but unfortunately for us, these things just made her more sleepy and did not help with getting her to breastfeed.
I’ve heard from many mom-friends about how their initial struggles with nursing discouraged them from continuing. I have also heard that these are simply first-time-mom fears and with a second little, you just let them sleep.
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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor (although I’m 99% sure my Jewish parents wish I was one…or married one?) so please consult your pediatrician if you have any questions.
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So what worked for you? How did you get your sleepy newborn to nurse? Did you change it up with baby #2? Share below and help out a fellow FTM.