15 Tips For How To Keep Baby Awake While Breastfeeding

You’re trying to breastfeed your baby so they gain weight, but they keep falling asleep ?! Sound familiar?

If you’re wondering how to keep your baby awake while breastfeeding, odds are you have a sleepy baby falling asleep at the breast and not taking full feedings.

Not taking full feedings can have negative consequences for you and your baby. So, I’ll give you 15 tips that I used when I struggled to keep my baby awake at the breast.

Newborn sleeping after breastfeeding.

Importance of Keeping Your Baby Awake While Breastfeeding

If your baby falls asleep during breastfeeding, they may not be taking in enough milk, which can lead to problems like:

  • Weight gain issues
  • Jaundice
  • Lower milk supply (for mom)
  • Poor latch and suckling skills
  • Lowered immunity
  • Dehydration

Benefits Of Full Breastfeeds

There are a few signs that your baby is taking full feeds that you can look for at home:

  • Plenty of wet diapers.
  • A growth spurt (sizing up in your baby’s clothes or diapers).
  • Able to sleep (even just in short 1-2 stretches).

If your breastfeeding newborn is taking enough breast milk at each feed, there will be positive benefits:

  • They will be gaining enough weight.
  • Longer stretches of sleep (meaning mom might get some long stretches of sleep, too ?).
  • Increased milk production for mom.

Why Babies Fall Asleep at the Breast

Staying awake during breastfeeding can be hard for newborn babies, especially in the first week or months of life. Here are some reasons your little one is falling asleep:

  1. Short Wake Windows: Newborns are only awake for 30-90 minutes before they are ready for their next nap.
  2. Comfort: Breastfeeding is the most comforting thing for a newborn.
  3. Tiny Tummies: Your newborn has a tiny belly (about the size of a golf ball). Think of how you feel after a big holiday meal. You want to go to sleep! When babies are full and satisfied, they will fall asleep.
  4. Jaundice: Jaundice will cause babies to be tired and lethargic. If you are concerned about jaundice, get medical attention immediately.

Mom Tip: A baby’s natural rooting reflex (sucking reflex) is so strong, even for sleepy babies.  Just because your baby’s eyes are closed doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t taking in a complete feed.  If your baby is in a deep sleep, they will stop sucking (or have a shallow suck) or even unlatch. 

15 ways to keep sleeping baby awake while breastfeeding mom wiping baby's foot with wipe. Mommy Maker Teacher logo.

Tip #1: Breastfeed As Soon As Your Baby Wakes Up

This is the best way to keep a newborn baby awake while breastfeeding. When your baby wakes up in the morning, feed them immediately before they can fall back asleep.

You can also use this tip after nap time.

This tip doesn’t work in the middle of the night when your sleeping baby may or may not fully wake to feed.

Tip #2: Change Your Baby’s Diaper First

Changing the diaper before breastfeeding will increase the chances that the baby will be alert and awake.

Mom Tip: Don’t use this method at night if your baby routinely soils their diaper right after breastfeeding (because you’ll have to change their dirty diapers again, which might wake them up too much at night.

Tip #3: Play With Your Baby

Playing with your baby before feeding makes them more likely to stay awake. This can include talking to them, singing to them, or even just making faces.

Tip #4: Breastfeed From Both Sides

Feeding on both sides will help your baby stay awake while breastfeeding because they will have to suck more.

When you switch sides, you will have another letdown, which means more milk flow (and more quick flow) for your little one.

If you have already tried switching sides, you can do breast compressions next.

Tip #5: Breast Compressions

Breast compressions will increase your milk flow, like switching sides when breastfeeding.

To perform a breast compression:

  1. Hold your baby on one breast.
  2. Press down in the middle of that same breast for about 30 seconds with your other hand.
  3. This will help increase the milk flow, and your baby should automatically respond with increased sucking.

If you’re still not sure how to do breast compression, you can find helpful videos on YouTube or as a lactation consultant.

Tip #6: Try a Bottle

Nursing at the breast might be so comforting for your little one that they can’t stay awake.

You can try bottle feeding. If you struggle with getting a full feeding, you might consider switching to a bottle for a few daily feeds.

You can pump milk or use formula. You can also use a Haakaa to collect your breastmilk from other nursing sessions to build up a freezer stash.

Pro Tip: you will know exactly how much milk your little one is taking by giving a bottle.

How to keep baby awake while breastfeeding. Mom playing with her baby laying down. Mommymakerteacher.com

Tip #7: Make Sure You Have A Good Latch

If your baby has a poor latch, they are tiring themselves out by not sucking effectively. It isn’t easy to know, especially for new moms, if your baby is getting an effective feed. Some signs that they have a poor latch are:

  1. Nipple pain, cracking, or bleeding.
  2. Taking longer than 20 minutes for a feed.
  3. Being fussy or frustrated at the breast.

If you can, visiting a lactation consultant is a great way to check on your baby’s latch. They might even give you additional tips on how to help your baby learn the difference between wake time (for feeding and playing) and sleep time.

Tip #8: Try A Different Position

If you’re in the same position for too long, your baby might get bored and fall asleep.

Try lying down on your side, using a football hold, or using a breastfeeding pillow to help keep them upright.

Tip #9: Try Burping Your Baby More Frequently

If your baby spits up frequently after eating, it might be swallowing too much air and forming gas bubbles in its tummy.

This will make them full and cause them to drift off to la-la land.

Burp your baby every few minutes to get all of the air out. The changing burping position will also help keep your baby awake.

Tip #10: Use A Cold Wipe

This might sound cruel, but it is effective if you have an extra sleepy newborn!

Grab a diaper wipe, cool washcloth, or face wipe, and rub it on your baby’s face, cheek, hands, or feet.

Combined with the cold air, this will perk your baby up quickly from their deep sleep.

Tip #11: Undress Your Baby

Just like Tip #10, this might sound downright mean—especially if it is in the middle of the night—but it might be completely necessary.

Strip your baby down to the diaper for the feed and rely on the warmth from your skin contact and the breastmilk to keep them comfortable.

I used to combine this tip with tip #10 when my sleepy, jaundiced baby would not stay awake for more than a minute or two for a feed. It was imperative for his health that he take full feeds every 2 hours, so I had to pull out all the stops! This combination worked the best in the middle of the night.

Tip #12: Stimulate Your Baby’s Senses

Babies love stimulation, and they especially love it when it comes from their mother.

Gently blow on your baby’s face or tickle their toes with your free hand. Rub the palms of his hands together in a circular motion.

Anything that is out of the ordinary to wake them up or get them to a lighter stage of sleep.

Tip #13: Turn On The Lights

Like adults, light lets babies know it is time to wake up, and dark means it is time to sleep.

Nursing in a dark room will only make matters worse. Try nursing with sunlight coming in during the day or bright lights on during night feeding.

Tip #14: Nurse More Frequently During the Day

Sometimes, it is just a matter of quantity.

If your little one isn’t getting full feeds every time, they will briefly fall asleep but wake up quickly for more milk.

Try nursing them more frequently during the day so that you can stretch out each feed longer in between at night.

Tip #15: Nurse Your Baby In A Different Room

If you haven’t tried this yet, it’s worth a shot if your baby seems almost to fall asleep immediately after nursing in the same room. The change of scenery, combined with any of the above tricks, will make your baby more alert.

Nurse them in another room and bring them back to their nursery (or your room if you are still room-sharing) only after feeding.

And, when all else fails, remember that this newborn sleepy stage doesn’t last forever. Before you know it, you’ll ask yourself how to get more sleep with a baby.

Jacqui headshot



I am the founder of Mommy Maker Teacher and a mom of two toddlers. With a degree in education, 12+ years of experience as a K-12 teacher and curriculum developer, and courses in childhood psychology and language acquisition, I share research-backed parenting tips and advice. I provide helpful content for moms on all stages of motherhood—from trying to conceive and pregnancy to postpartum, breastfeeding, and parenting.