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Breastfeeding sleepy and reluctant babies

There are lots of reasons why your baby may be reluctant to feed. It doesn’t mean you aren’t doing a good job as a mum. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to know all the answers straight away and speak to your midwife or health visitor if you have any questions or concerns, or are looking for ways to make feeding more comfortable.

How often should my baby feed?

All babies are different, but it's very common for babies not to feed all that much in the first 24-48 hours, and some don't attach at all. However, from day 2-3 days babies should become much more awake and feed in more frequent (but probably irregular) bursts at least 6 times in 24 hours.

How do I know if my baby's getting enough milk?

Breastfeeding at first can be really hard to get used to and you might find yourself wondering if your baby has had enough milk - it can be very hard to judge how much breastmilk your baby has had, but they are clever wee things and you have to have some faith that your baby knows whether it needs more milk. There are signs to look out for if you think your baby isn't getting enough milk.

Why are some babies reluctant to feed?

This happens most often when babies don't get skin-to-skin contact with mum soon enough or for long enough after the birth. Ideally, you want skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight away and for as long as it takes for your baby to want to feed. If you don’t have any complications, your midwife will help you get skin-to-skin with your baby quickly after they are born. Some reluctant babies are just too tired, sore, or sedated to feed after birth, and others can't because they are premature, ill or jaundiced.

What if I miss my baby's signs that they're hungry?

New mums sometimes miss or don't understand their baby's feeding signs – our page about learning your baby's cues explains what you should be looking for. Don’t worry if it takes a while to get used to when your baby wants a feed – it's something you are both learning together and it's baby steps for both of you. It's completely understandable to be worried about how much milk your baby is getting if they're not feeding in the early hours and days. It might help to know that babies are born with several days' supply of fluid and stored fat to get them by until they're ready to feed.

What's the solution?

Your midwife will check in on you to make sure your baby is well and to help you spot the signs that they're ready to feed – remember you can ask your midwife (in the hospital or at home) to help show you how to get in a comfortable position to help get your baby feeding. This video shows just this – very often all it takes is some help with positioning, skin-to-skin contact and a little patience!

Top tips to encourage a reluctant or sleepy baby to breastfeed

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Last updated: 6 Sep, 2021