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Thread: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any hope?

  1. #1

    Unhappy Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any hope?

    Hi, I have a problem with my 11 week old baby refusing to feed while fully awake. He used to only do this at his 'fussy' time in the evenings before bed (starting about 3 weeks ago) but I was able to calm him by walking/rocking and feeding at the same time. Once he latched on he was fine and would feed for sometimes an hour or more until deeply asleep. I guess I should mention that he's always been fussy at the breast in one way or another (except at night), pulling on and wanting back on and sometimes getting quite frantic but up to a few weeks ago he never refused and wanted to eat very frequently.

    The past few days the problem has gotten much worse, not just in the evenings but all day long. He will only feed when just waking up, and even then, he sometimes wakes up fully during the feed and then pulls away screaming and refusing the breast again. If I wait too long after he wakes up I miss the chance to feed him, so it's not even that he's overtired, he may have just taken a long nap and still refuse the breast. He feeds very well at night when he's half asleep (these are his best feeds, although sometimes he's too sleepy to finish even one breast). Sometimes I also have him nap on my chest during the day and he'll half-wake to feed every now and then, so he gets some decent meals this way. But these days I have trouble settling him for naps, I think because he is hungry and won't feed, so he doesn't sleep because he doesn't eat, and he doesn't eat because he won't sleep.

    I considered the possibilities of too fast or slow milk flow but I don't think either of these options is it. He used to eventually nurse well in the evening when my supply is lower and flow is slow, and he also nurses well in the night time and early morning when I am engorged and the flow is fast. I haven't changed anything in my diet. I've tried feeding him in a dark room, swaddling him, giving him to my husband to calm him and then trying again, but he screams as soon as I put him near my breast. I don't push his head or try to force him. Different positions also haven't worked, lying down, hovering above him etc. He seems to really have an aversion and I can't understand why or how I can help him overcome it.

    Up to now he's been gaining weight very well as he was feeding every 1-2 hours during the days. I was actually thinking of putting him on a feeding schedule because he seemed to snack throughout the day and night. But I'm afraid his weight gain will stop or slow down now that he's not eating as regularly and have noticed less wet and dirty nappies the past few days when this has been going on really severely. I'm also afraid my milk will dry up if he stops feeding so frequently, and he often doesn't even empty one breast before coming off screaming and refusing more. I am really distressed and worried. Please if you have any advice I would really appreciate it, I would not like to give up breastfeeding yet.

    * I already sent this as a helpform but hope it's ok to put it here as well while I wait for a response. Would really like to know if anyone else went through this, whether you were ever able to get your baby nursing normally again, and if so what you did to make that happen.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    504

    Default Re: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any h

    Hello and welcome! I'm sorry this is happening If it's any consolation, my baby (now almost 5 months) is EXACTLY the same. I really, truly, feel and understand what you are going through. There are a few other mommies on these boards as well who also have babies like this and I'm hopeful they will chime in.

    It sounds to me like you are doing everything you can. I don't know why some babies are like this. I think the best thing you can do is those "dreamfeeds" when he is sleepy or asleep, and keep gently offering throughout the day. You said you've tried different positions, but have you tried nursing in a sling? I had some luck with this when DD was your LO's age. I could get her drowsy or asleep in the sling and then easily shift her to a nursing position. Or even an upright carrier, like an Ergo or something, may help.

    I can't say I have any magic solution for you. Shortly after this started with my DD I went back to work so she gets bottles of my milk all day at daycare anyways. Since then, I have been successful "dreamfeeding" her before I go to bed, then once during the night, then once right before I get up and in the shower for the day (when she is still sleeping).

    Just keep in mind that babies change so much, so quickly, at this age. I've not given up hope that my DD will start to nurse "normally" again.

    Hang in there. Try not to stress as that will just make things worse. Keep us posted and feel free to PM me if you need to vent!!
    Blessed with DS - born 9/2/09 - nursed/pumped for 12 months
    Blessed with DD - born 3/27/12 my dreamfeeder

    903 ounces donated.
    http://www.wakemed.org/landing.cfm?id=135

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    5,606

    Default Re: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any h

    It sounds like you have tried many ideas, i would suggest keep trying them. What did not work today may work tomorrow.

    Some babies get highly distractible somewhere around 2-5 months. its a challenge, but it is usually temporary. Certainly it is no reason to stop nursing. This kellymom article you have probably read but here it is anyway. http://kellymom.com/bf/concerns/child/back-to-breast/

    I would also suggest that if you have been giving baby a pacifier, swaddling baby for sleep, or giving bottles, to stop those practices or at least cut back until this resolves. These all encourage self soothing rather than soothing at the breast. A baby who soothes at the breast nurses more.

    I would also suggest some babies pick up on moms mood/tension and may react to that. You said:
    Up to now he's been gaining weight very well as he was feeding every 1-2 hours during the days. I was actually thinking of putting him on a feeding schedule because he seemed to snack throughout the day and night. But I'm afraid his weight gain will stop or slow down now that he's not eating as regularly and have noticed less wet and dirty nappies the past few days when this has been going on really severely. I'm also afraid my milk will dry up if he stops feeding so frequently, and he often doesn't even empty one breast before coming off screaming and refusing more. I am really distressed and worried. Please if you have any advice I would really appreciate it, I would not like to give up breastfeeding yet.
    Let me reassure you that it entirely normal for a baby this age to 'snack' and nurse extremely frequently. babies this age could nurse anywhere from 8-16 or more times a day, and its normal. (less than 8 would probably not be enough for most babies) Babies nurse for comfort and connection as well as food. Frequent nursing is not a reason to put a baby on a schedule, in fact it is typically not a good idea to schedule a breastfed baby. Scheduling feedings is an idea that arose after the widespread introduction of formula. It is not natural or healthy, and in fact, it is now being recommended that even bottle fed babies be cue fed.

    On the other hand, i would not worry overmuch about you milk supply due to babies current behavior. your baby may naturally be moving toward a less frequent nursing pattern, which may or may not be temporary. But as long as your baby continues to nurse when baby wants, and at least 8 times in 24 hours, your supply should be ok. At this age, poopy diapers may well become much less frequent, that is normal. Even wets may be less frequent but as long as there are no signs of dehydration such as concentrated, dark pee, you are fine. You can tell baby is getting enough by typical weight checks and by watching baby. By now you know what a healthy, gaining baby looks like.

    So frequent nursing is not a problem for baby. Where frequent nursing is a problem is when it is a problem for mom. Some moms are told that it is somehow wrong to nurse a baby frequently and so they are stressed about that, thinking they are teaching baby poor habits etc. Other moms limit themselves to only nursing at home, or have to sit down in a special chair to nurse, etc, and so they are very limited in their activities by frequent nursing and so of course begin to feel unhappy with nursing. Other moms are nursing in positions that are uncomfortable, etc. If you have a particular issue with your own comfort or feelings about nursing, i am sure other moms here would have suggestions for you.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any h

    My 6 month old dd has been refusing all feeds awake for almost 4 months now. She started refusing right around the 2.5 month mark. I think our situation was caused by a combination of overactive/forceful letdown and being startled at the breast (i.e: my toddler running in the room SCREAMING and scaring the living daylights out of her on more than one occasion). Anyway, what we have been doing is what workandpump suggested and that is dreamfeeding. I have to walk/bounce/sway dd to sleep before each feed and then slip my nipple in her mouth and she will feed while sleeping. For most of the feeds, I have to walk around with her....for some reason, even while sleeping she can sense if I try to sit down. All this is done in my darkened bedroom with white noise blasting. My 2 boys know that if I am in the bedroom feeding dd not to bother me unless someone is bleeding or dying LOL. No real answers for you mama. Just wanted to chime in that you are not alone. I helps to come on these forums and vent/ask questions. Good luck!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any h

    thank you all so much for your replies! things have been going much better today and yesterday so i've been wanting to share my news but it's hard to have even a moment of peace with a hyper alert baby... even now i'm typing with one hand!

    it was really helpful to hear that there are others going through the same thing and that it could just be distractibility, not necessarily something i've done wrong to put him off the breast. i think it really gave me more patience to work with it.

    worknpump, good on you for dealing with this for so long and managing to pump despite working full time. i haven't tried nursing in a sling, i have a ring sling and a moby so i'll give those a try today. movement definitely calms him and just now i got him latched on simply by walking around holding his face a few inches from my breast and talking/singing lightheartedly, as if it's no big deal. of course this doesn't always work if he's upset enough to cry just being close to the breast. but eventually he got closer and began licking the nipple, i did nothing to help, he just latched on himself while still awake. i had also squeezed out a tiny bit of milk to tempt him.

    yesterday i had similar success with squeezing out a drop for him to smell/lick but he was still a little drowsy from a nap so i thought that's why it worked. bedtime was a nightmare as even after i got him latched on (while sleepy) he kept pulling off screaming. i think i was low on milk (due to stress maybe, and barely having time to eat myself with trying to feed him all day) and wanted to give him an instant reward for latching, so i got a syringe of expressed milk and put a few drops in the corner of his mouth to sedate him. i'm not sure it worked but he did calm down and fall asleep in the end.

    i know you ladies have probably already tried all the tricks. but today is a major improvement for me from a few days ago and gave me hope that the problem will eventually go away...

    meg, i certainly hope it's temporary! so you think my worrying about him feeding 'too frequently' may have resulted in an aversion? i guess it's possible but i doubt it. i mentioned the feeding schedule thing as an aside... it was something my health visitor said i should try to stretch the times between feedings, but i was doubtful about it anyway. he was feeding about 20 times in 24 hours on average, but he's healthy and happy and gaining weight well so why start messing with that? so i wasn't too worried or unhappy about it even if i could use a little more sleep.

    ryanandjoshsmom, 4 months wow! well done you for doing it with 2 other kids in the house too. i have so much trouble dealing with just the one. i've been racking my brain trying to understand why my baby is doing this. i guess it could be a developmental thing as well since it seems (from my google research) that it often starts around the same time, 2.5months+. is it possible to have forceful letdown without oversupply? i'm pretty sure i don't have too much excess milk but my milk does spray out sometimes and chokes my baby, which might be off-putting to him....

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    504

    Default Re: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any h

    Giving him a little "reward" like you did (a little hand expression or in a syringe) is a good idea when he's really fussy. There's a method called "finish at the breast" (you could google it to read the article) which is the same concept but with a bottle. This works for my babies because they tend to have bottle-preferance. I offer half an ounce in a bottle to get them calm and focused and them switch to nursing to finish the feed. It works sometimes (the key is not to offer too much from the bottle!).
    Blessed with DS - born 9/2/09 - nursed/pumped for 12 months
    Blessed with DD - born 3/27/12 my dreamfeeder

    903 ounces donated.
    http://www.wakemed.org/landing.cfm?id=135

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    504

    Default Re: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any h

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*ryanandjoshsmom View Post
    My 6 month old dd has been refusing all feeds awake for almost 4 months now. She started refusing right around the 2.5 month mark. I think our situation was caused by a combination of overactive/forceful letdown and being startled at the breast (i.e: my toddler running in the room SCREAMING and scaring the living daylights out of her on more than one occasion). Anyway, what we have been doing is what workandpump suggested and that is dreamfeeding. I have to walk/bounce/sway dd to sleep before each feed and then slip my nipple in her mouth and she will feed while sleeping. For most of the feeds, I have to walk around with her....for some reason, even while sleeping she can sense if I try to sit down. All this is done in my darkened bedroom with white noise blasting. My 2 boys know that if I am in the bedroom feeding dd not to bother me unless someone is bleeding or dying LOL. No real answers for you mama. Just wanted to chime in that you are not alone. I helps to come on these forums and vent/ask questions. Good luck!
    DD can also sense when I try to sit down. WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?!?
    Blessed with DS - born 9/2/09 - nursed/pumped for 12 months
    Blessed with DD - born 3/27/12 my dreamfeeder

    903 ounces donated.
    http://www.wakemed.org/landing.cfm?id=135

  8. #8

    Default Re: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any h

    my son has exact same issue and also start from 11th week. I can only feed him when he is half sleeping. he used to drink 4 oz /3 hour, now he can only finish 2~3 oz during half sleeping. if he is very hungry he can still finish 4 oz.

    I started to pump out my milk and bottle feeds him since 6th week, because my breast flow one side is fast and the other side is slow, and we have a hard time when he directly eat from my breast. At first I thought it is my switch from breast to bottle make him angry with me and he stopped eat when he is awake. From your post I know that is not the reason.

    how do you guys solve the problem and how are your babies doing now?

  9. #9

    Default Re: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any h

    considering I bottle feeding breatmilk, and same symptum happends at the same time. I strongly suspect it is the shoot that the baby got at 2 months.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    5,606

    Default Re: Baby will only nurse while asleep/sleepy, is there any h

    Have you considered the possibility your baby does not eat 4 ounces each time because baby is not hungry enough for 4 ounces? 4 ounces is on the high side per feeding.

    The current thinking on bottle feeding is that it should, as much as possible, mimic breastfeeding. So small, frequent feedings, on cue, letting baby take as much at a time as baby wants. Of course, if baby is not cuing often enough, you will have to offer before a cue.

    see this for more- http://www.llli.org/docs/00000000000...fyour_milk.pdf

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