My daughter was born 5 weeks premature and spent 5 days in the NICU, where several days of consecutive weight gains were a prerequisite for going home, so she’s been on bottles since day 1 to help minimize weight loss/get her gaining. Now she’s 4 weeks old and we’re still really struggling to breastfeed. The problem I run into is that as soon as I put her to the breast if the flow isn’t gushing she just falls asleep, until I put her down and then she screams because she’s hungry. We just went through this cycle over and over for an hour before I gave in and gave her a bottle, which she took no problem with her eyes wide open. No amount of tickling or diaper changes or breast compression seems to help and both lactation specialists I’ve seen have told me I’m doing everything right and keep trying it’ll just take time. One told me to stop pumping/cut back bottles, but her doctors are still so focused on weight gain that I worry if I do that it will spur more interventions, potentially land her back to the hospital if she stops gaining, and jeopardize my supply (which has been great so far), so I’m definitely not going to do that.
Looking for any tips on feeding drowsy babies. If we continue like this much longer I may switch to EPing, since trying to get her to take the breast has been an immense source of stress, but I have plenty of supply and she loves her bottles.
nectarine / 2000 posts
My DD was born almost a month early and was so sleepy. We had to wake her for almost all feeds in the beginning. The advice we got was to get her slightly chilly while feeding. We would strip her down to just a diaper. And occasionally, if she was really sleepy, put a cool, damp washcloth on her. It felt a little harsh but it made a huge difference in keeping her awake. Also, constantly stroking her cheek/jaw area to encourage swallowing.
clementine / 828 posts
I have always had drowsy small babies and definitely struggled to keep them awake and focused. Second the tips above, also try diaper changes between sides or after first round of nursing to get them fully awake, and I find gentle blowing on the ears can help keep them chugging, as well as tickling feet while they’re eating.
apricot / 341 posts
When I did combo feed one LC advised me let him drink the bottle for a couple sips. Then take it away for a couple of seconds and then back again for a few sips. This was to mimic the more natural flow of breast milk. The issue as your experiencing is that bottle = faster food and some babies grow to prefer that.
When your LO falls asleep on the breast does she break the latch to? Or does she stay latched on? If she's staying latched on she'll keep dream feeding until she's done and will break the latch. My daughter still does this at a year old.
Because she's a preemie I hesitate to mention this as none of my babies were but if your waking her every two hours to feed and she falls back asleep stop waking her. She'll wake when she's hungry and nurse then. I was so stressed about this with my son and fighting a sleeping baby and worried about weight gain... well he just wasnt an every two hour eater. More like three. Nursing got much better after that. With my daughter I never did the every two hour thing and feed her on demand. Both babies are chunky monsters so they were getting plenty of food. But again as she's a preemie you may want to talk to your LC or doctors about that.
persimmon / 1404 posts
@catgirl: Thanks, we strip her to her diaper for every feed, and DH will occasionally rub her feet or face with a wipe when he’s around, but I could set her on a wash cloth, too.
@nwm: Thanks! We’ve been doing the diaper change at the beginning to make sure she at least starts out fully awake, but could probably open it back up again in the middle, too. Tickling definitely is a temporary fix for her, but I’ve never tried blowing in her ear.
@RKitty: Changing how we give bottles is definitely a thought. No one had mentioned that to us yet, but I could see how that would help. She doesn’t immediately break the latch when she falls asleep, but she also doesn’t eat. She’ll occasionally comfort suck, but mostly just lays there until she gets annoyed enough that I’m pestering her and scrunches up and buries her face in my chest (it’s really cute). We also aren’t feeding every two hours, instead waiting for her to start stretching/cooing and letting her go up to 4 hours before waking her up, since that was the protocol in the NICU. The pediatrician isn’t thrilled but since baby is hitting her weight gain targets she’s told us it’s OK. Totally agree with you that when we try to wake her it makes everything worse. But I also feel like the time between feeds is part of the problem since I imagine she’s more hungry after 3 or 4 hours than she would be after 2, but when we’ve woken her at 2 or 2 1/2 it’s totally hopeless.
pea / 11 posts
I used to gently grab and pump my son’s leg to prevent him from falling asleep.
grapefruit / 4291 posts
How many ounces of supplement is she having in 24 hours? Could it be possible that she’s just not that hungry? EBF babies will generally eat somewhere between 20 and 36 ounces of breastmilk in a 24 hour period (some will eat more) so perhaps slowly reducing the number of ounces she’s getting from the bottle might help encourage her to nurse?
nectarine / 2987 posts
I had a preemie and agree with the horrid washcloth trick. I would put a damp washcloth next to me so it wasn't touching me since that would warm it. Wipe it over baby's feet and back when baby got snoozy. Then set it down so it didn't get warm, repeat. We had to feed every three hours starting from the beginning of feeds, but if she's gaining fine I wouldn't change your frequency. My compromise to encourage weight gain and not lose my mind was I did all pumped milk at night so that it was quick and easy, and worked my way up one feed at a time to all nursing during the day. This worked really well for us and I was eventually able to drop all the bottles. I mostly kept the bedtime one so that he wouldn't ever lose the ability to take a bottle but eventually I no longer had to pump if I didn't want to.
kiwi / 543 posts
We had a sleepy baby too, and the lactation consultant had us strip her down to just the diaper, and put her on her tummy in the floor and rub her (husband did this part). While she was feeding I would tickle her arm or foot and blow on her. If she fell asleep, my husband took her back to the floor for rubbing again.
I'm sorry you're going through this. Another thought, my friend who had to supplement with bottles was told to do pace bottle feeding (Google it) which also slows down the bottle flow.
Hang in there! You got it!!
persimmon / 1475 posts
I agree with all the tips posted above. But I wanted to add that if nursing is stressing you out and not working as well as bottles, exclusively pumping can be a great choice. So many of us here and with my friends IRL got focused on nursing or avoiding formula or something similar to the point of being stressed out or missing out on bonding time and pretty much everyone, in hindsight, wishes we had just done what was working and not as stressful. Whatever you choose will end up being ok for your DD.
pear / 1565 posts
Would it help if you just have a hand held manual pump, and you latch her on when you're about to or are letting down?
Other than that, just really all the "cold" tricks. I've had all winter babies so I did all the stripping down/tickling tricks.
grapefruit / 4464 posts
stripping down to diaper, tickling toes, and stroking jaw all helped us somewhat....