Does your newborn need to eat more at each feeding? Learn how to stop baby from snacking on the breast and take a full feeding.
Your new baby seems to be a “snacker.”
She might eat for five minutes at a time but falls asleep at the breast or dribbles milk as she sucks. She wants to breastfeed all day instead of every few hours. With this feeding pattern, you’re worried she’s still not getting enough milk, and that you’re encouraging bad habits of frequent daytime feeds and short sleep.
This “snack feeding” also makes it difficult for you to have any sort of life apart from breastfeeding. And of course, bedtime and nighttime sleep are difficult when she wakes up every hour at night to eat—for a mere five minutes, of course.
How can you get her to eat more when she refuses to do so for very long?
How to stop your baby from snacking on the breast
If you’re in the early weeks of the newborn stage, here’s the first thing I’ll say: snacking on the breast is pretty common.
This is why we hear about feeding on demand, especially since breastmilk digests quickly and newborns have small stomachs. You’re increasing your breast milk supply and ensuring her healthy growth (she may even be going through a growth spurt).
And if you think about it, your baby had a constant flow of nutrients when she was in the womb not too long ago.
If you’re worried she isn’t gaining enough weight, a check-up with the pediatrician can ease your mind. And more than likely, you can lengthen her feeding sessions and stretch her sleep the older she gets.
All that said, is there anything you can do to encourage her to eat more at each feeding session, especially over time?
To start, check with your pediatrician and lactation consultant for professional advice. They know your situation best and can customize a plan that works for you. Then, take a look at these tips to gradually stretch her feedings throughout the day and at night:
1. Keep your baby awake during feedings
I thought I found the best secret when I realized that feedings often left my baby fast asleep soon after. “Now I know how to always make him fall asleep!” I said triumphantly.
Except this method had its drawbacks, from creating unsustainable sleep habits to being a human pacifier. And of course, falling asleep usually meant short and frequent feeding sessions.
Instead, try to keep your baby awake and alert during feedings. That way, you’re certain that she’s eating and swallowing and that she eats as long as possible. Stroke her cheek, burp her and switch sides, even change her diaper.
If she still falls asleep, gently wake her up and latch once again to see if she’s willing to keep feeding.
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2. Feed your baby after wake-up time
Part of the reason your baby snoozes so easily from nursing is that the suckling motion lulls her to sleep. She loves being close to you and might rely on you as a simple way to fall asleep.
But another reason could be her feeding schedule, especially if you feed her right before nap time. She’s already so sleepy by then that feedings could be cut short because she’d rather sleep.
Instead, try feeding her after she wakes up, not to fall asleep. For instance, the first feeding can happen after she wakes up for the day. Keep her awake for playtime, then, as nap time draws near, encourage her to sleep without needing a feed.
Feed her after she wakes up from the nap, and repeat the cycle with playtime and another nap. By feeding her after waking up, you run less of a risk that she might fall asleep mid-feed.
3. Entertain your baby
Want to stretch your baby’s wake time between feedings? See what happens if you find more ways to keep him entertained. There’s a chance that he could be eating frequently simply because of boredom.
Now, if you see hunger cues, then you should feed him. After all, at this stage, we want to feed on demand, not on our schedule. But sometimes you can delay the fussing (and your inclination to feed as a way to soothe that fussiness) by entertaining him instead.
Make a list of his favorite activities, from lying on the play mat to being carried around the house. Make faces at him or play peek-a-boo. Lay him under the mobile or read a book. You may be able to stretch that wake time long enough and, in doing so, the next feeding session as well.
4. Offer a pacifier
Does it seem like she nurses as a way to pacify herself? Check with her pediatrician or your lactation consultant about offering a pacifier.
You might be able to break the habit of frequent feedings by offering a pacifier instead, especially when it feels like she just ate not too long ago. She might be needing a way to soothe and suck, which a pacifier can help with.
5. Don’t compare your baby to others
The worst feeling is hearing about other breastfed babies the same age as yours (or even younger) who are already eating and feeding in longer hour stretches. You assume that you’re doing something wrong, or that you’re setting yourselves up for sleepless nights.
Remember that all babies truly are different. Just as some toddlers, kids, and adults have small appetites or snack frequently, so too do babies. And your baby might take longer to find her rhythm, which you should respect and cater to at this stage.
And if you’re worried you might never sleep, you always have the option to sleep train down the line when she’s older and with your pediatrician’s recommendation. Bear with the frequent feedings and short bursts of sleep for now, knowing it’s only temporary.
There’s no doubt about it: cluster feeding at night or throughout the day is not easy on any mom. You want to make sure your baby takes a full feeding instead of grazing, yet she seems to want to breastfeed constantly. Even when she does, she falls asleep within minutes. How can you get her to eat more at each feeding?
Make sure she’s awake during feedings, as this makes her more likely to eat than simply suck. Feed her after she wakes up, instead of as a way to fall asleep so that she’s less sleepy when she eats. Stretch her wake time by keeping her entertained, especially if you suspect she’s fussy out of boredom.
Offer a pacifier as an alternative to using you to soothe herself. And finally, stop comparing her to other babies whom you already hear are feeding in long stretches. Every baby develops differently, and you can always teach her to self soothe when she’s out of the newborn stage.
Hang in there, mama! You and your little “snacker” can be out of the woods soon.
Get more tips:
- 4 Reasons Your Baby Never Seems Satisfied After Breastfeeding
- How to Survive the First Weeks with a Newborn and Toddler
- Why Dads Should Wake Up for Night Feeds
- When Does Breastfeeding Stop Hurting?
- Burping a Newborn After Breastfeeding: Necessary or Not?
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