The Sleepy Newborn

Should your baby be very sleepy in the first few hours after birth, you could:

  • express a little of your colostrum onto a clean teaspoon and give it to your baby.
  • Even a few drops of colostrum are valuable to your baby – colostrum is concentrated and contains exactly what your baby needs.
  • keep your baby skin-to-skin throughout this time.
  • continue giving expressed colostrum to your baby often, every hour or two, depending on how much colostrum you are able to express, until your baby breastfeeds well.

Your Newborn Baby’s Feeding Cues

Learning to understand your newborn baby’s cues allows you to respond to her needs, to feed her at an optimal time and not wait until she is crying before feeding her.

A baby will show long before she starts crying that she is ready to feed, giving you the opportunity to feed your baby while she is calm.

Missing the cues and waiting until the baby is crying heartily may mean your baby your baby is not able to latch and feed successfully despite being hungry.

An example of how a newborn baby may behave on wakening:

  • She tends to stretch then wriggle and squirm.
  • If left alone she will become more restless then turn her head from side to side and put her fingers or fists into her mouth.
  • If left alone for longer she begins to make little noises
  • if ignored, the noises become louder and louder and eventually develop into a full bellowed cry.

The best time to feed your baby:

  • Is when she indicates to you that she is hungry by turning her head from side to side and putting her fingers or fists into her mouth.
  • Leaving her to cry loudly may be too late, as she would need to be settled before you could feed her.

The quiet alert time:

  • The so called quiet alert time, when your baby has just woken or, after her feed when she is still awake but very calm, is a good time to massage, bath or just enjoy spending time communicating with your baby.
My son was born at 27 weeks with weight 985gr. He needed milk. I was unable to give him breastmilk.
Thank you very much to the donors who donated breast milk. It really saved my sons life.
Edith M., Mother of a baby who received donor breastmilk - Cape Town

Indications that your baby is feeding well in the first few days

  • She feeds well 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.
  • She sleeps well between feeds.
  • You do not have painful nipples.
  • She has at least 6 wet nappies a day.
  • The urine is pale in colour and has a mild odour.
  • She must have at least 4 dirty nappies a day.
  • She comes off the breast in her own time when satisfied.

Self Attachment

‘Self-attachment’ is the term used to describe a newborn baby’s ability to crawl up the mother’s abdomen to the breast and start breastfeeding without any assistance.

Babies are hard-wired to breastfeed!

Self-attachment is possible when:

  • The baby is a healthy newborn baby.
  • The mother and baby have not been separated.
  • The mother has not had any pain relief during labour.
  • Mother and baby are given sufficient uninterrupted time together – this process can take 50 minutes or longer.

The time the baby spends ‘self-attaching’ is a precious time when both mother and baby start to learn about each other.

Babies who “self-attach” run into far fewer breastfeeding problems.


WHO, UNICEF, CPS breastfeeding til 2 yrs +...
The World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Canadian Pediatric Society, among others, recommend breastfeeding for at least two years, and beyond, as long as both the mother and child desire. What should be more individualized than a childhood, and a mother/child relationship? There is no evidence that continued breastfeeding is harmful nor that it is advantageous to wean a child before he is ready.

Trusting Your Instincts

It can be difficult to trust your instincts as a new and perhaps first time mother, especially if you are receiving conflicting advice from hospital staff, family or friends. Take note of your instincts though – they are valuable.

Some examples:

  • In some hospitals, it is not unusual to have a doctor or nurse tells you that you must rest and want to put your baby in the nursery while you do so. If your instinct says “no”, don’t be bullied into doing it.
  • If your instinct says “breastfeed my baby” then do so, ignoring out-dated and incorrect advice to limit how long a baby feeds at each breast, or to stick to a specific schedule for feeding.
  • If your instincts tell you something is wrong, then consult your clinic sister or doctor. Mothers are often the first to pick up that a baby is ill, not thriving or that something is wrong – good doctors or nurses respect a mother’s instinct. If there is no problem after all, then it is still worth having gone to set your mind at rest.
No matter how much milk I managed to donate (which at times wasn’t much) it was gratefully received by Milk Matters.
They were also very helpful and organised, making the whole process really smooth and painless. I definitely plan to donate again in the future.
Leigh M., Breastmilk Donor – Kirstenhof