"What's My Baby Doing?" Mom Wonders

Maria came into this world and bit sooner than expected. Maria was born by emergency c-section two weeks early when her mom started to bleed during early labor. Although she was a nice 7 lbs 3 ounces at birth, her entrance into the world a few weeks early presented her with a few extra challenges.

Maria seemed to "never know what she is doing," her mom explained. She would fuss and appear ready to eat. She'd get to the breast, take a few sucks, then fall back asleep. Mom's breasts were full, so she would pump while Maria slept. Maria would wake up in forty-five minutes, cry inconsolably, and Mom would have to give the pumped milk since her breasts had not filled up again. In one hour the process started again. Mom's milk supply was down, the baby seemed hungry, and Mom's nipples were sore. It was time to stop this downward cycle before Mom gave up on breastfeeding.

Mom's story suggested a baby who had not yet developed clear "Resting" and "Ready" Zones It is common for a baby born early to need his mom's help to figure out whether she is really awake or asleep. In addition to needing this help, Maria was also a baby with VERY active, "Active Sleep," which was being misunderstood by her mom as waking up to eat.

I had hoped to see this behavior in action, and I wasn't disappointed. As Mom and I spoke, Maria started to stir on the exam table. She cried suddenly and began to jerk her arms about but never opened her eyes. Since she had just eaten one hour before, I swaddled her and spoke quietly to her instead of putting her immediately to Mom's breast. She squirmed and fussed for a full five minutes. Then Maria relaxed and fell back into a deep, peaceful sleep for another hour and a half. Now she stirred again and repeated his performance. However, this time Mom swaddled her and spoke quietly to her, she calmed down, opened her eyes, and started to root around. She was now in the "Ready Zone," ready to eat. Mom put her to her breast, where she nursed a full twenty minutes and became calm and content as she gazed up at her mother.

It's normal for new parents to feel confused as they attempt to read an infant's early body language. However, learning to help a baby in "Active Sleep" calm back down and sleep a bit longer can be crucial for breastfeeding success. As Maria's mom practiced what we had discovered together, her supply of breast milk increased, her baby thrived, and she settled into a new comfort zone herself. Mom's timely action to help her child organize her sleep and wake cycles will really pay off in the months ahead.

© HUG Your Baby 2012