Q: My three week old baby keeps falling asleep while I’m breastfeeding. Should I try to keep him awake?
A: In theory, you shouldn’t need to wake your baby for feeds. This applies whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding – a baby should suck as much as he needs.
That said, babies born premature aren’t always adept at sucking. This reflex may not be fully developed, so they may need waking during feeds. This especially applies to babies born around 32-35 weeks. If this is the case, however, the hospital should have already given you advice about feeds.
Sometimes a baby falls asleep during a feed because he’s just so comfortable and secure. This is probably more likely to happen if you’re breastfeeding. One way of finding out if your baby is getting enough nourishment is to weigh him. If he’s growing as expected, then all is well. Your health visitor can advise you on the specifics of his progress, as individuals babies differ.
You may find that he’s falling asleep at feeding time is just temporary as he evolves his own sleep-wake cycle. Meanwhile, you could try waking him gently during a feed when he falls asleep, especially if you have any concerns about growth. Sometimes a nappy change is enough to rouse him into finishing his feed.
Whatever you do, don’t wake him roughly or forcefully, and of course, never shake him.
Q: I am considering taking our daughter on a long-haul flight (about 11 hours) when she will be three months old. Are there any health risks to a baby that young?
A: Young babies often cope well with long flights because they have what matters most to them – their mum. But if you’re headed where hygiene isn’t great then you may have problems once you arrive, if only in terms of finding a clean place to feed and change her. There may be infectious diseases to think about, too, as she won’t have had all her immunisations.
On the plane, your baby will not have her own seat, so ask for a bassinet seat (‘sky cot’). That way you won’t have her on your lap for the entire trip. It’s a good idea to breastfeed or give her a bottle while gaining height and just before landing, as the pressure changes can affect young eardrums and cause intense pain. Sucking keeps the Eustacian tubes (they lead from the throat to the middle ear) open and therefore reduces the risk of earache. Babies under six months tend not to suffer from travel sickness. However, they can still throw up without notice, as every parent knows, so dress for comfort!
Take plenty of nappies and spare baby clothes for the journey and possible delays. If you’re bottle-feeding, take ready-made bottles. The journey is just the beginning, and there are other things to consider, like car seats at your destination. However, if you are well prepared then you’ll both be able to cope with the trip.
Q: My husband spent the first two weeks at home with me and our new baby, which was great, but now he’s gone back to work I’m finding things exhausting on my own. Help!
A: First, don’t feel bad. You’re not going to be able to do all the things you did before the baby arrived. Cut out all non-essential chores, and enlist any help you can. If a neighbour says, ‘Anything I can do?’ be ready with a list, and when visitors call, make sure they look after you. Spend time with your baby, but when she naps, put your feet up too. Make sure you eat well, as a good diet will give you vital energy, and ask your GP if you could be anaemic. Go out somewhere with your baby every day to help give days structure, and plan for when you’re able to leave your baby with a sitter for an evening with your husband. You’ll soon find life easier. If things don’t improve, however, see your GP, as you could be sliding into postnatal depression.