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Hungry babies are usually unsettled babies and that is why 'baby led' or 'demand' feeding is recommended. Responding to baby's cues also encourages a good milk supply and ensures desirable growth by your baby. During the first six months babies feed, on average, eleven times a day and should complete each feed within sixty minutes if attachment is good and supply adequate.
If your baby fails to settle after feeding consider some simple possibilities first:
Good attachment and good supply should ensure that baby’s hunger needs are met. Alternate the starting breast and be sure baby drains the first breast thoroughly before offering the second breast. (Refer to Breastfeeding Tips and Feeding Cues on this site.)
Babies will not settle if they are uncomfortable so always change the nappy prior to feeding and check it again before settling. As newborns are unable to shiver or sweat it is important to dress them appropriately for the conditions. They will be more sensitive to heat and cold than adults. Some babies prefer to be wrapped securely when settled while others fight until their arms are free. Try firm wrapping initially as it replicates being in the womb and prevents sporadic arm movements (caused by the Moro or startle reflex) which often disturb the sleeping baby for the first few months. (Refer to Safe Sleeping on this site for further sleeping information.)
A circadian rhythm is usually evident from about six weeks of age and babies have a 50:50 relationship between active sleep and quiet sleep. Their sleep cycles last up to about fifty minutes (much shorter that adults). It is advisable to take some extra time settling a baby until they are more deeply asleep before leaving them alone.
During the first few weeks of life babies sleep most of the time between feeds but after that their need for sleep lessens. They may not settle immediately following feeds or they may wake sooner than usual. Play time can be commenced at this stage. Set aside time for play during the day, either before or following a feed, but don’t encourage play at night. New babies usually tire after being awake for about an hour. Aim to spend about two hours on feeding and playtime by the time baby is three months old. Avoid really long day sleeps and instead, encourage play time.
Overtired babies do not sleep well and are hard to settle. Babies often grizzle or cry when put down to sleep and individual variations are sometimes extreme. Repetitive soothing seems to work most effectively. Some techniques to try include: