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Breastfeeding for Beginners

Experienced Lactation Consultant  (IBCLC)  & Midwife 

providing breastfeeding support in North Brisbane ​​


Settling Your Baby

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: 

  • Baby may still be hungry
  • Baby may have a dirty or very wet nappy
  • Baby may need to burp
  • Baby may be too cold or too hot  
  • Baby may be unwell - have a raised temperature

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. 

Daily activities: 

  • Talking, singing, reading, playing music and cuddling with baby.
  • Massage - seek an IMIS qualified Infant Massage Instructor and arrange some sessions. Babies are most receptive during their 'quiet alert' phase.
  • Light, movement and bright colours will attract attention. Position baby to watch these changing situations or sit close (about 25cm away) and 'talk' to baby, copying noises and facial expressions made. 
  • Position baby in a pram, in the shade, to watch the outside world or take baby for a walk.
  • Provide supervised 'tummy time' or a period of time without a nappy on to permit freedom of movement and kicking.
  • Give a relaxation bath where baby is able to float in the warm water. This is best given prior to feeding or at least half an hour after feeding.
  • Use mobiles and objects placed about 25cm from baby’s eyes for stimulation.
  • Use a baby sling to carry baby close to you as you perform housework.

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:

  • Pat baby gently on the side near the hip, slowly reducing the rate and strength of the pats
  • Rock the cot gently until baby settles
  • Stroke baby’s head gently 
  • Give a warm relaxation bath
  • Settle on tummy then turn onto back before leaving the room
  • Pat baby gently on the back while on tummy, slowly reducing the rate and strength of the pats
  • Use a warmed wrap and wrap firmly (if not too hot)
  • Take baby for a walk in the pram
  • If baby is frantic cuddle and calm him before trying to settle again
  • Darken the bedroom and maintain subdued lighting during the night
  • Play music – anything with a regular beat seems to work
  • Use a baby sling
  • Consider a short 'top up' feed – often there is a very fine line between being satisfied and being hungry
  • Sleep baby near you at night so that it is easy to give a reassuring pat to settle