Cluster Feeding and How To Cope With It

The Boob Group – Coping with Cluster Feedings

Why this podcast?
This podcast falls under the New Mommy Media umbrella and its sister podcasts include Preggie Pals, Newbies and Twin Talks.

A panel of women and, usually, a guest expert, delve into a specific topic in a chatty, fun way that still provides good information in a very accessible way.

There are some commercials but you can just zoom through those with a click or two.

Why this episode?
I belong to a few pregnancy and baby groups and often see parents wondering what’s going on when their baby suddenly wants to eat way more often.

Many people question whether they have enough milk or simply find it super challenging to be attached to their baby around the clock.

I love that this episode not only reassures us that this kind of pattern is very normal but throws us some great coping strategies too.

The episode
The guest expert on this episode is Rose deVigne-Jackiewicz, a top Lactation Consultant in San Diego, California. Rose shares that cluster feeding is one of the most common reasons new parents get in touch with her.

People are concerned that their milk supply is too low, that their baby is not able to get enough milk out, they wonder if they need to supplement with formula and at the same time are getting all kinds of advice from well-meaning family and friends.

It’s a lot to deal with when you’re still getting used to having this brand new little person living with you.

Knowing the age of the baby, how often they are feeding, how many wet and dirty nappies they produce, if they are gaining weight and when they tend to want to feed constantly helps Rose get a good idea of whether the baby is cluster feeding and if it is within the range of normal.

Why do babies cluster feed?
I appreciate that Rose acknowledges that various experts will answer this question in various ways and that actually, we don’t really know for sure.

Cluster feeding often happens in the evening and it’s thought that this is linked to the baby’s awake time.

Some people feel that a baby cluster feeds to boost their parent’s milk supply or fill up before a longer sleep at night.

Others feel that the cluster feeds simply coincide with a baby’s fussy time and that they just need that extra comfort and closeness that nursing brings.

Growth spurts can also be a reason for cluster feeding as can reflux.

Less common reasons include a dip in milk supply or the baby reacting negatively to something their parent ate and nursing for comfort.

When should you be concerned?
If your baby is really eating all of the time (every hour) and not just cluster feeding at certain times of the day, that could be a reason to see your doctor.

I love that Rose encourages her clients to listen to their intuition. Trust that you know your baby and if you feel like something is not quite right, reach out.

Much of the time your baby’s feeding activity will be totally normal but it never hurts to talk to an expert and get that reassurance.

What are some ways to cope?
Rose begins with the most basic but not necessarily the easiest way – if your baby is sleeping, you should be too (or at least resting).

Other good ways to handle cluster feeding include:

Give yourself that extra time to nurse
Cut back on, let go of or delegate as much as you possibly can.

Wear your baby
This allows your baby a lot of the comfort they may be seeking through all that extra nursing.
They are close to you and can hear and smell you as well as being comforted by your movement.
Plus, your hands are free to get some stuff done if you want to.

A change of scene
Head out for a walk or even just have your partner hold your baby for a while.

Baby massage

Nurse lying down
If you have not mastered this yet I highly encourage you to do so.
You can really rest or even nap while your baby nurses. Check LaLeche League’s Safe Sleep 7 for safe bed-sharing.

Let go of any feed schedules
This is simply a time when your baby needs you more.

Ok, this one is huge. Ready?

Anticipate it, surrender to it and just enjoy all that extra love and cuddling. It won’t last forever.

Should I just give them a bottle?
As long as your baby is gaining weight and producing enough wet and dirty nappies then it’s probably best not to. If you are experiencing low supply, introducing formula means your baby will breastfeed less often and your supply will drop further rather than increase.

It is also thought that introducing a bottle, even a bottle of breastmilk, too early, can interfere with a baby’s ability to fully establish breastfeeding.

I’m happy that Rose reassures us however, that if a new parent needs a break, an occasional bottle, preferably of expressed breastmilk, is fine.

To wrap up
Jackie and the panel also discuss whether or not new parents should be scheduling or timing feeds, delve a bit more into the area of growth spurts and various panel members share their own experience of cluster feeding.

Whether your baby has already arrived or you are expecting, I encourage you and your partner to listen to this episode and maybe even share it with those well-meaning family and friends!

What was your experience of cluster feeding? How did you move through it?

I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time!

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By emilywills

Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.

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