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Are you waking up feeling exhausted?
Is your newborn nursing every hour?
Do your nipples feel like they’re going to fall off?
Welcome my friend! You have just entered the wonderful realm of cluster feeding. Where moms experience sleepless nights, sore boobs, and fussy infants who nurse all night long. Yes, coping with a cluster feeding newborn can be hard.
Indeed, I have experienced cluster feedings with both children. With my first child, I had been struggling with breastfeeding in the first few days. So when I experienced the newborn cluster feedings, I immediately worried about low supply and if my baby was getting enough milk.
However, after consulting with my lactation consultant, she reassured me that baby was just cluster feeding and everything I was experiencing was normal. With the second child, I already knew what to expect, so the process was a lot smoother.
That is to say, I’m cringing just thinking about it. I don’t know how I made it through those days, but I did. For the most part, it’s exhausting and it makes you feel like you’re failing or doing something wrong.
It’s your first test at motherhood, starting promptly on day 3 for the lucky moms like myself. Yep, just a few days after birth. The first night in our humble abode was a long one with a cluster feeding newborn.
Luckily, I had experience with babies, so I had a few tools to use to comfort my baby. But many new moms might find it overwhelming. Let’s explore some things about cluster feeding and then cover ways to cope.
What is Cluster Feeding?
Cluster feeding is when a baby reduces the amount of time in between feedings. In other words, they start to nurse in continuous batches.
These batches occur more at certain times of the day. For example, many women say their baby cluster feeds more in the evenings and at night.
Along the same lines, baby may have a period where they aren’t interested in feeding and then shift to wanting to be fed very frequently.
For example, you may have figured out that your baby usually eats every 2-3 hours. Well, with cluster feeding your baby may eat every 30 mins or every hour. Also, you may notice baby may want to stay at the breast for longer periods.
Why do babies cluster feed?
There are a couple of reasons as to why this occurs. Honestly, these theories are similar. I agree with them both. When you think about it, they both make sense. One is a physical leap and the other a developmental leap.
First, it’s believed that it’s because babies are going through a growth spurt. As a result, their body is requiring more milk than normal to keep up with growing demands.
The second theory suggests baby is experiencing a developmental leap. In particular, baby is experiencing changes within the world they knew.
Suddenly, everything is amplified and different. It can be so overwhelming for them. For this reason, they grasp on to someone that they feel safe to cope with the changes.
How long does cluster feeding last?
This varies depending on the child. Cluster feeding can usually last for 2-3 days to a week. However, if your baby is cluster feeding and doesn’t appear to be gaining any weight, appears to be having pain, or not many wet and poopy diapers. Then contact your pediatrician or your lactation consultant. Your baby may have another issue occurring. You can find a local lactation consultant through your local la leche league.
How to stop cluster feeding?
I wouldn’t focus on stopping the cluster feedings. It’s normal. Just let your baby nurse when they want. It’s just how it is. You’ll get through it, it doesn’t last long.
It’s important to realize that they’re going through a growth spurt or enduring a developmental leap. As a result, they’re overwhelmed with the world around them.
For instance, can you imagine going to sleep for a nap and waking up and not know where you are? Every stimulus around you has intensified. If I was a newborn the only place I would want to be is somewhere safe.
Indeed, the safest place a newborn knows is with mom, at the breasts. They find comfort in listening to her heartbeat, hearing her voice, and being engulfed by her smells.
When baby’s days of cluster feeding end, you’ll be surprised to see baby may have mastered a new developmental skill.
When do babies cluster feed?
Here are some cluster feeding ages where you can expect to notice some signs of cluster feeding and fussiness.
7-10 days after birth
Do I need to supplement my cluster feeding newborn with formula?
No, please don’t. It will reduce your milk supply and create more issues when baby is running their nursing marathon. That is to say, just let your baby nurse when they desire. Notably, nursing like crazy will increase your milk production.
Does cluster feeding mean that I have a low milk supply?
No, cluster feeding doesn’t prove that you have low milk supply. If a baby is cluster feeding, yet he is still gaining weight, he’s okay. Also, if a baby is cluster feeding and having a normal amount of wet and poopy diapers then he’s okay as well. Nevertheless, if your concerned if your baby is getting enough I urge you to contact your pediatrician to be sure.
Do formula-fed babies cluster feed?
Yes, formula-fed babies do cluster feed.
Signs that something is wrong?
- Baby isn’t gaining weight but is nursing frequently
- You notice baby has fever
- Low amount of daily wet and poopy diapers
How to cope with a cluster feeding newborn?
- Get help, utilize your village. This time can be very demanding. Don’t be afraid to say ” I need help, can you take the baby for 30 mins, while I take a break”.
- Reduce environmental stimuli.
- Be creative in your soothing techniques. A few times, my husband utilized the driving around method. If you have a baby that likes motion, then this will work for sure.
- Eat and Stay hydrated. Self-care is important. It will keep your milk supply up and keep you from becoming crabby patty.
- Babywear your baby.
- Learn your baby’s “I’m hungry” cues.
- Try music or white noise.
There are some speculated reasons why newborns cluster feed. However, both the reasons suggested above appear to be reasonable. The most important thing is that you remain patient and focus on meeting your newborn needs as much as you can. Truly, they’re just learning to cope with their new skills and discovering the world around them. They will need your love, kisses, and extra cuddles.
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What are your best tips for coping with a cluster feeding newborn? Comment below.