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Cluster Feeding And The Breastfeeding Blues

Serge snapped this yesterday amidst yet another cluster feeding.

I knew this would happen.  Quit my job to stay at home and be a freelance writer so I could spend time with my kids and end up feeling like I spend less quality time with them than ever.  I know that’s not true, but my days are filled with chaos.  We’re on a schedule and all but jamming everything into the schedule is making my head spin.

I write most of these Babble posts in between feeding Violet, breastfeeding Henry, cleaning the house, bathing both kids and several other internet-related projects I’m working on.  Then I need to get the damn dogs walked and by the time we get home Violet is ready to nap and I don’t feel like I’ve spent any time with her at all.

Then there’s Henry, the human vacuum.  The kid wants to eat constantly!  The pediatrician mentioned cluster feeding when I brought it up at his two month check-up (he weighs 11 pounds!).  It’s when babies space feeding closer together at certain times of the day and go longer between feedings at other times. This is very common, and often occurs in the evenings. It’s often -but not always- followed by a longer sleep period than usual: baby may be “tanking up” before a long sleep.

That’s not really the case with Henry.  Seems like he’s “tanking up” all the time.  I can feed him for a long time and the kid is literally crying the next hour because he’s hungry.  I’ll be honest, yesterday I’d reached my limit and had Serge give him a bottle of formula.  It feels like he is constantly attached to my chest.  Henry, I mean.  Not Serge (he only wishes!)  I know, that probably sounds terrible.  It’s not that I don’t love breastfeeding, it’s been great, but there are times when I need to get stuff done and I can’t because he wants to hang out at the milk bar all damn day.

Just now while typing this I googled cluster feeding and it made me feel tons better because it’s EXACTLY what’s been going on.  Even down to the part where my husband is wondering if Henry is getting enough from me!

Cluster feeding often coincides with your baby’s fussy time. Baby will nurse a few minutes, pull off, fuss/cry, nurse a few minutes, pull off, fuss/cry… on and on… for hours. This can be VERY frustrating, and mom starts wondering if baby is getting enough milk, if something she is eating is bothering baby, if EVERYTHING she is doing is bothering baby… It can really ruin your confidence, particularly if there is someone else around asking the same questions (your mother, your husband, your mother-in-law).

This behavior is NORMAL! It has nothing to do with your breastmilk or your mothering. If baby is happy the rest of the day, and baby doesn’t seem to be in pain (as with colic) during the fussy time – just keep trying to soothe your baby and don’t beat yourself up about the cause. Let baby nurse as long and as often as he will. Recruit dad (or another helper) to bring you food/drink and fetch things (book/remote/phone/etc.) while you are nursing and holding baby.

So I’m going to tough it out and – if I absolutely have to or I’ll lose my mind – I’ll give the little guy a bottle of formula here and there.  He’s had 99.99999% breast milk so what’s the harm if it saves my sanity?

Have you had a frustrating experience with cluster feeding?  How did you deal with it?  Give me some hope, y’all!

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