When we were in the hospital after Tate was born, we were proverbial sponges. We tried to take in everything the nurses told us. I mean, we had never had a baby and they were trained to care for newborns. When it came to feeding, we were told to just expect the baby to want to eat every 3 or 4 hours, 24 hours a day.
When we got home and Tate started to settle into his own feeding schedule it became pretty clear that he did not want to feed every 3 hours. Sometimes he didn’t want to eat for 4 or 5 hours because of a long stretch of sleep and sometimes he wanted to feed almost constantly for hours at a time. After doing some research we figured out that his feeding patterns aren’t that unusual and there is even a name for it, called “cluster feeding.”
Before I had the baby, I had never even heard of cluster feeding (it is also sometimes referred to as bunch feeding). I have since learned that this is when babies space their feedings closer together at certain times of the day and go longer between feedings at other times. It was such a relief to me to learn that it’s very common, and generally happens in the evenings. It’s often – but not always – followed by a longer sleep period than usual: which I think explains how Tate is able to sleep so long in the night.
According to kellymom,
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.
Did any of you leave the hospital with unrealistic expectations of your babies eating patterns? Do your babies cluster feed? I would love to hear about your experiences with it.