Coping With Cluster Feedingby Kirsty Taylor-Moran
Cluster feeding is one of the lesser talked about parts of breastfeeding that I personally didn’t feel well enough prepared for. Cluster feeding is when your baby wants lots of long or short feeds with only short breaks in-between. It is perfectly normal, but it can really take its toll when you probably aren’t getting much sleep. We had lots of issues with breastfeeding, but at the beginning, I didn’t know that I should have expected to feed for 45 minutes and then another twenty minutes only 15 minutes later.
I have heard lots from new mums that worry that cluster feeding means that the baby isn’t getting enough or that there is something wrong with them or the baby if the baby is feeding so frequently and for so long. Breastfeeding is simply supply and demand, and if the baby doesn’t demand, there will not be enough supply.
Having a newborn baby is pretty mentally exhausting as well as physically, nothing can really prepare you to be needed so totally and completely 24 hours a day. It is totally unpredictable how often a baby will want or need to feed, and it is recommended that they are allowed to feed on demand based on their hunger cues.
These are a few tried and tested things that will help you through those difficult cluster feeds:
- Nipple Care: Even with the perfect latch, cluster feeding can really take its toll on the old nips. Lanolin cream and multi mam gel pads are absolute lifesavers and stopped me from throwing in the towel when things got gnarly.
- In addition to making sure things don’t get too tender, ensure you are dressed for the occasion; comfy well-fitted bras, breast pads to catch leaks and the obligatory dressing gown. Breastfeeding is thirsty work so it’s worth making yourself a drink before sitting down for a feed or even better getting your partner to make one for you. I always had a hot drink in a thermos (so I actually got to drink it hot) and a water bottle, the kind with a straw for hands-free thirst-quenching. It doesn’t hurt to have an abundance of snacks to hand too, you need to make sure you are getting enough to eat and being trapped under a baby is the perfect time to try and eat once you’ve mastered eating dinner one-handed.
- Stuff to stave off boredom, and to keep you from drifting off when you are sat on the sofa, is as important as everything else. Keep a phone charger plugged in nearby, and any book/kindle/tv boxset you have on the go. I don’t like to think about the online shopping that went on during the early months but it was always easy to tell when we’d had a bad night by the number of parcels turning up a few days later.
- Remember, if things don’t feel right or you are worried about baby's feeding, seek reassurance or help from your local breastfeeding service through your health visitor, la Leche league or an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). There is also a tonne of groups on Facebook for new mums in a similar position, I can guarantee you that you won’t be the first person to go through whatever problem you are experiencing and it can be an invaluable source of moral support.