How to Manage Cluster Feeding So You Don’t Go Insane

How to Manage Cluster Feeding So You Don’t Go Insane

Erin Burt

One of the things about being a new mom I was most excited about was breastfeeding. I thought it was just amazing that women can naturally provide everything their baby needs. I am the first woman in my family to breastfeed and because of that, I had very little exposure or knowledge of it apart from advice given by friends.

The day after delivery my doctor checked in to see how we were doing, and that is where I first heard the term cluster feeding. I should have had some indication of what it meant when he slightly chuckled while he said to “be prepared” for it on the second night.

Cluster feedings are pretty much what they sound like: feedings grouped close together at some points of the day and spread farther apart at others. There would be times where my daughter would eat only a little every 10 minutes for several hours and then not again for another few hours or so. With feeding her as often and as much as she wanted, I was entirely unable to find any rhyme or reason as to when she would eat.

By the second week, I had given up on wearing a shirt at home because it was just easier. Not to mention I was worried that she was getting enough. My family was encouraging me to formula supplement which I didn’t want to do, and my nipples felt like they were brushed with sandpaper they hurt so bad. 

As tough as it is, this early stage is so important because it’s when you establish your milk supply. But adjusting to it physically and emotionally can be difficult as it is demanding. Although it does fade out some, as babies go through growth spurts cluster feeding will likely reappear.

Here are some of the ways I maintained my sanity while cluster feeding:

  • Most of cluster feeding occurs in the evening, so being prepared helps. Try to eat dinner prior and make sure your favorite place to nurse is set up and comfy for both of you ready to go.
  • Buy a good nursing pillow. I started out just using couch cushions and investing in a proper nursing pillow was a game changer.
  • Knowing all of the new stuff coming out on Netflix was helpful in keeping me entertained while spending a couple hours at a time on the couch.
  • Have water at all of your nursing areas around the house. As soon as they latch on, your mouth all of a sudden feels like a desert and nothing is worse that not being able to have a drink of water.
  • Use the cluster feeding as a way to practice breastfeeding while wearing your baby in a carrier. It’ll come in handy whenever it’s time to venture outside of your home!
  • Get an e-reader. They are easy to operate with one hand and you’ll likely also get through a few books.
  • At the advice of my daughter’s pediatrician, I started using coconut oil on my nipples to help ease some of the pain. Lanolin is also good to use if the coconut oil isn’t quite cutting it.

Know that this is only a temporary part of breastfeeding. Once you get through this, it generally becomes much easier and the bonding time that you have from it is one of a kind.

Lisa is a breastfeeding, baby wearing, stay-at-home mom of a 6-week old baby girl. She loves running, yoga, video games, craft beer and hopes to one day see those things again when the new mommy fog lifts!

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