Research soothes me when I am anxious; as a first-time mom, I was really anxious! When I went into labor, I thought I had researched everything there was to know about labor and delivery. But afterward? Not prepared in the least. When my son was two days old, he decided to spend a solid 24 hours cluster-feeding. It was torture! I had just given birth, was running on next to zero sleep, and couldn't keep my eyes open! At one point I almost dropped him when I fell asleep holding him! Immediately after he finished cluster feeding, my full milk production came in. Despite all my research, I had forgotten what cluster feeding was and when it happens! Don't do what I did - come prepared. Here's how to survive cluster feeding a newborn.
What Is Cluster Feeding?
Cluster feeding means that baby is nursing more frequently and demanding a greater volume of breastmilk overall. Sometimes babies will cluster feed during times of stress or illness, but generally, cluster feeding accompanies developmental milestones. My son cluster fed within a few days of birth to spur on my breastmilk production. This first bout of cluster feeding can really throw you for a loop if you aren't anticipating it. For example, my son nursed for forty-five minutes at a time, every hour, for 24 hours. This means I have fifteen minutes every hour to try to sleep, eat, or poop. Needless to say, I was exhausted!
Support Breastmilk Production By Eating Nutritious Food And Staying Hydrated
I'm not joking! You need to hydrate if you're nursing (drink to satisfaction), especially since so much of your intake is being used to create liquid food for another human. When a person is lactating, their body is burning approximately 500 more calories each day! That kind of rapid calorie burn can take its toll if we don't treat ourselves well and stay hydrated!
Take Care Of Your Nipples During Breastfeeding
Be gentle with those puppies, they're seeing a lot of action! Smear nipple cream all over yourself like it's the elixir of youth. Better yet, have your doctor write up a prescription for All-Purpose Nipple Ointment to prevent pain and infection. Grab some Boobie Tubes or Therapearls and try some hot/cold therapy on aching breasts. Warm compresses can help ease clogs and even increase production while nursing! If your nipples are cracking and bleeding you will NOT enjoy cluster feeding! Try wearing a nipple shield inside your bra - it's just a sort of hat for your nipple so nothing touches it. My doula taught me to spread a little breastmilk around my nipple and let it air-dry. If all else fails and you're still in pain, it's time to call in the big guns.
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Lactation Consultants Can Help You Through Cluster Feeding
That's right - lactation consultants! If you have any pain whatsoever when nursing, reach out to a lactation consultant ASAP. Typically, nursing pain does not subside until the root cause of the issue is addressed. Lactation consultants are specifically trained to help troubleshoot breastfeeding issues and make sure you're on the right track. Even if you just want to complain about how boring cluster feeding is; call for backup!
Ask For Help When Your Baby Needs Extra Care
You know that phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child"? It's true, you know. No man is an island and even the snuggliest of moms need breaks every now and then. When your baby is cluster feeding, it leaves little time to do much of anything else. I always feel pinned down under my baby and would rather be up on my feet. My house always needs cleaning, I could be doing better meal prep. But guess what, mom? When your baby needs extra TLC from you, you, in turn, need it from others. It's okay to take time for yourself while someone else watches the brood, cooks, cleans, or folds your laundry. If you need an extra hand, just ask for it.
Cluster feeding is exhausting for mom and baby alike. Long before your baby can speak words, they use nursing demands to communicate their needs with you. Sometimes nursing is for comfort; other times, hydration. A sick baby might go to the breast to get custom-mixed prescription breastmilk. When your baby needs that little bit extra, don't forget to replenish yourself. You can make it through cluster feeding, mama! Grab a granola bar and binge some Gilmore Girls until that baby is fast asleep.
How did you survive cluster feeding a newborn? Share your funny story with me on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #ClusterFeed.