Tips for Surviving Cluster FeedingTuesday, 7 February 2017
I've got three kids and I formula bottle fed my first two and breastfed my third. Breastfeeding was a whole new experience for me. I was told about cluster feeding but didn't think too much about it. I had no idea how I would feel and how exhausted I would be. Breastfeeding is hard (most of the time) and takes up a lot of your time during the first few months. Cluster feeding takes up a lot of your time. Having two other kids to look after, it was hard. To others, it may seem pretty easy. I mean, we sit down and just feed, right? Surprisingly, feeding constantly is exhausting.
I had no clue that breastfeeding could be so tiring. When Freddie was cluster feeding, he would feed every 1-2 hours for a good few weeks/couple of months. His feeds would also last over half an hour to an hour. This stopped me doing a lot of things during the day. I missed a lot of meals, the housework was non-existent most days, and many days I struggled as I couldn't do much with my other two as they were on their school summer holidays when Freddie went through his first cluster feeding stage.
Although it can be exhausting, it is time you can bond with your baby too. I have to admit it was nice having those extra long cuddles and those beautiful big eyes looking up at me. I do cherish those moments, and I do miss it at times. But at the time I felt all I was doing was getting my boob out and feeding, constantly. I was behind with work, I was feeling guilty for not doing much with my girls and then feeling guilty because I felt guilty - makes sense, right?
These are my top tips for surviving the cluster feeding stage
You're not doing anything wrong
Some breastfeeding Mums may feel like they aren't producing enough milk when the baby constantly wants feeding. There is always milk producing, so don't put yourself down. Your breast doesn't need to 'feel full' for it to be full. Remember that. Your baby is possibly going through a growth spurt, so is wanting more food than normal. If you are still worried - talk to your Health Visitor for more advice and support.
It won't last forever
This is something that helped me through the cluster feeding stages. At the time it feels like it'll never stop, but it will. Feeding times will be longer apart and one day baby will stop feeding off you. You'll miss those extra cuddles. Try and treasure those precious (yet stressful at times) moments.
Use a wrap/sling
If you are fed up of sitting down feeding and if you have things you need to do, wear a sling/wrap. This is great for skin-to-skin bonding and your baby can still feed off your whilst you have your hands free. We have been using the KangaWrap which is brilliant.
You may find yourself sitting in the same seat for most of your day. Be sure you are comfortable. Sit on the sofa or even your bed. Get some blankets, snacks, a film and whatever else that will make you comfy. I would also recommend a nursing pillow if you haven't got one. You won't regret it!
Cluster feeding usually happens during the evenings for most babies. They probably do it throughout the day too, but you may find they feed even more during the evening hours. Prepare yourself for the evening and work around them. As said above, it doesn't last forever, honest! You will get your evening back, one day.
Although cluster feeding is exhausting. Try and my patient. You may find your baby is feeding for over an hour and then is wanting another feed 20 minutes later. The phase does soon pass. Promise.
Make sure you have a drink
I find I always get thirsty when I breastfeed. Be sure to have a drink by your side when you feed. Especially if you're going to be there for quite a while. Keep yourself hydrated.
Plan your meals or get someone to cook for you
Through the cluster feeding stage, you may miss out on many meals. This happened to me many of times. Plan your meals, prepare them or get someone to cook meals for you. If you feel like you're in some kind of routine with the cluster feeding, try and have something to eat before baby wants a feed.