Breastfeeding Around the Clock

This week I came across a facebook status from on of my friends who just had a baby. She was concerned because her newborn was wanting to nurse around the clock. Here’s an excerpt from her post, thanks for sharing Emily.

“Came home started nursing at 4 nurses till 4:40… I showered and cooked dinner he fussed on and off… nursed again for another hour till he fell asleep I put him down he instantly woke up… finally after trying everything to get him to go back to sleep I plopped his butt in bed with me where he has been latched and nursing for at least an hour again… what on earth is going on with my baby boy?i mean he is content as long as he’s latched but by golly I don’t know how much more I can take he’s never done this for this long before…

Any suggestions?”

Two important facts for every new parent to know…

First, babies don’t come with instruction manuals and will rarely follow the “textbook” advice from pediatricians, friends and family members.

Second, babies can’t tell time! This is especially important in relation to breastfeeding. A newborn’s stomach is very small when born (about the size of a small marble on day 1, the size of a ping pong ball on day 3, and the size of a large egg on day 10) so they need to be fed – and they need to be fed often.

It is totally normal for baby to breastfeed 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. Yes, that can be exhausting and you may even find yourself thinking they will never sleep longer than an hour, but they will. It may be a rough few months, but try not to worry too much about your milk supply. 

This is where “cluster feeding” comes into play. Cluster feeding helps your little babe establish your breastmilk supply. 

It May Be Cluster Feeding

According to KellyMom, Cluster feeding is when babies space their feedings closer together at certain times of the day. This is very common, and often occurs in the evenings. It’s often -but not always- followed by a longer sleep period than usual: baby may be “tanking up” before a long sleep. 

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). Rest assured, this behavior is totally normal. 

This Behavior is Totally Normal

Exhausting? Yes. But totally normal and nothing to worry about. 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/she will. Recruit dad to bring you food/drink and fetch things (book/remote/phone/etc.) while you are nursing and holding the baby.

Breastfeeding on Demand 

Breastfeeding on demand is about responding flexibly to your baby’s hunger cues. It means initiating feedings when the baby requests them, and continuing each feeding session until the baby is satisfied. 

Breast milk production is keyed to the frequency of suckling. The more a baby nurses, the more milk a breast produces. If a baby suckles less frequently, milk production slows. For this reason, breastfeeding on demand is the ideal way to keep a mother’s milk production in sync with her baby’s needs.

Breastfeeding on demand permits babies to cope with the quirks of their particular situation. When babies are forced to adopt a rigid, timed schedule, some babies have difficulty getting enough to eat. In addition, lactation consultants often note that babies who are left to cry for access to the breast–even for a few minutes–may become unsettled and upset. This makes it hard for them to latch on correctly, decreasing the efficiency of their feeds. 

This is why I am such an advocate for SAFE bedsharing and co-sleeping. When mothers and babies sleep together, breastfeeding on demand becomes much less disruptive to maternal sleep. This is particularly true when moms and babies sleep in the same bed. The baby awakens at night, and is fed right there—in bed—while both parties are lying down. The nursing couple need never wake all the way up 

Sometimes Baby Misses Mommy

It’s also important for me to note that when you and if you decide to head back to work and you’re a nursing mom, your baby is going to miss you and that boobie. So it’s normal to come home and have baby nurse for a little while to make up for that lost time. Try to soak it up, mama! This too shall pass.

If your nipples absolutely can’t take it anymore and you need a break, there’s other soothing techniques you can try as well.

Other Soothing Techniques

Wear baby in a sling or baby carrier: This will free your hands so you’re able to cook dinner or do other things that need to be done around the house. Youtube has a ton of videos on how to wrap baby in a sling or carrier and STILL be able to nurse. I did it a time or two during dinner time.

Recruit dad or other help: Let someone else have some time with baby and you go relax in a warm bath. Out of site, out of smelling your breasties..

Go Outside: There is something about the fresh outdoors that calms a fussy baby. Step outside and take a little walk while cradling the little babe.

Soothe with sound: Sing, hum, talk, murmur shhhh, listen to music, or use ‘white noise.’ Try different types of sound, different styles of music and singers with different types of voices.

Soothe with motion: Walk, sway, bounce, dance, swing, or even try a car ride.

Reduce stimulation: Dim lights, reduce noise, swaddle baby.

You’ve Got This, Mama!

As I noted earlier, this too shall pass. Pretty soon your baby will be walking and talking and eating real food and you’ll be missing those sweet moments of nursing. I know I sure do.

Are you feeling lost with this whole breastfeeding thing? Let’s talk. I breastfed my son for two years and know exactly what it feels like to be a human pacifier.

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