Cluster feeding

CLUSTER FEEDING. Two words when paired together that drive fear and trembling to parents. Cluster feeding is NORMAL for ALL breastfed babies. It has nothing to do with your supply. It has nothing to do with the clock. It has nothing to do with what you’re eating or drinking or those supplements you just took. It may not even have anything to even do with being hungry. Babies typically cluster feed in the afternoon/evening. When your milk supply naturally and appropriately dips. When your milk is a smaller water concentration with a higher fat content. As long as baby is happy to feed the rest of the day, is making plenty of wet and dirty diapers, is content and sleeping routinely between feedings, and gaining weight over time, DON’T BLAME THE BOOB!! Even if baby seems like they want to feed constantly. Cluster feeding is normal. It typically happens MORE when baby is going through a growth spurt (body growing), developmental leap (mind/skills growing), or teething/illness. Why does baby want the breast more?

• Preparing for a longer sleep: Some babies just prefer to fill up on milk for a few hours before a longer sleep.

• Milk flow is slower at night: Some babies nurse longer to fill up due to the slower flow.

• A growth spurt: they usually occur around 3, 6, and 8weeks of age.

• They need of comfort. Breast milk has hormones to develop baby’s circadian rhythm. At nighttime baby may just seek comfort to help them sleep.

• Developmental leap: Mental and emotional growth spurts when they acquire new skills.

• Baby is sick, thirsty, or teething: breast feeding is a pain reliever, medicine and hydration all in one

Know that it’s normal. Be patient through the process. Be prepared with snacks and water for yourself, a comfy spot, a good pillow for support and the remote and your phone charger close by to get you through. You’re not alone and it doesn’t last forever!!

How to build a breast milk stash

You don’t need to have a stash. If you want to exclusively breastfeed and are never away from your baby, you don’t need any milk in your freezer. You don’t need a huge stash if you’re going to be gone from baby. It’s nice to have stored up milk, but that milk is extra milk. Feed the baby, not the freezer. You only need enough milk for when you’re away from baby. If you’re only going to be gone for 2-3 hours, you may not need any milk at all. Feed your baby immediately before you leave. If baby becomes fussy before you get home, have your caregiver take baby on a walk, distract with toys or use a pacifier and feed them as soon as you walk in the door. If you’re going to be gone more than 3 hours, you only need to have enough milk for the time you’re gone. Optimally if baby is being fed by bottle, to maintain your milk supply, you should be pumping, thus replacing the milk from your stash that was used.

There are several ways to build your stash

🍼Passively collect with a milk catcher like a Lacticup or Milkies Milk Saver. No extra work needed, this works great in the early weeks if you leak

🍼Use manual silicone breast pump like the Haakaa. While these look passive, the vacuum created does stimulate the breast and can increase leaking and milk supply

🍼If you have a large to very large storage capacity and only feed from one breast at a time, pump the other breast during or after feeding baby

🍼Pump with a double electric pump, after breastfeeding, for 10-15 minutes. Only expect to get 1/4-1 ounce as this is “left over” milk that your baby doesn’t need.

🍼Pump with a double electric pump in between breastfeedings when you think baby may take a longer nap. Aim to pump half way between when you think baby will want to feed again. If you think baby will go 2 hours, pump after an hour, etc. try not to pump too close to the next feed as baby may get fussy at the slower flow of milk.

Remember:

🥛Decide how often and how much you want to pump/collect. Know that the more you empty, the more you will make as you’re telling your body baby needs that milk.

🥛Too much pumping or frequently changing your pump routine does increase your risk of plugged ducts and mastitis

🥛You can combine 24 hours of milk into one batch

🥛Breastfed babies usually only need 2-4 ounces every 2-4 hours. Aim to leave 1-1.5 ounces for every hour you’re gone