The hardest part of breastfeeding … is staying confident.
The most frequently asked question about breastfeeding… How do I know my baby is getting enough?
Every mum will face the scenario where they feel their supply has dropped off, their breasts feel softer and their baby is feeding a lot more than yesterday.
Some days, all your baby seems to want to do is be a ‘Koala’ baby, and be attached to the boob! It is usually after a long tiring day, when you are trying to finally eat dinner, or trying to get to bed for some precious sleep, or perhaps trying to settle your toddler who wants just one more story before bed!
Your baby has a breastfeed, comes off, appears to sleep, and just when you think it’s safe to put them in their bassinet, they want to be fed again! They repeat this cycle multiple times, your breasts feel soft, you are exhausted, your baby is unsettled….and you start to question. They surely can’t be hungry? Why are they not settled? Have I got enough milk?
Welcome to cluster feeding!
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Babies have small stomachs and a very efficient digestive system. Breast milk is unique and 100% of it is used in the baby’s body. They have quick gastric emptying and the faster the body processes milk, the faster baby’s tummy empties, then of course they then want more.
Cluster feeding empties the breast and promotes good lactation,as the emptier the breasts the better the refill! More frequent breastfeeding sends signals to the brain for your body to make more. Cluster feeding is normal! It’s common towards the end of the day, but can happen anytime. Melatonin ( the hormone that promotes sleep) is also produced in the breastmilk, and the emptier the breast, the higher the fat content of the milk! So, babies are clever! They are draining the breast so milk production is efficient, getting higher fat milk to fill them up and getting sleep hormones to help their circadian rhythm and promote night time settling!
How do I know if it’s cluster feeding or hunger?
Babies that cluster feed have short, frequent feeds over a period of a couple of hours. They are generally settled when they come off the breast or may even may fall asleep between feeds for a short nap.
It can be an exhausting time.
It can knock your confidence.
It can make you feel you have no milk.
If you have no supply issues you always have milk, your breasts are never fully empty.
What can I do when my baby cluster feeds?
Surrender to it!
Rest during the day if possible.
Hydrate and nourish yourself.
Get your partner to be involved – they can change nappies, soothe baby, put the toddler to bed, cook dinner and give you a rest once baby has fed.
What are the warning signs?
If your baby is feeding for extended periods of time, and never appears satisfied at the end of the feed.
If baby’s weight gains are slow.
If your baby doesn’t settle at all between feeds.
If your baby is not having frequent, pale wet nappies.
If your breasts ALWAYS feel soft.
Breastfeeding is a confidence game! If you are having any difficulty with feeding your baby, or just want to check that baby is doing all the right things a breast fed baby does, then see an IBCLC.