Cluster feeding is a very normal and natural thing – so why doesn’t anyone tell you about it when it comes to breastfeeding.
I will admit that I knew nothing about breastfeeding growing up. I never saw anyone do it and didn’t know anyone who did. It wasn’t talked about -breastfeeding was a taboo.
When I got pregnant I read everything from books, blog posts and even went to two different birth and baby courses. With a husband who had four younger brothers, so had seen everything from them, I thought I had it all covered. LO took to breastfeeding so easily, which came as a shock. Soon enough we were getting the hang of it, or so I thought.
At two weeks LO went from feeding at a regular pace to constantly demanding the boob. My mum told me to “just give her a bottle to give yourself a rest” but my health visitor told me otherwise. She mentioned cluster feeds. It was this point my mum mentioned how I cluster fed just before bed and then slept through the night.
She is sort of right – that is a type of cluster feed that can be very common, with many eating far more just before they go to bed. The cluster feed I was experiencing was one more to do with breastfeeding and longer term.
Basically at certain points, babies suddenly increase the rate they feed in a bid to increase the mothers supply but also for a growth spurt of some kind. Everyone I know who bottle feeds have no idea what I am talking about when I talk about but those breastfeeding do because of the sheer exhaustion and sore boobs that follows.
If you don’t know about cluster feeding, you get to about two weeks and suddenly wonder suddenly you have a baby constantly on the boob and wonder if you will end up being one of those infamous baby starvation stories. “Is my baby getting enough? Am I making enough milk? Is my baby ok?” are all things that I thought.
The best advice I was given was by my health visitor – if you do have to bottle fed her for any reason, make sure you are pumping along side to keep your boobs up with the baby. The whole point of cluster feeds is to increase your supply so by topping up with formula, you are not going to be able to keep up with demand the next time. Basically ladies, your boobs remember.
She gave other great advice to rest up, eat up and to also to eat booby biscuits, aka oatmeal and raisin cookies with flaxseed to help boost my supply. DH was happy about that as he loves my oatmeal cookies, but he also knew that I needed them so couldn’t gobble too many up.
I made it through my first cluster feed but it still sucked when it happened again. As each cluster feed hell went on though I got much better at being able to cope and ready for it. I avoided lemon and other things that lower your supply to making sure that I had food and drink at hand everywhere.
Now I hardly feel them but for the first six months, every few weeks it was a couple of days of hell followed by not being able to hug people without milking everyone and everything the next day. It was nice having an excuse to eat cookies though.
No body warned me though about them and so many women I meet now who have stopped breastfeeding often have done so when they meet one. We need to spread information about cluster feeds because if it wasn’t for my health visitor, I know I wouldn’t have had the best advice about what to do.
There are so many great breastfeeding forums on Facebook, and so many of them have cluster feed advice in the pinned post because it is such a key issue no one talks about. In fact other than that brief talk about keeping me going in the first one, it was the only way I found a general road map of when to expect cluster feeds or advice on what to eat for boosting supply over those few days.
Now when I find out my pregnant friends are planning to breastfeed I tell them “Great – now research cluster feeds!” because it would have been such a help for me. Hopefully the most we talk about boobs, breastfeeding and just mothering in general, the easier it can be for everyone.