At four weeks postpartum there is very little clarity in my world. Things have been a bit blurry but it’s all going by really fast. One thing that I am sure about is that we have a four week old baby in our home. I also know that that we are definitely not on a schedule and I couldn’t tell you his different cries and what they mean. Nope, it’s just not something I’ve ever been good at. Naturally, I’m a control freak but with a newborn there is no such thing has having control. Therefore, the only thing that I could do is prepare for the few things that I can control right now.
There’s this thing called cluster feeding and I know that Jonathan does this. Our other two babies weren’t big on this so I never really paid much attention to it and never furthered my research. Well, this time around I have done a ton of research and it has truly helped me take control of the situation.
Last night I probably only got about two or three hours of sleep. Jonathan is up a lot throughout the night and that’s obviously normal at this age. But what I found quite odd is the amount that he would want to eat. Of course, I first started thinking that I wasn’t making enough milk or maybe his latch wasn’t great. What made me realize it was something totally different was his timing. At around nine o’clock every single night Jonathan starts to eat for the night. While this is usually the time that I’d like to be getting ready for bed, it’s now turned into the time that I start my graveyard shift. Jonathan will cry and become very fussy. He will eat usually until midnight and then finally fall asleep. Yes, I know it sounds crazy but it’s the truth. He will latch and unlatch for 3 hours straight. He cries on and off but wants to eat the entire time.
While it can be something frustrating and worrisome, it’s actually quite common and normal. And because I know that now, I just have to make sure I am taking things into my own hands in order to make this season of life a little easier for Jonathan and myself.
Here are a few tips to survive this cluster feeding period:
Get yourself organized – Cluster feeding lasts for a few hours for us so I know that I won’t be getting much done throughout that time. I will be in the same spot for those hours so I set up my location and station. So, I pick a comfortable spot for baby and me. This could be the couch for some or maybe the baby’s nursery. For me, it’s my bedroom. I also set up a little station with all of our needs for the rest of the night. During this time, we tend to get super tired and I just want to go to bed. Unfortunately, I can’t do that so I make sure that I don’t have to get up throughout this timeframe. Some of the must-haves in my station are diapers, wipes, trash bag, baby clothes, water, snacks, and a few receiving blankets.
Eat a good meal beforehand – Babies could cluster feed for hours. Therefore, mommy needs to be ready to take on the task. We all know that breastfeeding in general isn’t very easy. You’re gonna need those extra calories and energy in order to get through those few hours. I made the mistake the first few days and didn’t eat dinner. I knew I would be up really late so, I figured having a later dinner wouldn’t be an issue. Well, it certainly is when your child doesn’t want to be put down. I learned my lesson and now I make sure I eat dinner before heading out to my graveyard shift. This also goes for anything else that may need to be done prior to catering to your child. Make sure you get as much done as you can before they need you.
Support – Cluster feeding can be frustrating. It can be painful. It can also feel as if you are a human pacifier. And while all these feelings are normal, it happens to all of us. There’s only so much we can take before we start to go crazy. A great support person is essential during this time. You will want to get away for a minute or two to just use the restroom. Maybe you want to get some fresh air just to gather your thoughts. Even if it’s to take a really quick shower. My support person is Ryan. He knows that there isn’t much that he could do to calm him down, but he still tries. When we choose to breastfeed our children, people are quick to just give baby back to mommy and they just assume they can’t help. The thing is they can!
Change positions – Babies are so unpredictable and it’s hard to know exactly what they want at this age. Something that has helped us get through these rough times is to constantly have Jonathan change positions. When he isn’t feeding he will cry, so this is when we try tummy time, sit him up, place him on the swing, or even hand him off to daddy. Each baby is different and finding their favorite positions is crucial during this time. We also tend to change positions when breastfeeding. Throughout the day we use the cradle hold but during his cluster feeding her prefers the side-lying position. Finding what makes them comfortable is key.
Entertainment – You will need some form of entertainment. Whether it’s your phone, tablet, or television, make sure you have something that will keep you company. On the nights that Jonathan chooses to cluster feed I turn on a new show and binge. Other times I turn to my phone and start deleting the 3,000 plus e-mails that I have sitting in my inbox. Even though he may be fussy, it is the only time that I get to catch up on my favorite shows so I try to take advantage of it.
Cluster feeding is only for a season so don’t beat yourself up over it. Try working around the baby’s schedule so that you can still continue to take care of yourself. Finally, give yourself some grace and try your best to take control of the situation and make the best of it.