I’ve already admitted in my previous post that I wasn’t really prepared for motherhood. I skim read through the books that were given to me with a kind of *fingers in ears* ” I’m not listening/This isn’t happening to me” kind of denial.
So, I’m back at home after being released from hospital 36hrs after a traumatic three day labour where I had ALL the drugs, ending in an emergency c-section. Things are going pretty well in the grand scheme of things. Baby has latched. My milk has come in. We’re winging it. I’m living on painkillers and pure adrenaline but coping. Then the cluster feeding starts.
Cluster what? I hear you say. No nobody told me about it either. Well, maybe they had but I wasn’t listening. Cut back to me losing my shit because the baby has been attached to my boob for fifteen hours. Yes FIFTEEN hours.
The baby would fall asleep suckling but as soon as we put her down she would wake up howling for a feed. We try giving her a bottle but she screams even more. Being attached to my boob was the only thing that seemed to calm her down and soothe her. Surely this wasn’t normal. Was there something wrong with my milk supply? Was I not making enough? Was I making too much and the baby is feeding herself to death? Should we call the doctor?
Quick consultation with Dr. Google and yes it is possible, normal even and it has a name. For me cluster feeding consisted of a period of around three/four days where my baby would feed constantly for hours and hours and hours usually in the evening. After the final feed, the baby usually falls into a deep sleep providing some sweet relief. The experts say that this happens to increase your milk flow and fuel a babies growth spurt which happens during their long sleeps post cluster feed.
The constant feeding makes me feel like a cow. My poor nips become red raw (Praise be to Lansinoh). I feel mentally and physically drained and the lack of sleep is actually painful.
I find cluster feeding an absolute clusterfuck and this is how I’ve survived so far and gone on to feed another day:
- I bought a feeding/maternity pillow. They are the best thing ever.
- I binge on trashy tv. I started to love my late night secret Keeping up with the Kardashians and Teen mom sessions. Get comfy in front of the TV, iPad, laptop, or phone. You might be there a while. Make sure you remember to grab the remote/charger before hand-Rookie mistake.
- I spend hours online shopping. I ordered food, clothes, everything I possibly can buy/do online I did.
- I learnt to feed lying down in bed. I didn’t really feel comfortable doing this until my daughter was about two months old but it does now make life so much easier.
- I keep hydrated. At the start, I wasn’t drinking enough water and the headaches and constipation were a whole new world of pain. I now drink up to five pints of water a day. My skin is a dream despite crazy post-natal hormones.
- I munch my way through it. It’s easy to forget to eat when you’re a new mother but you need the extra calories. Treat yourself, you are still growing a baby. They don’t call it the ‘fourth trimester’ for nothing.
- I try not to make solid plans. I know this is easier said than done but I found that when cluster feeding strikes you need to just relax and go with it and not worry about being here there and everywhere to keep other people happy.
I am writing this just as I’ve come to the end of a three day cluster feed. So far, she has cluster fed at four days, ten days, three weeks, six weeks and three and half months old.
She still won’t take a bottle (of breastmilk or formula- we’ve tried all the bottles and formulas over the four months since she was born to no avail) so I don’t get a break during the few days that cluster feeding strikes but I’m more prepared at four months. It still hits you like a train and drains the life out of you but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and as I look at the rolls on her chunky little legs, I know it’s totally worth it.
I would love to know from other mamas how they survived cluster feeding and when did it stop?