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Calling all bf cluster feeders- anyone interested in a support thread?

(15 Posts)
Sophie1106 Sun 11-Oct-09 21:55:32

I know you're all out there somewhere?? I have a 16 week old that has cluster fed since birth every evening 5-11pm. It's time we all shared our experiences- is anyone going through the same thing-what are your coping mechanisms, what do you plan to do when you go back to work, was it as much of a shock to you as it was to me??!Would you b feed agfain? Would it put you off? Do you get frustrated by it? Do you enjoy it? I would love to talk about this because nobody ever does or why don't we all know about it?!!

GruffaloMama Sun 11-Oct-09 22:05:35

Hi - I'm through it now (I promise it will* pass, but:
Yes - it did come as a hell of a shock.
Yes - I did get frustrated and 'touched out' when it was happening
Yes - at times I enjoyed it - all that time with DS to coo over him (but could at the same time be bored/frustrated/annoyed)
Yes - I would breastfeed again
No - it wouldn't put me off (but I would be more realistic about it next time) - I worried that my supply was low - but it wasn't - I wish I'd known about it in advance so that I didn't worry about it.
Coping mechanisms - boxed sets of DVDs, bottles of squash on hand, bon maman creme caramel puddings, dinners I could eat with one hand, a DH who cooked them, mumsnet, pillows to prop up me and DS so that it was as handsfree as possible, and nipping up for a shower as soon as I could in between some of the cluster feeds.

Good idea to have a support thread as it does seem neverending when you're stuck in the middle with it.

Sophie1106 Sun 11-Oct-09 23:45:39

Great to hear about your experience GruffaloMama. For me it feels neverending right now. I guess (although I could be wrong) it's one of those things that you look back on slightly differently afterwards? dare I say it- a bit like giving birth?Ouch I never thought I'd say that only 4 months on..sound like MIL!)For me the journey so far has been one hell of an experience.
I agree-what a shock!I actually took my dd to the emergency ward when she was a week old because I thought she was ill-it was only after a kind lady noticed how inconsolable she was with hunger! decided to point it out to me " she's rooting like crazy"...I just didn't get it and spent the next few weeks wondering what on earth was going on ...
I do get very frustrated at times-especially as I can't seem to recoup any normal evening activity other than watching tv 4 months after birth. I would love to go swimming or to the pub even just to get some sense of normality back.
I enjoy b/feeding-from time to time-I think I would enjoy it more if dd didn't cluster feed and went to bed at 7pm (seemingly like everyone else's baby!)
It could put me off b/feeding again-unless I look back on the whole experience differently in 2 years time...rose tinted specs etc..
For me the biggest shock has been the lack of other new mums who I have spoken to who have experienced the same thing. Whenever I mention it-it's like" oh yeah-those growth spurts are a nightmare..." or one from the health visitor" I know those growth spurts can seem like they have been going on for a long time..." and they are supposed to understand these things!(Although not very well in my experience).

I would most certainly be interested to hear from anyone who has an xplanation for this behaviour other than "tanking up". Because to me in practice it seems to be the case as my dd does seem to sleep longer however how could she possibly know this has to happen? Is it instinctive? Should she really be feeding more during the day?therefore should we really be offering feeds even when they don't ask a la Gina Ford?(sorry if that's swearing)Why does she get so frustrated and fussy? Is it stressing her out- will she have heart failure because of the stress....these are just some of the things that pass through my mind when it's going on...
Does anyone else think the same things?

Conanchensee Mon 12-Oct-09 01:50:18

Hi, I've never actually posted before but I just wanted to respond to you because it sounds like you have some friends that are either lying about their babies' sleeping habits, aren't actually breastfeeding or have very unusual babies! My baby is now 22 weeks old and she still feeds every half hour in the evening. She has never slept fore that 6 hours at a time and usually 3 or 4. Another mum from my NCT group has a baby at 18 weeks who cluster feeds from 5-midnight. They all do it to some extent. I had a breakthrough with mine when she started to get off to sleep at 8pm about 6 weeks ago but she feeds all evening up to that and still wakes in the night. What you have to remember is that it's REALLY EARLY DAYS. 16 weeks is nothing when you thing about it. I went swimming for the first time without my baby last week. I've never left her for more than an hour in the evening. I've actually only left her for up to three hours all together and on about 3 or 4 occasions. That's not because I'm a crazy clingy mum, it's just because breastfeeding is a full time occupation that you have to give your life up to. I don't actually enjoy breastfeeding, I think I'd have bonded just as well with my baby if I had bottle fed but I just decided to do it and then stuck with it. Now, Of course I'm in a pickle cos she won't take a bottle so I'm trying to get her onto a cup. Do you express? Some people find that the answer but I can't get much out and I hate doing it anyway. Just think, in two months she'll be going on solids anway. Have you got much support? To be honest, I'm not like you in wanting to regain normality. Having a baby transforms what was normal so I'll never get my old life back anyway and I really wouldn't want it. Yes, it's bloody exhausting writing this at 1.30am because although my baby is asleep my bodyclock is so out that I can't sleep and I know she'll need feeding in an hour anyway. However, it's the toddler tamtrums that I think I'll find more difficult!!!
Often she'll get frustrated in the evening and go and off the breast every few seconds. Sometimes just leaving her for 5 minutes to cry really does work. I've never read Gina Ford and of course I don't agree with what I've heard about her but I know that as she's got older sometimes my baby gets so tired she doesn't know what she wants. Just five minutes in the dark (now she's learnt to suck her thumb) is enough to send her to sleep. You could try it, you might be surprised.
As for health visitors, my experience is that they are a complete waste of space, I went to my clinic last week to ask advice about weaning. As usual I saw one I'd never seen before and she actually told me I've nearly got to 6 months so I may as well give up b'feeding!
B'feeding has been a positive experience for me in that it has increased my self confidence because I know I can survive on four hours of broken sleep and I have an iron will when it comes to continuing something I don't particularly enjoy with no support other that DH.
I don't think my baby gets stressed, she just gets tired, hungry and bored. It's hard working out which one it is a lot of the time. I'm sure your baby won't have heart failure, just stay calm and do all the normal things-feed, sing, swing her in your arms. Have you had her checked for tongue tie? I've heard that it can often not be picked up on and even a minor one can obviously make feeding frustrating.

slushy06 Mon 12-Oct-09 11:25:32

Hi I am currently bfeeding my 10 week old dd (I also bf my son) She is still cluster feeding but it has got easier she was cluster feeding between 1 and 4 And 6 to 11 but since about 8 weeks she has cut down to only 5 to 11 and neither of mine went to bed by 7 I have not known a bf baby go down at 7 as young as yours.

Above is my dd normal feeding she will feed more if she goes through a growth spurt. With regard to hv I have a v good relationship with mine and she said she does lots of courses on bf as most hv herself included never bf and find it hard to advise on it she does the courses as it is really important to her to help women bf but I imagine this is why alot of hv are not that good with bf advise. It would be like me reading a book on skydiving and then trying to teach someone how to skydive which I have never done.

In order to cope I try to get everything done in the morning and always leave about 30mins of me time even if I just read or go on mumsnet then I mostly watch series I like I personally do enjoy bf but that doesn't mean it is not hard for me.

Sophie1106 Mon 12-Oct-09 12:02:41

Conanchensee I think you're just about the first person that has told me something about their baby that sounds like what goes on with mine!I know it's really early days it just feels ike groundhog day and I am a very independent person- never had a good relationship with my parents so i've had to be.I don't really have any friends or family that understand what's going on. I am a realist- I do get that things won't be back to normal normal for ages,it's just that cluster feding wasn't something I'd ever heard of and I don't think I ever believed that my life would be taken up with feeding to the extent that it has been.I don't actually realy enjoy breastfeeding either and to be honest I think bottle feeding would have achieved the same thing too. I have tried to get her onto to the bottle more and until she was 12 weeks she was taking 2 bottles a day quite well. Then she just decided that she wouldn't. So I suppose the worst thing about it is that I have had the freedom that the bottle brings and now I haven't got it.I can't work out what the problem is, we've tried changing everything from teats to formula. I hve recently just wondered whether it's teething-last week she took 2 bottles and she hasn't taken any since. It's just bizarre. I am trying expressing again but like you I find it a pain-can't get much out an cant stand it but I am going to try and stick with it.I don't really have much support apart from DH which I think can magnify the whole thing.I don't find the local breastmates club very helpful as everyone seems so happy breastfeeding and noone really talks about what really goes on.|It's weird. I'm not sure what you mean about letting her cry in a darkened room- do you mean for naps? She goes to sleep during the day ok and she does take naps during cluster feeding and has slept for upto 6 hours before now at night but only from when we go to bed. We can't seem to put her down any earlier as she just wants to feed.

I can't believe a hv told you to give up b/fding as she's nearly 6 mnths-they are normally so pro b feeding-it's just not helpful is it.I can just about handle the thought of cluster feeding until she's 6 months and on solids-butwhat's going to miraculously change in her then that she'll just stop wanting to cluster feed?

oh and What is tongue tie? I have heard of it on umsnet but no idea what it is!

aquavit Mon 12-Oct-09 12:55:54

Hi all, I wanted to add that my daughter cluster fed every evening till she was about 16 weeks and still now at 23 weeks she has three feeds in very close succession in the evenings before she goes to sleep.

I was tremendously grateful for mumsnet (and for kellymom.com) for reassuring me that this was normal as, like you Sophie, I didn't even recognise it at first and thought she couldn't possibly be hungry AGAIN. I am also very grateful that I didn't take any notice of anyone/any book that suggested she should be in some kind of regular routine - in return for the two or three hours of cluster feeding every evening, she started sleeping through very early, and has always been a great night sleeper.

For what it's worth - she found herself a settled pattern in due course, her bedtimes gradually got earlier, and we have coped with a couple of growth spurts as well, so you may well find that the cluster feeding stops for you too and that the routine becomes predictable all by itself.

I am so glad that I just followed her lead on everything and never worried about waking to feed, frequency of feeds etc. As it turns out she knew EXACTLY what she needed - I think it's worth trusting your baby as much as you can.

Good luck, stick with it, it gets easier, and you are doing the very best for your babies.

willowstar Tue 13-Oct-09 10:43:01

interesting...my baby is only 14 days old but i am starting to think she is a cluster feeder from what I have read. I feel terrible because I had read the books before I had her, so would feed her for 30-45 mins, wind her and just wait for her to settle but it never happened and she screamed the house down for days until the midwife finally said 'sounds like she is hungry'...I just hadn't realised. poor little thing. I think I am a bit more in touch with her needs now but OH is still a bit stuck in 'oh she can't be hungry, it isn't time' mode, because we have been told to feed at least every 3 hrs to get her weight up.

So, looks like I will be joining the other cluster feeders if things carry on the way they are. I do enjoy feeding her but I get sore nipples, I don't think it is because of the latch, just the sheer use they are getting!

Misspaella Tue 13-Oct-09 13:11:37

Ugh I went through it (and still do on the odd day) and found it so so so hard!! DS2 nearly 15 weeks but up until a few weeks ago he was constantly feeding. At one point he fed from 1pm - 9pm.

Everyone just said, to let everything else go and get on with it. My DH doesn't get home until 7:30pmish by which time I have to do school pick up, feed older DC's (4yr and 2 Yr), bathe and actually get my own dinner. On top of that, have you ever had to deal with a toddler who has had to sit in all day. NIGHTMARE.

I cried. I thought about jacking it in. I even started to doubt my ability to feed (maybe I really just don't have enough milk, I would think). And on the odd occasion I gave a bottle of EBM for relief.

Somehow I got through it but I am not looking forward to the next period of clustering (infamously at 16 weeks for the next growth spurt).

Thank god for wine and chocolate. smile

Sophie1106 Tue 13-Oct-09 13:19:07

Willowstar I understand exactly what you are going through. The same thing happened to me-I couldn't understand what was going on to start with but it took me longer than you to realise. The midwife couldn't tell me though and nor could the health visitor. I was just wondering what on earth I'd let myself in for!My DH was like that to begin with-it took weeks really for him to realise that i needed help in the evenings-unfortunately a lot of nagging from me (and I don't usually nag) made him understand that I would be attached to the sofa the whole evening and would need help with food, drinks, toilet breaks, and baby distraction if I needed more time.

The nipple soreness should ease off once they get used to it- and they will soon enough believe me. I also tried to get my dd into a routine when she was only 2 weeks and didn't get why she hadn't had enough food. It's really not something that anyone mentions at the pre-natal stage and it really should be so that everyone can prepare themselves.

willowstar Tue 13-Oct-09 16:36:06

ha, not sure anything could have prepared me for this! Just had another horrible 5 hour session of feeding and crying/screaming. it breaks my heart when she is so shockingly upset but at the same time I just don't know what else to do other than leave her when I have to get myself food and go to toilet etc...

I am feeling a bit sorry for myself too because the other peole in my antenatal class are all able to go and meet up with each other but I feel as though I can't go anywhere with her because of how much she cries if she isn't on the breast and I haven't got the knack of feeding her without my special pillow yet so don't feel comfortable feeding just anywhere yet though I am hoping that will come.

Good to know I am not alone but also dissapointed to know that I am tied to the sofa for most of my waking life. Definately feeling sorry for myself today!

yoshimi Tue 13-Oct-09 20:26:00

Hello there

couldn't read this one and not post..I have a 16 week old who is just coming out of evening cluster feeding. DS1 was one of those babies who went to sleep at 7 and stayed asleep all evening (naps were a nightmare though). However DS2 has cluster fed from the day he was born- it was very stressful in the early days as I have a toddler and a husband who works most evenings so toddler bedimes were a nightmare. DS2 is also very windy and I've just gone dairy free for the past week or so and that has helped the wind at least.

With DH not around in the evenings I just read or went online while he fed and embraced the fact it made me rest. Although I did have to plan getting into nightclothes/ brushing teeth with military precision.

If you can bear to it does help to turn off the lights when they drop off and treat 8pm (or whenever you like) onwards as nightime so they start getting used to a bedtime.

Good luck, you've done a great job so far responding to your LO's needs & the breastfeeding wasn't wasted. They've had the best nutritional start and a mum who obviously understands their needs which will help them grow up feeling secure!

arolf Tue 13-Oct-09 21:12:30

oh, it's so good to read this thread - my DS is only 16 days old, but seems to be cluster feeding in the evenings - thought I was doing something wrong! he has started to feed from about 4pm until 10 or 11, sleep for 3 or 4 hours, then feed again from 3 until 7 or thereabouts, all interspersed with screaming! he barely feeds during the day. it's driving my DP mad, but I'm assuming there's not much we can do about it. DP is currently rocking him to try and settle him a bit before I feed him again. it's so knackering. I'm starting to see why people formula feed...

I'll drop back here for hints and tips hopefully

Sophie1106 Wed 14-Oct-09 17:23:38

Arolf, that's hard going having to cluster feed during the night- at least my LO stops feeding at 11pm. Just wanted to say that i noticed that a sling can help in the evening because your baby is close to you that's sometimes enough to keep them happy and they may have a longer break between feeds. I have a karri-me sling which I find very comfortable for a couple of hours if necessary. If your baby doesn't get off to sleep well this can also help in the early days.I'm no expert on all of this but I think a lot of it is down to wanting to be comforted aswell as just feeding because the breast is the giver of everything for the baby-food and sucking for comfort-ease of pain/help with going to sleep -everything, and knowing she's near it makes her happy.

slushy06 Wed 14-Oct-09 18:03:20

arolf my first child ds did the nightime cluster feeds I stopped him by giving him a bath in the middle of his longest day nap and waking him every 3 hours during the day by changing his bum hope this helps. Also try not to despair he should get a little better after a month.

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