A newborn constantly feeding can exhaust any parent. Here’s how to handle the cluster feeding, especially when you’re breastfeeding.
I just about had it. The sore nipples, the hour-long breastfeeding sessions, the leaking—I was over it. I felt glued to my baby and shot dagger eyes at anyone who suggested feeding him the second he’d fuss. I was ready to give up.
And that was just five days in.
But beyond the physical pain, breastfeeding is especially hard when your newborn is constantly feeding. Your baby wants to nurse all the time, seemingly hungry and unsatisfied despite the frequent nursing.
For instance, within a two-hour time frame, she’s already nursed a whopping four times.
As a first-time mom, you’re curious whether this is normal. If other newborns also want to eat within minutes of having been just fed. You wonder whether it’s even possible to overfeed a newborn or if yours is eating too much—especially since she’s constantly wanting to be fed.
How to handle your newborn constantly feeding
Rest assured friend, you’re not alone. And more importantly, your newborn constantly feeding is normal and common.
Known as “cluster feeding,” frequent feeding is your baby’s way of getting your body to produce enough milk for her growing body. Think of it as nature’s way of increasing your milk supply. After all, the more demand for milk, the more your body will produce.
Plus, your baby likes to be near you not just for food but for comfort. You smell good, you’re the perfect temperature for her body, sucking is soothing—it’s no wonder she simply wants to be snuggled and fed.
That said, I don’t blame you if you feel beyond exhausted and even—let’s be honest here—resentful of being the only one able to feed your baby. I totally understand that feeling of being tied down, and the lack of freedom that a newborn constantly feeding can bring.
So, here are a few practical ways to handle cluster feedings, both to see if your baby can gradually wean from it, as well as how to cope in the meantime.
1. Make sure your newborn is emptying the breast
Did you know that breast milk comes in stages? During the first few minutes, your newborn is drinking the fore milk (or the lighter part of the milk), before getting to the hind milk (the fattier, more filling part).
So if your baby is only nursing a few minutes on each side, she might not be getting the hind milk, and therefore ends up hungrier sooner than later.
Instead, make sure she’s emptying the entire breast so she gets both kinds of breast milk from each side. This will help fill her up so she’s able to go longer between feeds.
A simple way to make sure she empties the breast? Don’t let her sleep on the job. Feed her after she wakes up, not before she’s about to sleep, so that she doesn’t doze off during feeding.
Besides making sure she’s emptying the breast completely, offer her both of them as well. That way, not only is she getting both kinds of breast milk, but she’s also getting double the serving.
2. Burp between switching sides
Do you find that your baby fusses during feedings, cutting them short? She could be uncomfortable from taking in gas while she eats.
One simple way to eliminate gas is to burp her between switching sides. Simply hold her upright and allow any gas to escape, as well as the food to digest down. Not only are you helping her release gas, you’re also holding her upright, which can prevent spitting up food.
3. Watch for excessive spit-up
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Your newborn could also be extra hungry if she’s not actually taking in the food she had just eaten. In other words, she’s spitting the food right back up.
Like we talked about, holding her upright (especially after a feeding) can help avoid excess spit-up. Make sure you’re also holding her at an angle when you breastfeed to prevent her from feeding flat on her back. You might even want to get a crib wedge like this one so she can sleep at a slight incline.
If all else fails, talk with her pediatrician to further discuss health issues or even medicines that can help her stop spitting up so much.
4. Pay attention to weight gain and wet diapers
Your doctor will know your baby is just fine by making sure she’s gaining the weight she’s supposed to. If you feel like she’s still not feeling satisfied despite frequent feedings, have your doctor chime in on whether she’s on track for gaining weight.
You’ll also want to pay attention to how many wet diapers she goes through. While weight gain is a better gauge of how well your baby is feeding, seeing enough wet diapers can also reassure you that she is, in fact, taking in the milk.
5. Feed on demand
The newborn stage, particularly the early days and weeks, is not the time for strict schedules. This is when your baby can take a five-hour nap, only to take a 10-minute one next. And the same is true for when and how long she sleeps as well.
While she might cry because of a soiled diaper or uncomfortable pajamas, more often than not, she’s crying because she’s simply hungry. Remember, breast milk digests easily, which means she can be hungrier earlier than formula-fed babies.
And don’t worry that you’re setting her up with “bad habits” by feeding her when she’s hungry. Feeding on demand doesn’t mean she’ll constantly expect to eat frequently. Instead, she’ll eventually develop her own routine and flow, especially the larger her stomach gets (and the more food she can take).
For now, feed her when she’s hungry, knowing that this is a temporary and important stage in her growth. She knows what her body needs, and this is her way of letting you know she needs to eat.
6. Find a comfortable feeding position
Perhaps the simplest way to handle your newborn constantly feeding is to make it as comfortable as possible. Sometimes we feel “stuck” in our positions, unable to move around like the rest of the family, making us even more frustrated.
But you can make the most of it by having a comfortable feeding station. Start by using a good nursing pillow and back support. Stock your area with things you might need so that everything is in arm’s reach, from tissue paper to the TV remote control.
And finally, consider creating several feeding stations throughout the house. That way, you won’t feel alone and isolated in, say, your bedroom, while everyone else is enjoying dinner on the other side of the house.
That first month with my newborn was rough. I must have looked online to read the benefits of breastfeeding every single day just to keep going.
But despite the first few days or weeks, breastfeeding does get easier. Your baby will feel less fragile and can nurse without a pillow. Your nipples will adjust and you won’t need ointment for long. And most importantly, she won’t cluster feed as frequently as she does now.
Still, in the meantime, you can make this stage as easy and smooth as possible. Make sure your baby is emptying each breast so she’s getting both kinds of breast milk (as well as emptying both breasts). Burp between switching sides so she doesn’t fuss because of gas and digestive issues.
Watch for excessive spit-up so you know she’s keeping her food in. Pay attention to how many wet diapers she goes through, and confirm with the pediatrician that she’s gaining enough weight. Feed when your baby’s hungry, not from a set schedule.
And finally, find a comfortable feeding station (or a few) so that you’re at least as happy and content as possible.
Don’t worry, mama—your baby won’t always feed this frequently. Especially if, like me, you’re just five days in and ready to throw in the towel.
Get more tips:
- 5 Tips to Stop the Pain After Breastfeeding
- Burping a Newborn After Breastfeeding: Necessary or Not?
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
- 12 Breastfeeding Secrets Every Mom Should Know
- How to Burp a Sleeping Baby
Do you struggle with getting your newborn to sleep? His awake time just might be affecting how well he sleeps or not. Join my newsletter and get my handout—at no cost to you—and discover one mistake you may be making with your baby’s awake time.
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