Cluster Feeding: The Struggle is Real
I always knew I wanted to try to breastfeed, and I now that Luke is nearly one-month-old, I feel very lucky that I've so far been able to do so rather easily. I produce plenty of milk (gone are the days I can lounge around the house bra-less without leaking milk), we don't have trouble latching, and breastfeeding is rarely painful.
However, what I didn't anticipate was the extensive amount of time I would spend feeding my baby. In fact, I didn't even know what the term "cluster feeding" meant until little Luke took it up with such vigour it might as well be an Olympic sport. Put simply, the kid can eat and he does it often!
Cluster feeding occurs when babies bunch feedings close together at a certain time of day, typically (though not always) in the evenings. It is also often coupled with fussiness, which is true for Luke. When he was 1-2 weeks old, he would eat every 2-3 hours, sleeping peacefully in between feedings. When he hit two-weeks-old, however, his feedings increased dramatically. These days, it's not uncommon for him to eat nearly every hour, and most evenings he's eating constantly. I barely have time to go to the bathroom without a baby attached to me!
The worst part is that whenever he's not on the breast, he ranges from fussy to inconsolable. He'll eat on one side for 10-20 minutes and, I believe, once the milk starts coming out more slowly he gets upset because he's still hungry. He'll pull away, cry, and then have difficulty latching back on because he's so distraught.
I love my baby boy and I love being his mom. When feedings are spaced out a bit I also love breastfeeding him and the bonding that comes with it. When he's not feeding around the clock and I've had time to regroup, care for myself, and do a little tidying around the house, for example, I come back to Luke feeling recharged and excited to care for him. During bouts of cluster feeding, though, I feel physically and emotionally drained, as if all my time and energy has been hijacked. I can accomplish nothing but feeding my baby for hours on end.
So, cluster feeding is one of the more difficult aspects I'm learning to navigate as a new mother. It feels never-ending but, like most things in life, I keep reminding myself that this is just a stage that will soon pass. Until then, I'm relishing the newborn snuggles and doing my best to take comfort in the fact that my body is providing for my baby.