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Thread: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

  1. #1

    Default 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    Hi everyone, I've been reading the forums for the past 2 weeks, but this is my first post. So far I've made it through a bad latch, cracked nipples, and a small case of mastitis, but I need help with this latest problem.

    My 3.5 week old daughter has started cluster feeding for up to 8 hours in the evening. For the past 2 days, she's wanted to nurse from 4pm to midnight. She used to nurse on both sides and then go down for a nap at some point during the day. Now it seems like she just wants to nurse continuously. I know she's probably hitting a growth spurt and that cluster feeding is common, but seriously.... isn't an 8 hour stretch a little bit much for a new mama to handle?

    So I have a few questions:

    1) Is this long of a stretch of feeding normal? Is there something I could be doing to make her more satisfied after a feeding so that she (and daddy and I) can get some rest? She's literally going back and forth from right to left for the entire 8 hours.

    2) Initially during the feeding, her eyes are open and I can hear her swallowing. After about 5-10 minutes, she seems to be sleeping and doing what we call "fake-sucking". I have heard of comfort nursing, but how long should I let that go on? I have tried to break her off and put her down (when it seems like she really is sleeping), but she wakes up crying like I haven't fed her in weeks. Very dramatic. So I guess I'm wondering: should I limit her time on each side? With the fake-sucking she is doing, I feel like she could keep going on one side for hours if I let her. At the same time, I want to make sure she empties my breast as much as possible as to not mess with supply/demand.

    3) Is falling asleep at the breast a bad thing? It seems like she doesn't fall asleep unless it's while nursing. Is this a bad habit to get into?

    I went out and bought a sling to try and nurse her in... I just can't be confined to the couch for 8 hours a day. I'm going stir crazy!!
    I should add, her output is great and her weight went from 6lb 6oz to 7lb 4oz in one week! I think she's well-fed.

    Thanks in advance for all the help!!
    Last edited by @llli*leilajoon; July 5th, 2012 at 10:44 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    I'm not sure the answer to your first question, and I don't want to mislead you there, but falling asleep at the breast is normal and not a bad habit. Frankly it's the way many (perhaps most?) of us manage to get cranky babies to settle, and I know I'd have zero sanity left if I tried to get my almost 8 month old down without it, he fights sleep enough as it is. If you think about it, your baby's not going to be spending the entire day napping in a month or two, so getting her to sleep will only be 4 times a day (or whatever her nap pattern falls into) then down to a couple naps plus bedtime, before you know it, you'll have a teenager who won't go to sleep, and then you won't be able to wake her up in time for school, haha.
    Sounds like you're mid growth-spurt, and the sling will likely help, even if you can't master nursing in it (I never could) she might doze in there and you won't have to put her down and risk waking her. And remember, this too shall pass.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    Congrats on sweet new baby! It sounds to me as if you guys are doing great!
    1) Is this long of a stretch of feeding normal? Is there something I could be doing to make her more satisfied after a feeding so that she (and daddy and I) can get some rest? She's literally going back and forth from right to left for the entire 8 hours.
    Yes it is normal as long as weight gain is good which I see you say it is. You can try breast compressions to help baby get more faster, and/or try other comforting techniques as babies nurse for comfort and food. (and that is fine & healthy & needed for a baby to nurse for comfort but just so you can get a little break. When I was exhausted during marathon nursing session I gave my son to my husband to "walk down" in the sling. Babies love a daddy's deep humming.)

    2) Initially during the feeding, her eyes are open and I can hear her swallowing. After about 5-10 minutes, she seems to be sleeping and doing what we call "fake-sucking". I have heard of comfort nursing, but how long should I let that go on? I have tried to break her off and put her down (when it seems like she really is sleeping), but she wakes up crying like I haven't fed her in weeks. Very dramatic. So I guess I'm wondering: should I limit her time on each side? With the fake-sucking she is doing, I feel like she could keep going on one side for hours if I let her. At the same time, I want to make sure she empties my breast as much as possible as to not mess with supply/demand.
    She is not fake nursing, She is comfort nursing which is normal and needed especially in the newborn stage, not only so baby gets enough but so your milk production is properly stimulated for breastfeeding now and going forward. Again, breast compressions may help and there are other ways to encourage more active sucking if you want, (pumping/stroking the hand or foot, stroking baby's back, talking to baby, shifting baby around etc.-your instincts will lead you here. But if baby is gaining well there is no problem. There is also no reason to worry about "emptying" your breast by the way, or any need to switch sides unless baby wants to. Alowiing baby to cue feed and allowing baby to nurse as long as she likes will do all that is needed for milk supply, as long as your baby nurses ENOUGH-which is a minimum of 12 times a day at this age. How you 'cout' the 8 hour nursing session is up to you, I suspect it is cluster feeding so lots of feedings, not just one.

    3) Is falling asleep at the breast a bad thing? It seems like she doesn't fall asleep unless it's while nursing. Is this a bad habit to get into?
    Breastfeeding puts baby to sleep by biological design and also relaxes mom if mom lets it. There are hormonal things that occur during nursing that relaxes and calms both mom and baby, I suspect many moms do not get this nice perk of breastfeeding because they are counteracting it by worrying so much that someting is wrong. If your baby is gaining well by breastfeeding alone, and nursing is not uncomfortable or painful for you, all is going great and you have nothing to worry about.

    3 week old babies are not developing any habits. They are doing what nature intends them to do, purely via instinct and biological need. Baby knows best in these cases. Keep following baby's lead and breastfeeding and mothering in general will be alot easier and less worrysome. Being able to nurse a baby down to sleep easily or to calm an upset baby is one of those wonderful perks of breastfeeding, and becomes really, really helpful later on if not now, I promise.

    Remember that much of the advice/thinking out there about feeding and caring for a newborn has it's origins in formula & bottle feeding as we have been a primarily formula feeding soceity for multiple generations now. Not only do we know now that such thinking harms breastfeeding, it is also becoming clear that cue feeding etc. is healthier for formula/bottle fed babies as well.

    I suggest-try to go to a LLL meeting or somewhere where you can experience the normal behavior of other nursing babies and mothers, I think you will find it reassuring.

    Get the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th edition.

    Relax and enjoy this newborn period as it will be over before you know it.
    Last edited by @llli*lllmeg; July 5th, 2012 at 11:52 AM. Reason: no time to fix misspellings sorry, my son needs me!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    Have you tried a pacifier?
    (Some people are going to say 'nipple confusion, nipple confusion'--but I had problems w/ my LO from day 1 with weight loss, weak suck, having to give him bottled expressed breast milk.. and a pacifier, and he is completely at breast now--5 weeks old--and pacifier and bottle and ***no*** nipple confusion. Babies are smart. They know which nipple gives them milk and which one doesn't.)

    So here's what I suggest, because my LO was starting that stuff (only not for as long) last week. Nurse and keep your LO awake for as long as possible. And if she starts to comfort suck, keep her cheek or face against your breast for that skin to skin contact, but slip her a pacifier. If she rejects (at 3.5 weeks old, she'll let you know if she's hungry or just wanting to suck, mine did), keep nursing her, if not, lie her down beside you, maintaining that skin to skin contact.
    Desmond Ringo Payton [5.31.12|8 lb 14 oz|22 in.|blonde|blue|beautiful|BACK TO BREAST 6.25.12]

  5. #5
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    Default Re: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    I wrote w/ the same question 9 weeks ago! This sounds like you're in the middle of the 3 week growth spurt. I was advised to settle in w/ books, the remote, and snacks. At 12 weeks, I actually miss it.

    This site was helpful: http://kellymom.com/bf/normal/growth-spurts/
    Mama to Viv since 4/08/12 -- my all natural post-breast cancer miracle baby

    with just one breast. So far so good.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    hi mama. congrats on the baby and doing such a good job nursing.

    meg has given you really good informtion. and i agree with pp that this is growth spurt time

    i just wanted to add that i wouldnt use a pacifier with a 3.5 week old, they are still really working at building the supply and getting comfort from you. the whole point of the comfort nursing is to
    1. build supply
    2. give her comfort/safety

    in those little sucks she is getting some milk which is good. i wouldnt limit that by using a pacifier. she really is so young.

    in the first 6-8 weeks with my son he just nursed all day long. i literally was in my chair with him and a pile of snacks, books, my laptop.

    the sling/carrier is a great idea if you are going stir crazy. keep him at the breast for now as often as you can. if you need a break maybe set a time with your dh where you will have a good shower to yourself. that way you know you can look foward to that and get a break.

    although it may not feel like it now, the time will pass so fast. i was just saying how much i miss when my lo was attached to me and i could just sit all day.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    Just for the record, it is recommended that pacifier introduction be delayed until 3-4 weeks or longer when a baby has issues with weight gain or is not nursing well. Nipple confusion is a risk, but there are others, including baby developing a sloppy latch (because no skill is required to suck correctly on a pacifier), supply reduction (if baby gets too much of his need to suck satisfied by the pacifier and does not nurse often enough or long enough), and birth control issues (moms whose babies who get a lot of their sucking done on binkies often see their fertility return sooner than those who nurse exclusively).

    OP, I think you got some excellent advice. I'm curious: how has baby's weight gain been, and do you feel like she is too sleepy at the breast? Does she seem to fall asleep after just a few sucks?
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  8. #8
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    Default Re: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    mommal at the end of her post op mentioned above average weight gain and good output.

    paytek I am glad pacifier use helped you, but your baby actually needed some suck training perhaps? You mentioned weak suck etc.-and in that circumstance, pacifier use actually may have helped in strengthening suck/teaching baby to suckle. But weak suck is an atypical situation. Even though it was your experience that there were no issues, nipple confusion from pacifiers does occur, often leading to pain when nursing when it comes to pacifiers more so than baby refusing the breast (Breast refusal is more a side affect of early bottle introduction.) But certainly nipple confusion of any type occurs in SOME babies but not in every baby.

    Just to add some more thoughts to the pacifier issue-the PRIMARY issue with pacifier use is not the concerns of nipple confusion. (Baby not nursing well due to learning to suck "incorrectly" with the paci.) This is one concern, but the primary concern is that studies have shown that early introduction of pacifiers and pacifier overuse at any age is linked to poor weight gain and lowered milk production. This makes sense, as pacifiers are breast substitutes and a baby "pacifies" (Comforts herself) on the breast as part of normal and NEEDED breastfeeding behavior. If this is done too much on something other than the breast, breastfeeding will be impacted.
    Does that mean to never give a baby a pacifier? No. It means, understand what pacifiers do, what normal infant need they are a substitute for, and be careful to not overuse them. I would also disagree that there is some optimum time to give a pacifier. It depends on the baby and why the pacifier is being given and how often. A very young baby who is nursing well could get the paci at times nursing is impossible or very difficult, just in the car, for example, on short drives, probably without issues. On the other hand, if a baby, even one several months old, is pacifying all night or any long periods of time on a pacifier rather than nursing, they may stop gaining well and/or mom may see her supply impacted. Also, some babies simply refuse a pacifier. This is fine.

    Again, hormones are a part of a baby's sucking behavior, and sucking for a certain amount of time releases a hormone that encourages baby to sleep. Sucking on a pacifier puts a baby to sleep just like sucking on the breast does, and that is why breastfeeding is likely to be negatively impacted if this happens too much.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*lllmeg View Post
    mommal at the end of her post op mentioned above average weight gain and good output.
    Thanks LLLMeg, I missed that! OP, disregard my questions- sounds like everything is fine.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  10. #10
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    Default Re: 8 hour long "cluster feedings" normal?

    I totally remember this time. I was going completely stir-crazy, especially during the evening cluster feeding...but now, just a few months later, I wish my son would stay on long enough for me to finish a magazine article! It's a short-term problem, even if it doesn't feel like it now.

    I don't know if this is part of the problem for you, but I felt a lot of discomfort during the comfort nursing (we had latch issues). I have never used a pacifier, but after I let him comfort suck into a deep sleep, I could often gently break the latch...and then keep him in exactly the same position, with his nose and mouth touching my breast but not latched on. If he protested, I'd put him back on, but often he'd stay asleep, giving me a little more upper-body mobility and eliminating the discomfort.

    Good luck!

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