When I had my first daughter I was so excited about everything. I was certain that I wanted to breastfeed. With breastfeeding, I would get to bond with my sweet babe and give her everything she needed to grow and thrive. Pretty magical, right?!
Then reality hit. I had a low milk supply, my baby was literally nursing ALL the time and I was exhausted. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on. I researched cluster feeding, I looked up how often a newborn should eat and I pumped after every nursing session to try and increase my milk supply.
As much as I wanted to believe this was normal, it wasn’t. If you are like I was and your baby is nursing ALL the time, here are some reasons this might be happening.
Babies love nursing and sucking. It is ingrained in them for survival. A baby that doesn’t eat won’t get the nutrition required to grow and survive. But not all sucking and nursing is for nutrition. Watch your baby feed. Nutritive sucking should have big sucks and obvious swallows. Watch that their jaw is moving and that there is a pause and swallow. A swallow will sound like a soft “k” sound. This is an effective feed.
If your baby is “flutter sucking”, which you might notice at the end of a feed, this is no longer nutritive sucking. This is comfort sucking. Try doing some breast compression to increase milk flow, if they pull off or continue to flutter suck they are done the feed.
This is usually what’s happening when moms tell me that their babe is nursing for hours at a time. Babe is usually flutter sucking and taking a little nap at the breast, great for babe- but exhausting for mom. It is okay to end the feed when they start to flutter suck.
Cluster feeding is when babies nurse frequently for a block of time but then will go a few hours without a feed. This is different than a baby who is nursing frequently around the clock. Cluster feeding is most common in the evenings and is usually followed by a longer stretch of sleep. It is sometimes thought of as babies “filling their tank”. This is not an issue that requires any intervention and is a normal behavior in newborns.
If your baby is happy most of the day and then has a period of fussiness and frequent nursing in the evening it is most likely cluster feeding. Cluster feeding can be tough for mom. I suggest setting up on the couch with water, snacks and a favorite show to binge watch. The extra evening sessions will soothe your baby and set them up for a longer stretch of nighttime sleep.
When a baby has a poor latch, they are not as effective at nursing, because they have to work harder for smaller results. This is exhausting, and these babies tend to nurse every hour or two.
Common causes of a poor latch are a tongue or lip tie, shallow latch, or improper positioning.
If your latch hurts, your baby is noisy when feeding (gulping, clicking or smacking noises), or your baby doesn’t seem satisfied at the end of their feed, you might have a poor latch. If you suspect that you may have a poor latch I suggest seeking help. Consult a lactation consultant or lactation counsellor (feel free to reach out to me). They can watch a feed, monitor baby’s weight gain, check your latch, and check for the presence of a tongue or lip tie.
LOW MILK SUPPLY
If your baby is nursing all the time and has poor weight gain, seems sleepy and fussy during and after nursing and has decreased wet and dirty diapers you might have a low supply. Nay of this signs can indicate that your baby is not getting enough milk and needs to be seen by your health care provider right away.
Low milk supply can be a result of an underlying medical issue, poor latch, infrequent feeds, dehydration or poor diet in mom, medications, birth control or supplementation. If your issue is low milk supply, check out my next blog post which discusses each of these issues and how to increase your milk supply once you have been safely checked out by your health care provider.
I hope this post has helped you pinpoint why your baby may be nursing all the time. If you think your sweet babe is not getting enough milk and/or you are having issues with a latch please seek out help. You are always welcome to contact me with any questions you may have!
Take Care Mamas!