When I had my first babe I was so excited about everything. Breastfeeding seemed so wonderful. I would get to bond with my babe and give her everything she needed to grow and thrive. Pretty magical, right?!
Then reality hit. I had low milk supply, my babe 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 supply.
As much as I wanted to believe this was normal, it wasn’t. If you are like I was and your babe 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 sustenance. Watch your babes feed. Nutritive sucking should have big sucks and obvious swallows. Watch that their jaw is moving. This is an effective feed.
If babe 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 to babe, if they pull off or continue to flutter suck they are done the feed.
This is usually what’s happening when moms say 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. So, if your babe is comfort sucking and your spent, it is okay to end the feed when they start to flutter suck.
Cluster feeding is when babe nurses frequently for a block of time but then will go a few hours without a feed. This is different than a babe who is nursing frequently around the clock. This is most common in the evenings and is usually followed by a longer 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 babe 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. This can be tough for mom but just offer the feeds, soothe babe and set yourself up with some water, snacks and Netflix.
When a babe has a poor or ineffective latch they are not as effective at nursing. They work harder for smaller results, this is tiring so these babes might be nursing every hour or two. Common causes are tongue or lip tie, shallow latch, or positioning.
If your latch hurts, babe is noisy when feeding (gulping or clicking/smacking noises), or babe doesn’t seem satisfied at the end of the feed, you might have a poor latch. If you think you have a poor latch I suggest seeking help. Consult a lactation consultant or lactation counsellor. They can watch a feed, check your latch, rule out issues, and check for a tongue tie and/or lip tie.
Low Milk Supply
If babe 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. This babe is not getting enough milk and needs to be seen by the pediatrician right away. Low milk supply can be caused from underlying medical issue, poor latch, infrequent feeds, dehydration or poor diet of mom, certain 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 milk supply once you have been safely checked out by your pediatrician.
I hope this post has helped you pinpoint why your babe may be nursing all the time. If you think your 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!
Robin Forslund, RN, Lactation Counselor
The Mama Coach Edmonton