Baby Feeding FAQs

What is cluster feeding? Is it normal? When does it happen and how long does it last?

Cluster feeding is a term given to a ‘constant session of breastfeeding’ – that is the baby seems to feed, feed, feed endlessly usually in the early evening. It is a term for what seems like never ending breast feeding and completely normal for babies to do this.  Every baby feeds differently and often cluster feeds occur during the “witching hours” of 5pm-10pm. Cluster feeding also provides the baby with a volume of milk to prepare for the night sleep ahead. Its always good to let the baby cluster feed, it helps him gain weight, it’s a comfort to both mother and baby – and remember you cannot overfeed your baby!!

How often will my baby feed in a 24  hour cycle? How long do feeds last?

All babies are different and feed differently.  Some may feed 5-6 times a day and some babies may feed 10-12 times a day and both are normal – for the individual baby. Its best not to time or have a strict feeding times for the baby, rather it is is better to respond to his needs.  All babies are so different and once you put them on a regulated feeding regime the baby may cry more as he is demanding to be fed more frequently. It also depends if you are bottle feeding or breast feeding, depends on the time of the day and also the weather (babies need more milk during the hot weather – not water).

Do I need to alternate boobs?

Yes, you do. It is important to alternate breasts during a feed to keep the milk moving.  Feeding one side only can lead to mastitis as the brain does not discriminate when it lets down the milk into the breast. So when the baby starts to suck and the brain lets the milk down (ejection of the milk) it lets down to both breasts…so the baby needs to feed from both sides.  Remember the baby cannot “drain” or “empty” a breast, the brain lets the milk down in response to the baby sucking on the nipple that has very sensitive nerves that cause the oxytocin (milk hormone) to be released into the bloodstream and allows the milk to flow through he milk duct. The mother looking at the baby (with love) also enables this release of hormones!

Why am I so hungry when I am breastfeeding?

If your baby is born at say 3.5kg, then by six months’ time the baby is capable of being around 9kg – he grows only due to the mothers’ calories (energy) from her breast milk. When breastfed this weight gain has come purely from the woman’s body – that is why women so very hungry while breastfeeding.

So, basically your body is giving energy, life and weight gain to your baby and that is why you cannot stop eating and what is even more amazing you don’t gain weight.

My baby is refusing the breast – why? (also, what to do if baby refuses one breast – as mine is currently doing!)

There are so many answers to this question.  It depends on the baby, the weight of the baby, the gestation the baby was born, the amount of milk you have and the size of your nipples.

  • Babies who wake frequently at night and have lots of breast feeds tend to refuse feeds during the day as they have fed enough overnight. Depends on the age of the baby but it always best to resolve the night sleeping and the baby will feed more frequently during the day.
  • Some babies refuse or fuss at the breast due to their age and get distracted by their surroundings. If this happens, take him off the breast, put him on the floor to play and start again.  Don’t fight the baby to feed this can lead to feeding aversion.
  • The baby may be sick.  If the baby is unwell he may refuse the breast.  Always check his temperature, have a doctor check his throat and paracetamol may be required to decrease the pain.
  • Premature babies who have some sucking issues at birth may experience some breast refusal.
  • If the baby refuses one breast is due to preference.  A baby can successfully breastfeed from one side only as long as this is consistent.

When is the best time to express?

The only time I encourage women to express is –

  1. If you have a premature baby
  2. If you have a sick baby
  3. If you have sore nipples and you cannot put the baby to the breast.
  4. Going back to work early

To breastfeed you do not need to express, although most women have it on the top of their “must buy” list. The best way to breastfeed is to let the baby do the work and not interfere with the milk flow by expressing. Some women who go back to work under six months may need to express if their breasts get full.

What do I do if my baby won’t take the bottle (and she is a few months old)? Is there anything that can be done.

To exclusively breast feed is the aim of most mothers but when it comes to wanting to introduce a bottle to the baby after 3-4 months it becomes a battle and the baby usually will refuse the bottle. To introduce one bottle a day, within the first 5-6 weeks will enable the baby to continue to take the bottle long term. Giving the baby a bottle will not interfere with your milk production. If the baby isn’t given the bottle he will refuse it until he takes a sippy cup around 10-12 months.

With the question about not latching, Cath only talks about nipples being a problem. Could there be other reasons (i.e. tongue tie)?

Tongue tie does not prevent a baby from attaching to a nipple.  A baby with tongue tie can readily suck from a bottle (due to the length of the teat on the bottle encouraging the suck swallow reflex).

The only issue that prevents a baby attaching properly to the nipple is small or cracked, sore nipples. The treatment is easy, the mother should use a nipple shield and that will increase the length of the nipple which will enable the baby to suck and swallow. A nipple shield is the difference between breastfeeding and not breastfeeding.

In the question about milk coming in, Cath doesn’t give an actual time (e.g. second day, third day). Can she please advise a time range this usually happens within?

Lactation takes about six weeks to establish.  The initial filling of the breasts or the breasts feeling full and engorged takes place on a different day for every woman.  Some women have fully leaking colostrum sometimes prior to birth or on day one and other women never even feel their breast full and successfully breastfeed.  Most women feel “their milk coming in” between the 2nd and 7th days.