Since having discovered I was pregnant, the one thing I really wished to do, exclusively for the first six months of my baby’s life was to breastfeed. I don’t know where this idea had initially drawn from, I, nor any of my siblings were breastfed and I didn’t openly know of any babies who were. Perhaps the media had a big impact on my decision to breastfeed and subconsciously it was an idea planted in my mind from reading articles, hearing news stories or seeing glamorous images of new mums feeding their babies in the glossy magazines. Perhaps the midwife swayed me with all of the bragging and the encouragement surrounding the topic. Regardless, it was something which I wanted to do from the very beginning and can happily say started off on a good note.
I’ll tell you, there is nothing glamorous about breast feeding, not behind the scenes anyway! Hell, when Euan proposed, I was standing in the kitchen and drying myself off from profoundly sweating – which apparently goes hand in hand with breastfeeding, Yep, that’s one the midwives kept quiet. I also have to change my top several times in a day for milk spills and baby spit up. Real glam..
I suppose what really had encouraged myself to begin breastfeeding were the health benefits and to develop a strong bond with my daughter, I felt that this was the best option for feeding my baby. The benefits seem endless.. protection from infection, building a strong bond, a formula designed specifically to my baby’s requirements. Not to mention the health benefits it has for myself; lower risk of certain cancers and a reduced risk of osteoporosis. It seemed like a win, win and the first time I was given Eleanor for nursing, she immediately had taken to it and found the perfect latch. This gave me the drive I had needed to continue to feed.
All was good and well, however.. nobody warned me of the effects of cluster feeding and what this meant for me. A one time independent woman had now become unable to make herself a cup of hot tea, or even use the bathroom without having a baby attached to her boob. After a few weeks of feeding, I have actually mastered the challenge of opening the biscuit tin and making the tea with one hand, baby in the other. This is a life saver during those late night/early morning feeds.
I didn’t know about cluster feeding and was never made aware of this until I began to do my own research after reaching my wits end with the round the clock feeds, these could take hours and would often leave me feeling drained and inhumane, especially come 4AM and I would still be awake, having not yet gone to bed, sat around the kitchen table, nursing. Surely, I couldn’t go on like this.
What exactly is cluster feeding and what did this mean? Breastfed newborns feed often – up to twelve times in a 24 hour period because breast milk is more easily digested than formula. A Baby’s stomach is the size of a small marble when first born and needs to be replenished with frequent feedings. Cluster feeding happens when babies want to feed more often, in a condensed period of time. In the first week, Eleanor cluster fed for at least three hours a night, every night. I have been told this will pass. This stage of newborn nursing is frustrating and exhausting but I have faith it won’t last forever. I just have to push through and make myself comfy for all of those late night feeding sessions.
I find that I don’t often have the luxury of sitting down. Eleanor does tend to be unhappy unless she is held upright and can have a fussy time during the day’s. I usually spend most of my time with my newborn attached to my breast unable to even take five minutes out from my day to have alone time. As I write this, I have Eleanor on my lap. I understand that it is comforting for her and that she is still so young that she needs the comfort of being held close, however a little space would be nice from time to time. It does begin to take it’s toll and become lonely sitting awake through the nights nursing her and spending the days unable to do much for myself due to having to feed on demand. I get as far as a shower; drying my hair, applying make up, choosing a nice outfit to wear.. that is all put on hold. I am ensured however, that this will pass.. I just have to see it through and break the barriers to get to a stage that I need to be with her nursing.
Knowing that this phase shall pass and that Eleanor is getting the benefit of milk specifically suited to meet her daily requirements and needs so that she can thrive, helps me get through the marathon feeding sessions and deal with the lack of a normal sleep routine. Although, what exactly is a routine with a newborn? I’d like to hear from any new mum who has a set daily routine that they follow. It just doesn’t happen… at least not in this household.
For now, the knowledge that this stage will get better and knowing that I have a happy, healthy and content baby is good enough for me to get by. I’ll get a good night sleep again, one day.