When using our hospital, after the baby is born, they give you a packet FULL of information. Some are things that they’ve given you in the Birthing Classes or Breastfeeding Class but some are new and definitely a good read. One such item in the folder was about how on (typically) the second or third night of a baby’s life (in the outside world) tends to be a restless night because the baby begins to cluster feed. Basically, they’ve run out of their excess calories that they had gotten from you in utero and need to start stocking up in the outside world.
Cluster feeding, also called bunch feeding, is when babies space feeding closer together at certain times of the day and go longer between feedings at other times. This is very common, and often occurs in the evenings. It’s often -but not always- followed by a longer sleep period than usual: baby may be “tanking up” before a long sleep. For example, your baby may nurse every hour (or even constantly) between 6 and 10 PM, then have a longish stretch of sleep at night – baby may even sleep all night.
Emmett’s cluster feeding began on his second night. They were still doing glucose testing on him so it was important to ensure he ate whenever he wanted it, even if he had JUST eaten, so that his blood sugar stayed above our target. This was taking a toll as it was because he was eating almost every hour and I was so so tired because I hadn’t really gotten any sleep. Once nighttime rolled around, they took Emmett to do another blood test and brought him back in a really awful mood. He was screaming and crying and nothing was calming him down. The nurse even tried taking him and shushing really loudly, it worked for a short period of time but he was right back at it within minutes of her leaving.
Being new parents we tried everything. We had read and were very familiar with the 5’s, swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking, we tried all of those and he kept on wailing. It was a real shocker because he had been so laid back up until now; we thought we had given birth to a sweet and silent baby. The only thing that calmed him was coming to my breast and nursing. This went on ALL NIGHT LONG! I’d get him latched, he’d eat for a short period of time and fall asleep, once asleep, I’d remove him and attempt to put him in his cradle but within moments of being laid down, he’d be up crying again. We repeated that same scenario umpteenth times; I was frustrated with the situation and didn’t know how to fix it.
Being a new mom I immediately jumped to my milk supply. I assumed I wasn’t producing enough, that he wasn’t eating enough and since he was starving couldn’t sleep, so he’d wail. I had a horrible awful time that night and if it weren’t for Seamus, Emmett would probably have been formula fed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with formula but it wasn’t what I wanted for Emmett.
I was crying and begging Seamus to allow me to feed Emmett formula. Saying that we’d know his tummy was full and that we’d then be able to rule out hunger as the reason for his sobbing. Seamus was loving and gently persistent, he reminded me how important breastfeeding was to me, that this was Emmett’s night of cluster feeding that they’d warned us about in our breastfeeding class, that it wouldn’t be like this forever, that I should ask for help from the lactation consultant if I was concerned with my milk supply. I was frustrated with him, he wasn’t allowing me to do what I so desperately wanted to do at that moment but I went along with it, I continued to nurse Emmett and eventually sometime in the very early hours of the morning he fell asleep latched to me and when I removed him he actually remained asleep, we were finally able to get some rest.
When I awoke several hours later, feeling more human than I had in 3 days, I realized that Seamus had been right. Breastfeeding was so very important to me; it was what I wanted to give to my son. I thanked him and told him what a wonderful and supportive husband (and now father) he was.
That night was probably the most difficult night of my life. You hear all the stories about babies not sleeping through the night and the stories of babies who have colic and cry incessantly but you never really think it’s going to be that bad or that it will happen to you but I want you to know that it CAN be that bad and that it CAN happen to you.
I loved Emmett through all of it. We had an impossibly arduous night but I loved him, I wouldn’t have gone through it if I didn’t. It is amazing what the love for someone can give you the strength to do.
I write all this, not to scare anyone away from having children, quite the contrary, I want everyone to have babies if they want them, it’s a beautiful, amazing, fulfilling thing but I want you to be prepared. I want you to know the truth of how demanding it can be because I wasn’t aware, it hadn’t been shared with me. Sure I’d heard the jokes but no one ever truly sat me down and shared what could happen. I don’t blame anyone, it’s no one’s job to educate me but I wish there were more “real” life stories out there that share what REALLY happens the first days of a baby’s life. I wish the hospital had given us that packet of paper during our childbirth class (a month earlier), rather than AFTER Emmett had been born. So I hope this helps, I hope someone reads this and is better prepared for those first few days of their gorgeous new baby’s life.
In case you missed it Part 1.