Cluster feeding, comfort feeding?

In preparing to breastfeed, I read many books that talked about cluster feeding – which is when the baby wants to feed very often for a few hours over a stretch of days prior to a growth spurt. It’s a challenging time since the baby wants to latch so often, but important because she needs to send a signal to the boobs to make more milk. When my daughter started demanding the boob more, aka “cluster feed”, I was prepared.

Cluster feeding during growth spurts

The first few growth spurts are very closely spaced: at 7-10, at 2-3 weeks, at 4 – 6 weeks. Sometimes, it felt like the growth spurt never ended: there was always a time of the day when she wanted to be fed every hour. Sometimes it was the afternoon, and other times it was the evening. I fed her on demand.

She recently turned 8 weeks, and she still feeds hourly at some point everyday. Apparently, that is not normal. I happened to talk to a friend who had a baby a few days before me, and she said that her baby doesn’t have to eat every hour. Doesn’t her baby clusterfeed? Not everyday. She thought I should check it out with the pediatrician.

The night before the ped appointment, daddy had to stay home with baby while I attended an event. I left them pumped milk, and came back to an exhausted daddy. Baby girl had apparently been suckling on the bottle without drinking much for 3 hours. We know that she can eat 2 oz in less than 10 min, so it wasn’t an issue with the nipple.

Comfort feeding is everyday

The pediatrician called it comfort feeding. Of course. I had read about it too, but I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like. The pediatrician said it is appropriate to use a pacifier in such situations. Oh.

I didn’t grow up with a pacifier. In fact, my mom is irrationally strongly against the use of pacifiers. “Looks indecent.” I was agnostic, but if my baby needs one, she gets one. I just needed to find out more about what I was going to give her.

Issues related to pacifier use

Pacifier use has been linked with lower SIDS incidence (although others say that no such effect exist if we correct for some factor). A pacifier is used to soothe the baby, which is fine by me. The pacifier is supposed to replace the thumb or hands as a soothing device. More importantly, self-soothing by thumb/hand leads to orthodontic issues, and it’s harder to wean off since you can’t take away the baby’s hands. Fair enough…I’m sold. Besides, there are other issues while putting her to sleep. Like how she seems to magically awake when I take my boob away. S so it’s not a bad idea to have a detached fake boob that I can leave with her till it falls out. Plus, I can introduce the pacifier while she is in the crib, so I don’t have to move her after she falls asleep.

It’s still not clear to me when to use it, in case I misread real hunger for comfort feeding. But there is a certain hour of the night when she is stuck to my boob for 2/3rd of the hour which I am sure is a good place to introduce the pacifier. Now, she just needs to actually take it – she much prefers the boob to the bottle. She can probably tell the difference between the pacifier and me.

In case you are worried about affecting milk supply, many sources say that pacifier use will not have any effects if introduced after supply is established, after 4-6 weeks. We are safely in that zone. I hope she falls asleep more easily tonight.

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