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Many moms are concerned that their babies are not getting sufficient nutrients after breastfeeding. One mother even spoke of how her baby was breastfeeding for an hour and still did not seem to be satisfied. Many of you may be going through this situation and may be tempted in giving formula. My first baby Denisha was very fussy in the evenings. At the time I was not educated about the information I am giving you now.

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 at night.

Cluster feeding often coincides with your baby’s fussy time. Baby will nurse a few minutes, pull off, fuss/cry, nurse a few minutes, pull off, fuss/cry… on and on… for hours. This can be VERY frustrating, and mom starts wondering if baby is getting enough milk, if it something she is eating  is bothering baby, if EVERYTHING she is doing is bothering baby… It can really ruin your confidence, particularly if there is someone else around asking the same questions (your mother, your husband, your mother-in-law).

Believe it or not : This behavior is NORMAL! It has nothing to do with your breastmilk or your mothering. If baby is happy the rest of the day, and baby doesn’t seem to be in pain (as with colic) during the fussy time – just keep trying to soothe your baby and don’t beat yourself up about the cause. Let baby nurse as long and as often as he will. Recruit dad (or another helper) to bring you food/drink and fetch things (book/remote/phone/etc.) while you are nursing and holding baby.

Does this mean that baby needs more milk than I can provide?

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No. Don’t give baby a bottle — supplementation will only tell your body that you need LESS milk at this time, and that will not help matters. Also, keep in mind that formula fed babies experience fussy periods in the evening, too — fussy evenings are common for all young babies, no matter how they are fed. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine spells this out in their supplementary feeding guidelines:

Why do babies fuss in the evening?

One frequently-heard explanation for baby’s fussiness in the evenings is that milk volume tends to be lower in the evening due to the natural cycling of hormones throughout the day. However, Dr. Peter Hartmann, a breastfeeding researcher, has said that in the women he has studied, milk volume is not low at this time of day.

Even if milk volume is lower in the evening, fat content is typically higher in the evening (particularly if baby is allowed to control this via cue feeding), so the amount of calories that baby is getting should not be significantly different. Milk flow can be slower in the evening, which may be frustrating for some babies.

Doctors often attribute evening fussiness to baby’s immature nervous system (and the fussiness does end as baby gets older, usually by 3-4 months). However, Dr. Katherine Dettwyler (who does research on breastfeeding in traditional societies) states that babies in Mali, West Africa and other traditional societies don’t have colic or late afternoon/evening fussiness. These babies are carried all day and usually nurse several times each hour.

So perhaps none of these explanations is a complete answer to baby’s evening fussiness. For many babies, the fussy time seems to be characterized by a need to have small quantities of milk at frequent intervals, combined with lots of holding, cuddling and movement.

Babies who are offered as much expressed milk or formula as they will take by bottle [note: this practice will decrease your milk supply!] often behave in exactly the same way in the evenings. Baby takes a small amount and dozes (and fusses), then a little more, and so on. Perhaps babies “remember” mom being very active during her pregnancy at these times, and want to be held, rocked, and nurtured constantly again.

Soothing techniques for the fussy times

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  • You can wear baby in a sling or baby carrier.
  • . This will free one or both hands for other tasks (fixing dinner, caring for other children) while you hold, soothe and nurse your baby.
  • Change of pace. Let dad have some “baby time” while mom takes a shower or simply gets some time to herself to relax and regroup after a long day.
  • Go outside. Relax baby (and mom too) with a walk, or just sit and enjoy the outdoors. Try this a little before baby’s regular fussy time. A stroller would also be a great welcome to the outdoors.
  • Soothe with sound. Sing, hum, talk, murmur shhhh, listen to music, or use ‘white noise.’ Try different types of sound, different styles of music and singers with different types of voices.
  • Soothe with rhythmic motion. Walk, sway, bounce, dance, swing, or even try a car ride.
  • Soothe with touch. Hold or bathe baby, try baby massage
  • Reduce stimulation. Dim lights, reduce noise, swaddle baby.
  • Vary nursing positions. Try side lying, lying on your back to nurse with baby tummy to tummy, etc.
  • Nurse in motion (while rocking, swaying, walking, etc.).
  • Combine rhythmic motion with soothing sounds.
  • Avoid scheduling, even more so in the fussy evening hours.
  • More soothing techniques.
Skin to Skin With Dad 60 Minutes at a Time Is Beneficial for Everyone!

Now you know that fussiness is a part of most babies lifestyle for at least three to four months. As they grow , they will experience fussiness. Now Mommy think about this, your baby just the other day was taken from an environment where there was no sounds except for the swooshing of the blood. There was total darkness in a warm cozy place- your womb and no one touching him. Now that he is born things in have shifted dramatically and it will take time for him to adjust to our environment. So be patient and enjoy the time you spend together; knowing that it is not happening because of something you have done.

Please comment and reply in the box if you have any questions or comments and I will return your answer. Leave us your email and we will send you our monthly newsletter. Thank you for stopping by and do come again.

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Published by Marilyn Smith

Hello. My name is Marilyn Smith. I am a Health Specialist with specialized skills in Clinical Practical Nursing, and Midwife of thirty six years. I am also a certified Lactation and Grief Specialist. I am well qualified to assist in meeting your breastfeeding needs. Breastfeeding is indeed the best for your baby. Congratulations on making such a wonderful decision. Consider this your home as we learn about the joys and pains of pregnancy & breastfeeding

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