Constant Breastfeeding?

Christina - posted on 08/08/2010 ( 42 moms have responded )

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I read through the frequently asked question and got a couple of answers I was looking for. However, I didn't find an answer to one of my questions. After some difficulty getting my baby to latch it was suggested that I use a nipple cover of some sort to help with his latch. It has helped significantly with his latch and he will actually nurse now. However, he seems to nurse constantly. He will literally nurse for an hour or more. And what's worse is even after he nurses he will still take an ounce to two ounces from a bottle that I have already pumped. I've checked and he is getting milk when he nurses so I know it's not that he just latching and not getting milk. He attaches and nurses sufficiently it just doesn't seem to be enough for him. Also, I have noticed his time between feedings has decreased. At night he will still go up to three hours between feedings but during the day and into the evening he is nursing or taking a bottle of breastmilk every hour and a half. I'm just concerned that this isn't normal or maybe he isn't getting enough? Any help or suggestions is GREATLY appreciated!

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Merry - posted on 08/11/2010

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Non-Nutritive Sucking
by Katherine Dettwyler, PhD

Department of Anthropology,
Texas A and M University

I don't like this term because it juxtaposes itself to "nutritive sucking" with the implication that "nutritive" sucking is REAL sucking, and the other is not. It also carries with it the implication that the main/only real purpose of breastfeeding is the transfer of nutrients. This is the message the infant formula companies have been pushing all along -- breastfeeding is JUST a way to feed your baby, and here's another which is better/as good/almost as good.

I don't think breastfeeding is "just" about feeding the baby, any more than sex is "just" about creating babies. Breastfeeding the baby does provide food, and water. It also provides immunological factors, which may be what the baby is after (and why they nurse so often when sick, not just for comfort). The process of breastfeeding itself also regulates the baby's temperature and heart rate and lowers its blood pressure, and puts it to sleep. And then of course there are all those important social and emotional factors going on during the exchange. Dr. Blackburn's research on the evolution of mammary glands suggests that the original purpose of "lacteal fluids" was to kill germs in the offspring's gastro-intestinal tract and protect it from infections, and the nutritive components of breast milk only evolved later.

As long as breastfeeding is seen as only or even primarily a way to feed the baby, then bottle-feeding will be seen as equivalent or good enough (IMHO). We need to really try to get away from this idea that if the sucking is "non-nutritive" then it is optional, or can be replaced by a pacifier. I know that's not what was said in the earlier post, but it is the way many people feel -- that baby *shouldn't* want to nurse again, how could it *possibly* be hungry already? Well, maybe this time it wants to nurse because it is cold or lonely or agitated or sleepy/cranky. All of these are *equally* legitimate needs (once again, in my ever-so-humble opinion).

A good point was made that mothers need to be able to realize if milk transfer is not taking place, and they need to pay attention to output, and they need to listen to their babies, and they may need someone to check their latch-on, and keep track of the baby's weight, etc. I've criticized fellow anthropologists who do "stop watch" research of time baby spends at breast without considering a) how much, if any, milk transfer is taking place, and b) whether or not the mother is lactating. I'm still nursing Alex, but I'm not lactating. So is he breastfeeding? It's definitely non-nutritive, but does that make it not important?

At the same time, we really need to start teaching people that breastfeeding is a multi-factorial, complex interaction between two people that has ramifications for the child's nutritional status, to be sure, but also its ability to deal with disease, its physiology, its emotional and cognitive development. I guess to me the phrase "non-nutritive" just smacks of "non-important" or "non-real" or "non-significant" even if it isn't meant that way.

Kathleen - posted on 08/11/2010

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i went through the same with my baby i went to see the health visitor an she sed its normal as baby is goin through a growth spurt an is baisicly feedin constant so ur breast will make more milk for each feed as he is hungrier, it wont take long for it to settle down, hope this has been helpfull to you.

Carrie - posted on 08/08/2010

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Diet has almost no effect on the quality of you breastmilk - mums in famine areas are still breastfeeding their babies. A healthy diet is important for your own health - NOT your breastmilk. You don't say how old your baby is - could it be a growth spurt or a 'wonder week' (google it :) )
Breastmilk is easily digested and babies can be ready for more quickly - and once I learned that on average adults put something in their mouths every ninety minutes, I started to wonder why society expects babies to feed less often than adults? Sometimes, nipple sheilds can effect the milk transfer, making it hard work for babies to get enough milk. The newer silicon nipple shields are not usually a problem.
Have you heard of cluster feeding? Its really common for breastfed babies to have a period each day, usually in the afternoon or evening where they want to cluster feed - lots of little feeds that sometimes run into each other to form a massive feeding session - especially in the early days! Again, how old is your baby? Young breastfed babies are often not very good at refusing a bottle, and hungry or not, they just keep swallowing because the milk keeps dripping into their mouth! Many new babies are slow feeders, and can take an hour or more. They do get quicker, though - by 3 months, many babies will be finished in 10 minutes or less, and some babies are finished in just 2 minutes!!! If you don't have enough milk, feeding frequently for a few days is likely to increase your supply. You make 80% of a feed in just 20 minutes, so if your baby seems interested in a top up, you could offer a top up directly from the breast, and not have to muck around with pumping, and cleaning up afterwards!

Sarah - posted on 08/13/2010

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Very young babies clusterfeed and go through growth spurts that make them seem like they are nursing 'constantly.' please don't fall into the trap that you are not making enough milk without first talking to a LACTATION CONSULTANT!

Good luck :)

Merry - posted on 08/11/2010

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http://kathydettwyler.org/detfreq.html

this is a longer article so I wont copy and paste it but it is VERY VERY informative on the true nature of humans breastfeeding and how its biologically supposed to happen.
please, everyone, take the time to read it. it is very helpful.

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April - posted on 08/14/2010

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Mama, how old is your little one? It may be a growth spurt. When they're going through those it can feel like they're *never* going to quit nursing. Just hang in there.

Diane - posted on 08/13/2010

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Sometimes babies really do seem to nurse ALL the time and that is normal especially if he's approaching a growth spurt and is trying to increase your supply by nursing more frequently. I would suggest going to a lactation consultant and you can weigh him and then nurse and weigh him again to see exactly how much he is getting. Also, if his latch is good now using the shield it might be time to try and wean off the shield to just your nipple but I would do this under the supervision of a lactation consultant to make sure he doesn't backslide if it's too soon. Good Luck.

Darby - posted on 08/13/2010

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Sounds like he's hit a growth spurt and is naturally a healthy eater. You didn't mention how old he is but my daughter was like that and now she is four months old and nurses every 3 to 4 hours during the day and will wake to nurse only once at night. And it's also a great benefit to you because it'll help you return to your prepregnancy size (assuming you haven't already) and it's wonderful relaxing baby and mommy time. :-)

Mary - posted on 08/12/2010

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It could be that your son is getting ready for a growth spurt. Your breast milk increases via a supply and demand system, the more often your baby nurses the more your milk increases. Babies will "cluster nurse" (this is the term used for nursing constantly) when instinct tells them that they are about to grow and need to boost your supply. Usually this happens shortly after birth to kick in milk production, and then again around six days, then six weeks, then again at six months, right before major growth periods. As long as your baby is gaining weight and having plenty of wet and poopy diapers, he is getting enough milk. If this behavior last for extended periods of time, he could be using you as a pacifier. There are also some health conditions like acid reflux that makes babies want to eat and eat, but that would be also accompanied with vomiting a lot as well. If you notice any of these behaviors, take your son to the pediatrician.

Claire - posted on 08/12/2010

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My daughter used to nurse very frequently, too, when she was that old. Keep it up! You are doing a great job. Feedings will even out as he gets older. And try not to pump more than you have to. He may still be sucking because he simply just needs to suck. (Newborns not only have a need to eat, but also a need to suck.) If he is growing at all and dirtying diapers, then he is getting enough. :) Keep it up

Merry - posted on 08/12/2010

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He is supposed to use you as a pacifier, that's what is natural. Pacifiers are substitutes for the real thing, your boobs are designed to feed, AND pacify. Using you as a pacifier just means he is getting the BEST of the best!

Felicitas - posted on 08/12/2010

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the same thing happened with my daughter i felt like i was feeding her too much... but its the comfert he wants.. not really just the milk.. my daughter loves to be on the boob for the comfert of me and she would still take milk after.. i dont see any big problem at all..

Alison - posted on 08/12/2010

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It is normal, he is cluster feeding. My daughter did that too. Usually it last for a few weeks and then changes. he also may be using you as a pacifier during the day. When he nurses and it slows down and seems like he is not nursing take him off if he wants more right away try a pacifier.I had to do that with my daughter once I realized she was using me as a pacifier

Megan - posted on 08/12/2010

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I know it's hard but just keep nursing him when he wants it. My oldest son was the same way, so much in fact that I would just lay on my side at night and sleep while he nursed and let him take him self off (i'm a light sleeper and I don't move, plus we set up safe boundaries). It just means he's hitting mini-spurts and he's increasing your supply for when he hits the big ones. But if you still are concerned talk to your doctor.

Jamie - posted on 08/11/2010

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My daughter who is now 10 months old will still do this sometimes, and it can definatly be a comfort thing. I am not sure if you are comfortable with this, but try a pacifier. If you are uncomfertable with him using you as a pacifer give him one. This has really helped for me. I actually gave her one in the hospital because I was so sore!
Good Luck

Lauren - posted on 08/11/2010

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My son also has a latching problem and we were using the shield, but I found my son to be doing the same thing. I talked to my lactation consultant and she said that the nipple shield shouldn't be a permanent solution because they get less milk when using this, so she said to slip it off after a minute and try to get him to latch. This worked better for us and helped the milk come through better!

Jessica - posted on 08/11/2010

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One of my twins nursed constantly, turns out he had severe GERD (acid reflux). He was trying to drink/ fill his belly all the time, to put out the fire from the reflux. Once we got him on the right meds (prevacid), at about 8 weeks old, his eating habits normalized, and he became a much happier baby!

Kela - posted on 08/11/2010

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Often the baby will ramp up nursing just prior to a growth spurt to increase the supply to support greater demand later. I noticed this very often with my son. He would go from 2-3 hours between feeding to 1 to 1.5 hours for a couple of weeks and then they would space out again. I would let him nurse for as long and as often as he needs/wants.

Heather - posted on 08/11/2010

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Most babies nurse ever two to three hours till they are 6 months old, or older, depending on when you start them eating baby food. It's completely normal for him to want to nurse every hour to hour and a half also. It sounds to me though like he might be using you as a pacifier, and that's fine, but it's up to you. I would stop giving him a bottle for now and focus on the nursing.

He should be getting plenty by nursing. He might not always be hungry when you nurse him, so he is sucking just to enjoy sucking. Maybe try a pacifier after about 30 minutes of nursing? 15 minutes on one breast, and 15 minutes on the other, or nurse him from one breast for about 20 to 30 minutes, then delatch him, if he stays on one side for that long, and then 2 to 3 hours later, nurse him on the other breast. That's what I used to do.

Pacifiers do help with babies that want to suck all the time. I LOVE the MAM pacifiers, they are awesome. The nipples are clear too, not the brown color of the playtex ones, eww.

How old is your baby boy?

April - posted on 08/11/2010

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How do you know he wants to eat that often? Is it because he is crying? I just ask because I went through this with my daugther. She seemed to want to nurse like every hour. After I fed her, she would be happy for about a half an hour or 45 minutes, and then start to cry. I assumed she wanted to nurse again. Turns out- she was just TIRED! Duh! I felt so silly. She just needed my help to get to sleep-some gentle rocking, patting, a serene environment. I was just sticking a boob in her mouth every time she cried, and of course she would take it out of comfort and then fall asleep at the breast. But now I know that if she has eaten within the past 2 hours she is probably just tired. I try to put her to sleep before I feed her now. She usually will do a really good nurse when she wakes up. (She is 4 months now.) Once I figured this out, life got a whole lot better- nursing every hour was exhausting!



Might not be the case with your babe- like the others say, it could just be a cluster feeding phase. But just food for thought, if couldn't hurt to try to put him to sleep. If he is nursing for an hour probably the last half hour is just comfort sucking.

Gina - posted on 08/11/2010

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Then, Laura, just hang in there! You're doing good. His nursing will slow down the older he gets. My girl breastfed like a nut till she was1yr.After that, life was more doable.I found Le Leche League to be very helpful. You can find the branch and meetings nearest you, online. Again, great job! Don't give up.

Michelle - posted on 08/10/2010

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We were like this in the beginning. I got good at eating dinner one handed over a feeding baby. We just accepted that for a little while this would be what life was like. As he got older he still cluster fed at night, anytime from 6 to 10pm he was wanting nothing more than to be attached to me or sleeping where he easily could be. It was exhausting, but this phase passes.
As they get older you get growth spurts - keep in mind that they're not really growing in one giant spurt - they're increasing your milk supply because they generally need more now. The best advice I got for dealing with those days was to get comfy, get some movies, and settle into the couch with plenty to drink and eat. Once I accepted that some days I would feel like I'd done nothing but feed life got a lot less stressful. :-)

Tasha - posted on 08/10/2010

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I had the same problem come to find out my baby was not getting engough food per feeding and was actually LOSSING weight. I ahve since started pumping all my milk and bottle feeding it to her so I can tell how much she is getting.

Aleks - posted on 08/10/2010

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I've just posted this in another thread. Its still applies here. Also, nipple shields give different flow and different latch. He may be in need of feeding for longer periods becasue he is not getting all that he needs because of the shield. I would suggest trying to go without it, as if this continues your supply may diminish until it dries up....
Other than that here is the post I was talking about:
"Its called cluster feeding... does your daughter have a time of day where she does feed constantly? And at other times its is 'normal'?
My lo did this early on, she would like feed from 4pm till 10pm sometimes, mostly it was from about 6 pm to 10pm. It was only in the early weeks, but I do have a friend who's lo cluster feeds in the early afternoon until evening time, and he did it as a norm, ie, for many many months. Not sure if he still does it ( he is now 11mths).
But yeah, what you have described sounds like cluster feeding. Some babies are like that. Its normal.
I would recommend toughing it out as these cluster feeds do slow down and stop. Yes I know, those few months where the baby practices it will seem to be soooo long, but in the scheme of things, what is 5 months (it could be less) when we are talking about lifetime worth of health from mama milk???
Good luck :-)"

Gina - posted on 08/10/2010

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How old is your baby? If still a newborn and depending on the baby's unique emotional needs, he may need this constant nursing. But it you are still worried, I would call a Le Leche League hotline and try to adjust your diet to make more/higher calorie milk like Emily sugguested. It sounds like you're doing great breastfeeding on demand and perservering! Good for you and baby!

Merry - posted on 08/10/2010

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id like to reitterate that giving him bottles of expresed milk is a quick fix but it also will be a BAD effect on your milk.
he should be nursing as much as long as he wants and needs and if he isnt satisfied then he should be still sucking on your empty breast so your body knows to make more milk next time around.
supplementing him only tells your body to make less milk
so let himm nurse round the clock and really your body WILL make more.
we are designed to nurse, have confidence in your amazing body. it did its job well at creating him, it WILL do its job in feeding him!!

Lydia - posted on 08/10/2010

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my girl was the same for the first few weeks, and during growth spurts i felt i am a nursing-machine... i would sit basically all day long bf her... the only thing i did during those times was watching tv or hanging out in the internet... and i stopped looking at the time at some point, because it drives you nuts! now at 4 months she is nursing still often like every 2,5 hours, but she eats pretty fast and lets easily go when she's finished. she is happy and content baby and sleeps through the night, so i don't mind feeding her more often during the day...

if you wouldn't have enough milk, your son would probably scream, but he continues to eat so that's good! he is just taking in what he needs.

Wee Chi - posted on 08/09/2010

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Hi, i think it is common for newborn to keep nursing. For my elder daughter, I remember she will nurse and nurse non-stop. Very tiring for me but I give in to her. The baby will slowly learn and adapt to changes. For my baby girl now who is 20mths, there is also a fixed timing that she will nurse too. In some nights, she will also keep nursing and nursing. But once she is really satisified, she will latch off.
Don't give up. Breast milk is also the best for our babies!

Aicha - posted on 08/09/2010

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sounds like a growth spurt babies want to eat all the time when they are little or going through growth spurts

Cynthia - posted on 08/09/2010

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I just had my second baby 4 weeks ago, and she has been totally different from my first. My first was a "power nurser!" He would nurse both sides and be done in 10 minutes! Now my little gal refuses to take a pacifier and she wants to nurse constantly, but alot of time she's not even sucking and swallowing- just little sucks to soothe herself or latched on and not sucking at all. When she does nurse to eat, she takes her sweet time and you cant rush her for anything! I feel somedays like nursing is all I get accomplished! Good luck! If you can hold out, this phase should end sooner or later! : )

Christina - posted on 08/09/2010

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Thanks so much ladies. You really have helped quite a bit. Made me feel better at least.

I know some of you asked how old he is. I think the most recent post acknowledged it. He is 12 days old.

Katie - posted on 08/09/2010

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Oh honey, he's only a week old. This is perfectly natural. He's used to getting his "food" round the clock, and still thinks he's attached to you (and really is if you think about it). The first couple of weeks he needs to get back up to and surpass his birth weight. He's also helping to establish your milk supply. I'm less inclined to say that at less than 2 weeks old he's comfort nursing. It will feel like constant nursing for the first few weeks (sometimes less, sometimes more), so take it easy and know that it will pass. Before you know it you won't be permanently implanted in your nursing nook, and it will get easier.

Leslie - posted on 08/09/2010

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It's not just a hungry thing, it's a comfort thing. He may be breastfeeding more to stay close to you. My son breastfeeds ALL the time. Every two hours, even in the middle of the night. He doesn't always empty me, it seems every other feeding is a comfort feeding more. He has a few 'sips' smiles at me and 'talks' a bit. When he was younger he would feed all the time too, the second feeding he seemed to eat a little less usually falling asleep.

I have been completely freaked out that my son has not been getting enough, I only breatfed my older son for 8weeks because a few people said he was still hungry and that he wasn't getting enough. (He was just being fussy, cause when I couldn't take anymore of people saying he was hungry and switched him to formula he was still doing the same.) Anyways, if he's feeding, slowly gaining weight and alert, then he's good. He just wants to feed more. If you really have issues with it go see a LC. They are awesome and hep you so much!

Charity - posted on 08/09/2010

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My son would only use a breast shield also, he was 4 months old before I got him to latch without it and still likes it when he is tired now at 6 months. It never affected the quantity of milk he recieved, and his eating habbits would vary based on whether he was having a growth spurt. I found that when my babe was nursing, often he would be sucking w/o swallowing, ie, using me as a pacifier, so one nursing session often merged into the next, as he sucked in his sleep, then woke and started to actually drink agian. When he is nursing for a long time, is he swallowing (you sould hear a soft "ca" sound if you cannot see the swallow)? If he is moving his chin and sucking only a little, w/o swallowing, try easing him off and giving a paci. Of course, if he is not getting enough milk, the paci isn't a replacement. But if he gets the paci between sessions, this may give your breasts time to make more milk so he is getting a better supply at each session. Also, I found my Lactation consultant to be a WONDERFUL help with any question I had, I can give you her phone # if you would like, although I don't know where you are, you might look on La Leche League for certified consultants. They could give you more help.
The important thing is to keep track of wet/soiled diapers in a day, they can tell you if your babe is getting enough milk, and ease your mind if you are worried. BTW, my son started marathon nursing in the evening as he started sleeping longer at night kind of "tanking up" for the long sleep w/o milk, this might mean he will sleep more at night?

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These replies have been a great help to me also. My 12 day old baby is Cluster feeding a night, at least i now know this is normal & that i am not alone. It has given me the encouragment to continue feeding & not introduce a bottle to give myself a break. Thanks.

Geralyn - posted on 08/08/2010

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I agree with the other moms - you are doing great! My son fed for anywhere from, 5 to 45 minutes every two hours for what seemed to be at least 8 months - with more frequent feeding during growth spurts. As long as he has sufficient wet diapers, he's doing great! Just continue feeding on demand.

Angela - posted on 08/08/2010

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How old is your little one Christina? If he is still very new then babies his age are prone to cluster feeding... it is a lot of work for you because you are going to feel like he is just constantly feeding but it usually occurs in one week stints and then tappers off to about ever two to two and a half hours from the start of one feeding to the next. To me I think he is getting enough it is just that when they are so young they require a lot of milk to help them grow. It is completely normal and you are doing great. Keep up the awesome work.

Emily - posted on 08/08/2010

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I would talk to your doctor about testing your milk to see if it has a lower calorie content than usual. You may be able to adjust your diet to create higher-calorie milk.

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