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I Tried to Cluster Feed My Baby and Failed Miserably

Photograph by Twenty20

When my son was born, I really struggled with breastfeeding. Not only did it hurt, like it does for most new moms, but I was also unsure of how often he was hungry and how much he needed. He woke up to eat about five times a night for the first nine months of his life.

He stopped waking up at night after he no longer wanted to nurse, and I was told by my pediatrician to supplement with a bottle before naps and bedtime, in addition to feeding him his cereal, fruits and veggies. After that, he slept through the night without a problem. It was glorious.

After relaying this to a few friends, one of them explained how she'd been cluster feeding her daughter and it had helped her sleep for long stretches of time. I'd never heard of such brilliance! No one had ever told me anything about cluster feeding, or spacing feedings closer together to help babies feel fuller longer, and consequently sleep for longer stretches of time. It made so much sense and sounded so easy.

There's nothing that makes you feel like you suck at being a mom like thinking you have not fed your children enough or are overstuffing them.

I stored that little nugget in the back of my brain and felt it would solve all my sleeping problems when I had another baby. In fact, it's one of the reasons I decided to get pregnant again so quickly. Surely, sleep wouldn't be an issue this time around. I'd just cluster feed, get a good six to seven hours a night and all would be right with the world.

Only that's not what happened at all. My newborn daughter did not follow my hopes and dreams for long, lazy nights after I fed her into a milk-induced coma. The first time I tried it, she drank away, and the whole time I was so happy thinking, "This is really going to work! She's eating so much how much, I bet she's stuffed."

I was right about the being stuffed part, but that didn't last long. Instead, she projectile vomited in my mouth, then burped, then cried. I'd overfed my poor, sweet, 6-pound baby girl. I felt so horrible.

Needless to say, the night didn't go as planned. After a few weeks, I tried cluster feeding again and followed my pediatrician's instructions very carefully, but the same thing happened. It seemed my daughter could eat a lot, but her stomach was only going to hold a certain amount of food, and I never got the long stretches of delicious sleeping-hours I thought I would.

Breastfeeding didn't make my babies sleep longer, and neither did not cluster feeding. There's nothing that makes you feel like you suck at being a mom like thinking you have not fed your children enough or are overstuffing them. But I've learned that what works for one mom, might not work for the next, and in the end, all we really want is a good night's sleep.

Although, as a mother of three teens I can tell you, you never get it. Maybe I'll just have to wait until they move out to resume my pre-child sleeping habits.

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