I was wandering around baby blogs (I always like to see what other writers are saying!) and stumbled onto a sleep consultant’s post about the “cluster feeding” pattern. These babies nurse/feed briefly then become fussy without a good reason (diaper change, illness of some kind, lack of sleep), and get hungry soon afterward. These newborns could really use the Happiest Baby techniques to quickly settle down and have a full meal followed by a long nap. Here is what happens when newborns get stuck into a pattern of snacking, and how to turn this ship around using Happiest Baby strategies.
Healthy newborns really can fill up when they nurse or bottle feed. The maximum amount that they take in is largely a function of how big their tummies are. There are the babies that need to be tickled and encouraged to stay awake long enough to finish a feed, but this post is about the newborns that are alert and hungry, then just take in enough to not be famished. They get fussy and lose their focus on eating, only to be hungry for another “snack” in an hour. Those babies aren’t getting as many deep-sleep cycles as they need for growth, and they are developing habitual patterns that drain the whole family. Their lactation consultant may recommend more frequent nursing, only to get the same pattern of behavior. Parents may ask their pediatrician for a work-up for reflux or another disorder, only to be told that everything is OK. They aren’t relieved to hear this, because their day-to-day existence is far from “OK.”
Babies that don’t sleep and feed well might not be ill, but they are more likely to develop sleep and mealtime issues as these patterns progress over time. Breastfeeding babies aren’t getting the delicious and nutritious combo of “foremilk” at the beginning of nursing, and the “hindmilk” as they empty a breast. (If you aren’t aware of their different qualities, ask your lactation consultant.) The parents of fussy feeders can feel that they have failed, or become depressed from the ongoing stress and exhaustion.
When I have been asked to help parents like these learn the 5 S’s of The Happiest Baby, I know that I can offer real strategies to change this situation. When parents use swaddling, shushing, side/stomach calming (not sleeping), sucking, and swinging, it isn’t just for good sleep. The 5 S’s get babies calm and alert faster and longer than anything else I have ever tried. Babies need to be calm and focused to nurse well. They eat more, then sleep longer. They wake hungry for another good meal, and their fussiness can be soothed with the Happiest Baby techniques. Longer feedings allow newborns to be satisfied for a longer time, not just eating enough to be not ravenous. It can take a few days for parents to alter a newborn’s pattern of behavior , but as soon as they see a baby with a full belly sleep for a few hours, and they repeat it, I get a grateful call or e-mail.
I am going to repeat my simple and practical point again: babies need to be calm and focused to nurse well. Learning how to calm a baby and help them focus on feeding is valuable. Happiest Baby techniques help babies calm down quickly. The 5 S’s are not just for sleep. Not even close.