Understanding Newborn Cluster Feeding

iStock_breastfeeding_000013188397XSmallMany new parents are surprised by how often newborns eat. Cluster feeding, also called bunch feeding, is when babies space feedings 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 is often – but not always – followed by a longer sleep period.

There are several reasons why newborns cluster feed. Baby may be “tanking up” before a long sleep or trying to help increase your milk supply or simply finding the peace and comfort of feeling full and comforted in their happiest place – with YOU!

Remember, cluster feeding is common and expected. Giving unnecessary supplementation can interfere with your milk supply and actually increase the fussiness.

Your newborn may nurse every hour or nurse constantly for up to 4 hours straight.
Cluster feeding often coincides with your baby’s fussy time. Baby will nurse a few minutes, pull off/cry, nurse a few minutes, pull off, fuss/cry…for hours. This can be very frustrating, and mom starts to wonder if her newborn is getting enough milk or something she is eating is bothering the baby. This behavior is normal and has nothing to do with your milk or your mothering. Some infants will start cluster feeding within the first two weeks of life and it can continue until your baby is 3-4 months old.

During this time, enlist help. Make yourself comfortable and nurse as long and as frequently as your baby wants. Have others bring you food, drink, or whatever else you need.

If your baby’s wet or dirty diapers have decreased, appears to be cluster feeding 24 hours a day, or appears to be in pain, notify your pediatrician and schedule an appointment with your lactation consultant right away. See Overlake’s Breastfeeding Support page for more information and resources.

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Safe Donor Milk Supports Fragile Babies

One of the best recent medical advances is the use of human milk to nourish very low birth weight infants. It is a wonderful resource that helps save lives and decreases the incidence of diseases in these babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Nutrition supports the use of pasteurized donor human milk in infants of very low birth weight when their mothers’ own milk supply is insufficient.

The use of donor milk is encouraged when appropriate steps are taken to screen, collect, store, process and distribute human milk through established channels.

Human milk—a biological product— carries a possible risk of contamination similar to other biological products, such as blood. Informal milk sharing without pasteurization may expose infants to viruses like HIV, cytomegalovirus or hepatitis. It is also possible for human milk to contain environmental toxins, such as pesticides, mercury, medications, drugs or herbs. Concerns over donor milk safety led to the creation of milk banking— a term used to describe a service that collects, screens, processes, pasteurizes and dispenses by prescription human milk donated by nursing mothers.

In light of the advantages of human milk, informal milk sharing is a new trend in many communities. However, the AAP strongly discourages use of informal milk sharing because of the risks it poses. As with any other health-related decision, mothers who choose to share milk informally need to weigh the risk versus the benefit to their babies. They need to take whatever measures they deem necessary to ensure the safety of the milk they are obtaining for or giving to babies.

Donor milk banks provide a safe supply of the human milk used in the hospital setting. At Overlake, we’re proud to operate a Mother’s Milk Depot, where moms can donate their breast milk to infants in need.

If you have or know someone with an over-abundance of breast milk and would like to help, please contact donatemilk.org.

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We’re Raising Money & Awareness Again for March of Dimes

march-for-babies-2016 March-for-babies-2017Overlake Medical Center is very happy to be stepping up again to support the March of Dimes March for Babies 2017! This will be the fourth year we welcome staff, friends and our former Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) families to join the Overlake team. Every year we wear our pink team shirts and walk to support healthy babies and mothers.

This year the walk is May 6, 2017. Please join us – either with a donation or as a team member! Visit marchforbabies.org/team/overlake for details.

We would LOVE IT if you decide to register as a walker! We suggest a minimum walker donation of $12. Once you’re registered, if you don’t already have a pink team shirt, please contact Lynne Saunders at lynne.saunders@overlakehospital.org with your unisex shirt size. Orders will be placed on April 17. We hope to have a “sea of pink” T-shifts showing Overlake’s support for March of Dimes AND our place as a top fundraiser in King County!

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Team Overlake Recognized for Second Year for Raising Most for March of Dimes Walk for Babies

Team Overlake March for Babies members

Team Overlake members accept award for 2016 top area fundraiser.

We’re proud to have received the top award for the most funds raised in our region for the 2016 March of Dimes Walk for Babies!

Team Overlake raised nearly $28,000 for March of Dimes research, which focuses on maternal health, preventing premature birth and supporting babies in NICU.
Led by the Childbirth Center, Overlake has supported March of Dimes for the last four years, and was the top area fundraising team for the greater Puget Sound region in 2016 and 2015.

We thank everyone who has supported our efforts to improve babies’ health!


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“Angel Eyes” Coming to Overlake NICU

Courtesy of Angel Eye Camera Systems

Photo courtesy of Angel Eye Camera Systems.

Within the next few months, families with babies in Overlake’s Neonative Intensive Care Unit (NICU) will be able to watch their little ones from the comfort of their home!

Overlake is in the process of purchasing the Angel Eye Camera System, which uses a camera placed at the baby’s

Courtesy of Angel Eye Camera System.

Photo courtesy of Angel Eye Camera System.

bedside so parents and other family members who can’t be at the NICU can view the baby 24 hours a day by logging into a secure account from their smart phone, laptop or tablet. This system promotes bonding between parents and their premature babies, who sometimes have to stay in the hospital for weeks or months.

Stay tuned for further information and a look at our Angel Eye Cameras.

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Santa Visits the NICU

Santa with Overlake babiesCheck out who stopped by to visit our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) babies earlier this month! This is the fifth year that Santa, also known as Ted Barr, has been delivering cheer to our precious little ones. In this photo, Santa is checking in with Aaron and Kylie, twins from Issaquah who were born October 12, 2016.

Ted, we mean Santa, said he loves and appreciates Overlake and our remarkable staff, so he is happy to return some goodwill. “Overlake has taken good care of me over the years,” he said. “It’s nice to give something back.”

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See how Overlake Helps Moms Give all Year Long to Precious Little Ones

The Overlake NICU milk depot is in the news! See this KING 5 story about how donated breast milk helps NICU babies fight infection.

KING 5 photo.

KING 5 photo.

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Myth Buster: Since Marijuana is Legal and Natural, it Must be Safe, Right? Wrong!

While it is true that marijuana (pot, weed, cannabis) is legal in Washington for those over 21, it does not mean it is safe for pregnant moms or babies. In fact, there is no safe amount breastfeedingof marijuana use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Smoking is the most common way to consume marijuana, but it will pass to the baby during pregnancy and in breast milk even as an edible or in vaporized form. Tetrahydrcannibol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, can cause negative emotional, thinking and behavioral problems in babies.

THC, the major compound in all cannabis products, quickly crosses the placenta during pregnancy and freely passes into breast milk. Because THC is stored in body fat, it stays in the mom’s and baby’s bodies for a long time. It is not known how long THC remains in breast milk after use. Alarmingly, THC levels in breast milk can be up to eight times higher than the mother’s blood levels. Because of possible risks to the baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Washington State Department of Health advise that marijuana should not be used while breastfeeding.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy statement in Pediatrics 2012, Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827
Washington State Department of Health. Substance free for my baby. https://www.srhd.org/documents/Tobacco/MJ-Substance-Free-for-Baby.pdf

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Breastfeeding is Wonderful! . . . And Sometimes Hard

Genevieve Neeley with her three children.

Genevieve Neeley with her three children.

When I was pregnant with my first child there was no question of whether I would breastfeed. At the time I had been a nurse practitioner in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for over 6 years, so I had naturally become a strong believer in breast milk and breastfeeding. We practically treat breast milk like liquid gold in the NICU because it is so beneficial for our tiny and fragile population. I also knew from my experience in the NICU that breast milk production and breast feeding could have its challenges. It turned out I was one of those moms who would be challenged – with each of my three kids.

In November 2010 my first child was born. At first it seemed she was hungry all the time, and I worried my breast milk supply was not satisfying her. It was frustrating. So I pumped and supplemented with bottles of either breast milk or formula. I’m not sure now if she actually needed it, but at the time I certainly thought she did. During my 24-hour shifts I would pump in place of breastfeeding. I was prone to clogged ducts during those days, so I would rush home in hopes that breastfeeding or a strong breast massage in the shower would help clear the duct before I got mastitis (breast tissue inflammation). I remember thinking during those times that I understood why people quit breastfeeding. It can be hard. But I stuck with it, and breastfed my baby 14 months.

Twenty-one months later my second little one made his appearance. This time I believed things would be easier. This was, after all, my second kid. Surely I got the kinks worked out with the first one. Sure enough, my milk came in and it felt much better than before (yes!), but then I start getting cracked nipples. This type of pain is incredible. The last thing you want to do is allow your newborn to latch onto your sore nipples, yet they still need to eat every two-three hours. I remember closing my eyes and clenching my fists in pain at the start of every breastfeeding session. And the shower! You finally get a few moments to enjoy a shower, but the water hurts almost as much as breastfeeding. I seriously contemplated quitting, but I persevered. And it paid off. My son, 7 lbs at birth, was 19 lbs at 4 months – exclusively from breast milk. Incredible! He breastfed until 15 months of age.

My third child was born almost exactly a year ago. While she has been a joyful addition to our family, the breastfeeding struggles were the same. My milk supply was definitely the best it had ever been, but I went through a month or longer with very sore, cracked and bleeding nipples again. Baby also was unable to get milk from the breast very well in her first month of life. So I breastfed, pumped, supplemented with a bottle and visited the Overlake Mom & Baby Care Center and my pediatrician regularly to check her weight. This time I thought it was all the pumping that would do me in. Still, I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel, in spite of all the work! I kept on and by two months of age she was breastfeeding exclusively. Whew!

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t write this as a message that everyone must breastfeed. I have many friends who for one reason or another were unable to breastfeed at all or only for a short period. Rather, I want to encourage those of you who may encounter challenges with breastfeeding. Persistence can pay off. Once these problems were resolved I was able to enjoy breastfeeding. As the babies became more social it is such a special time to bond with them. The time spent breastfeeding becomes mutually enjoyable – a special time for just mom and baby.

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know experiences these or other problems associated with breastfeeding, please contact a lactation consultant, as most nipple pain can be easily resolved. Modern nipple shields make is possible for women with cracked nipples to heal and breastfeed at the same time. Additionally, when the baby has trouble latching or getting milk from the breast, there are things a lactation consultant can recommend to painlessly help both mom and baby. The Mom & Baby Care Center at Overlake Medical Center can help. Make your appointment by calling 425.688.5389.

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Follow the Milk

When mom’s milk isn’t available, Overlake Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) uses donated human milk to help critically-ill premature babies.

We’d like you to know about the journey that donor milk makes before it can be given to our fragile preemies.

The Overlake NICU uses donor milk from Northwest Mothers Milk Bank (NWMMB) in Portland, OR. NWMMB partners with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), which follows strict guidelines established by the FDA and CDC for processing donor milk. Overlake is also a depot for moms to drop off donations if they qualify.

First, potential donors have a phone screen with staff at the milk bank to share a brief health history and determine if any factors might prevent donation, such as a recent blood transfusion or taking certain medications or supplements.

If approved to move forward, moms have blood work done similar to what’s done for donating blood. Moms pack up their frozen surplus breast milk and drop it off at a depot such as Overlake .

The depot freezes and then ships the milk to the nearest milk bank (Portland, in our case), where it is stored until results from mom’s lab work confirm her milk is safe to use.

Milk banks then pasteurize all donated milk. Donations are pooled from several donors to make a batch big enough to process. Bacterial cultures are taken from random samples after pasteurization to assure no contamination occurred in processing.

After that, the donor milk is refrozen in small bottles appropriate for feeding volumes of preemies. When hospitals like us request the milk, it is shipped frozen on dry ice from the bank to us for feeding our fragile NICU babies.

Donors are not paid for their milk donations through HMBANA. But because supplies of donor human milk are in such demand, HMBANA pays for all donor blood work and any shipping costs to get milk to the bank. HMBANA then charges hospitals $4-6 per ounce to cover processing costs.

Thanks to donors everywhere for making this generous gift available for feeding fragile babies who don’t have mother’s milk!

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