Last Updated on November 7, 2023 by Jada Glover
Cluster feeding occurs most often in newborns, although older babies may exhibit cluster feeding behaviors during growth spurts and teething. It usually tapers off around the 3-4 month mark for most babies.
In this post we are discussing what cluster feeding is, why it happens, and how to manage cluster feeding. Let’s get started reviewing everything new moms need to know to survive this stage.
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What Is Cluster Feeding?
Cluster feeding is a time in which your new baby will exhibit differently than normal feeding patterns. Newborns eat a lot, so don’t be alarmed if your baby is eating around the clock in 24 hours.
On average your baby should breastfeed 10-12 times in that period. This is normal and healthy. You can work with a lactation specialist and your pediatrician to ensure an adequate milk transfer, plenty of soiled diapers, and healthy weight measurements.
Babies tend to cluster feed in an increment of 3-4 hours in one 24 hour period. Your baby may nurse for 20 minutes, take a brief break, and then want to nurse again sooner than their usual pattern of eating.
Reasons Why Your Baby Is Cluster Feeding
There may be many reasons why your baby is cluster feeding. Your baby may not actually be hungry and looking for milk during this time, although it is helping you to build your supply. Some of these reasons may include:
- Growth spurts
- Familiarity with you
I’ve read various studies indicating the reasons why cluster feeding tends to occur at night. Although cluster feeding can occur at any time of the day. Your baby may show signs of cluster feeding more so at night if they are trying to build up a supply for the night. Sometimes, when babies cluster feed they sleep for a longer duration following those feeding sessions.
Sometimes cluster feeding occurs when your baby is most fussy, which tends to be in the late afternoon or evening. This may be because your baby is used to activity at that time from being in the womb (depending on your schedule), and wants to be swayed or rocked like they were for 9 months.
Another theory indicates they may not want to nurse, but rather, be soothed in other ways. This is an interesting take on a baby’s cues. Not all seem to be related to hunger, but more about their new digestive system and trying to handle air in their systems.
How To Manage Cluster Feeding – Top Tips From a Lactation Consultant
Cluster feeding can be a blessing if your baby is helping you build up your milk supply for a growth spurt, for example. You will want to keep up with your baby, so the demand is necessary to ensure an adequate supply. The more your baby removes milk from your breasts, the more milk your body will make.
It can be very tiring and overwhelming, though, I get it. So below find out the top tips on how to manage cluster feeding when your baby is going through this stage.
1 – Embrace It
They are only little once. Your mindset can have a lot to do with your frustrations. If you’re tired and overworked (in the breastfeeding sense), try to maintain a positive attitude. Babies grow up so fast and cluster feeding won’t last forever, I promise.
2 – Keep Your Body Fueled & Hydrated
You want to be eating healthy foods and drinking a lot of water, so your body can feel energized (as much as possible, given the sleep deprivation in the early days). Key nutrients are essential for milk production and your health in general. Aim for whole foods and healthy fats, and at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
3 – Solicit Help From Your Support System
Utilize your partner, mothers, siblings to help you with all the little things. You may need them to fetch your favorite book, charge your phone, make your meals, whatever it may be. Ask for help!
4 – Have Your partner Help With The Baby
Your partner’s voice is likely familiar to your baby. Ask him to rock, sway, and sing to your newborn. You can also have him bathe your little one and change diapers. All of these little things will allow you to get a little breather before your baby is signaling for you.
5 – Utilize a Baby Carrier
Strap your baby to you and get stuff done while carrying your baby around. Your newborn will likely be more satisfied in a carrier as she can feel you, hear your heartbeat, and smell you.
6 – Be Patient With Your Baby & Yourself
You are all your baby knows. Breastfeeding takes practice and patience. Be easy on yourself and your baby during this time.
7 – Find a Favorite Podcast or Book
Having something to occupy your mind and provide some entertainment during these times can be a huge help. You might as well learn something or enjoy something while also doing all this hard work feeding your baby.
8 – Try The Side-lying Position to get some safe sleep.
9 – Try Infant Massage
This is a complementary therapy that soothes and relaxes your baby and aids in digestion. You can try infant massage after a diaper change or before bed 5 to 10 minutes is all your baby needs.
Try not to do it right after breastfeeding as it may cause spitting up. You can use coconut oil to massage, but avoid any other lotions or oils that may hurt your baby’s delicate skin. My son and daughter both benefited from this.
10 – Reduce Stimulation In Your Home
If you have an active house, your baby may be overstimulated. Try reducing the noise level, turning on a white noise machine, or going outside for some quiet time.
Have any of these tips helped you understand how to manage cluster feeding with your baby?
Those are my top 10 tips to survive the cluster feeding phase of breastfeeding with a baby. I hope you found something to help.
The most important thing to remember is that this is just a phase, and luckily it will not last forever. So, hang in there!
Finally, before you go be sure to grab this FREE guide for increasing your milk supply. Just fill in the form below.