What Is Cluster Feeding, And How Do I Get Through It?

Babies do lots of really cute things. Coos, giggles, and of course, their award winning snuggles. But for each of those cute things, there’s a less charming obstacle that parents have to figure out how to either master or survive- think, diaper blowouts, sleepless nights, and spit up. Cluster feeding is one of those obstacles that you hardly ever hear about, until your own baby is going through it. But what even is it?

Cluster feeding, simply put, means that your baby is feeding in clusters. Usually, this means baby is nursing for 10-15 minutes, then fussing, perhaps falling asleep, and then waking up, wanting to nurse again, after a very short period of time. It can be common for cluster feeding babies to feed up to four times an hour, or to feed constantly for several hours. Cluster feeding is most common during early evenings, or at nighttime, and most prevalent during the first few months of a baby’s life. Older infants may occasionally revert back to cluster feeding when they are going through a growth spurt, or not feeling well.

Cluster feeding is an extremely trying time for parents. It is hard for moms to not lose confidence in their milk supply while going through cluster feeding, but it is important to not supplement formula, unless medically indicated. Supplementing formula during cluster feeding lowers demand at the breast, which lowers supply. Cluster feeding is one of nature’s ways of boosting supply, so if possible, try to nurse your baby on demand. Doing so, during cluster feeding phases can be frustrating. My best advice is to lean on your support system as much as possible, and keep snacks that are easy to eat while nursing on hand, and consider finding a Netflix series to binge on.

If you are struggling to settle your baby in between cluster feeds, try these tips:

  • MOVEMENT: Rock, sway, or bounce your baby. Hold them close, or babywear them as you go about your day.
  • NOISE: Try playing white noise, music, or talking and singing to your baby. The womb is a noisy place, so sometimes babies crave MORE noise, not less.
  • REDUCE STIMULI: Babies can get overstimulated pretty easily. Try dimming the lights in the room, and swaddling your baby.
  • TOUCH: You can simply hold your baby, give them baby massages, or try a warm bath.
  • TAKE A BREAK: When your baby has been crying for awhile, its easy to get stressed out. Unfortunately, babies can pick up on our stress. If nothing seems to be working, pass baby over to someone you trust and take a nice, warm shower, go for a drive, or have a meal, and then try again. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to try to take care of your baby once you’ve hit the reset button for yourself.

Cluster feeding isn’t ALL bad, though. It can often be a sign that your baby is about to take a long nap, or even sleep through the night. As I mentioned earlier, its also a great sign that your baby is growing and thriving. Cluster feeding is NOT an indication of low milk supply, or that is anything is wrong, but if you are feeling concerned, check in with your pediatrician.

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