Newborn babies need to get nutrition from their mother’s breastmilk. They also tend to sleep and wake in a matter of time within a 24-hour period.
Given their need to be nourished consistently and their sleep schedule, they may have a tendency to have short but frequent feeds. While this could drive some mums insane, this kind of behaviour is common in newborns.
What is Cluster Feeding?
Cluster feeding of babies is the period when your baby wants a short feeding time even after a shorter span of hours. Babies tend to cluster feed during their early weeks of breastfeeding.
As mentioned, this behaviour is normal in newborns. They tend to do it every late afternoon or early evening. Some babies cluster feed at any time of the day.
Babies also want to fill up on milk after a few hours. Then, they will often sleep longer than usual.
There are no specific reasons why your baby tends to cluster feed. However, some studies say mothers make much more milk and newborns get more than enough of the nourishment that they need when they cluster feed.
How Can You Tell if Your Baby Is Cluster Feeding?
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When your baby tends to have short feeds from time to time or feeds after a short break, he is cluster feeding.
You might notice the following situations in your baby:
- has shorter sleep or rests, or having naps in between the feeding period
- feeding only in a short time period then gets on and off your breast
- tends to cry, or be fussy during cluster feeding
Cluster feeding of babies usually happens during weeks 3 to 6 after birth. Your baby is also having a growth spurt during this phase.
Having growth spurts may require more milk than usual to fill in your baby’s stomach. Make sure also that mommies have enough milk to provide for their babies.
Benefits and Risks of Cluster Feeding
According to Healthline, the following are the advantages and disadvantages of cluster feeding, for both mum and baby:
- The baby may sleep longer and sounder following cluster feeding.
- Breastfeeding frequently increases your milk supply.
- It helps your child to regulate emotionally and physically.
- It promotes skin-to-skin contact for mum and baby.
- Frequent breastfeeding can worsen breastfeeding problems like sore nipples and breasts.
- It’s unpredictable.
- It can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally for the mum.
- It will keep the mum preoccupied, leaving only little time for other chores and things.
Is Cluster Feeding Normal?
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Observing the following situations should let you know if your baby’s cluster feeding is to be treated normally:
- While your baby cluster feeds, they gain weight reasonably
- Cluster feeding happens for a limited time, every 3-4 hours a day
- It results in a lot of dirty and wet diapers
- Cluster feeding happens after delivery when you have an insufficient milk supply
- During cluster feeding, your baby has short rests and sleeps
- Your baby feeds for a short time, then pulls on and off your breast
If you are worried about your insufficient milk supply, you may ask for a paediatrician’s help.
Cluster feeding does not have a strict schedule. The same with when or how will you wake up your baby to breastfeed.
Meanwhile, here are 4 possible scenarios for when and how your baby will cluster feed.
- Your baby may cluster feed at night, but not during the day
- Your baby would cluster feed both in day and night
- During cluster feeding, your baby might only take snacks, not a full long feeding
- Your baby may cluster feed during the late afternoon, or later in the evening (possibly 5 pm to 11 pm)
However, there are claims that cluster feeding happens or may occur during the night than morning.
Baby Cluster Feeding at Night, All Night
Your baby might cluster feed at any time of the day, but it is common that your baby cluster feeds during the night, and even through the night.
You may find it difficult and yet, cluster feeding could be more convenient and perfect for both you and your baby.
It may be a course of growth spurts or having to produce an adequate amount of milk supply. However, sometimes cluster feeding is more about comfort than hunger.
Nighttime is very tiring for your baby. If your baby gets tired, they tend breastfeed as this gives them comfort.
Thoughts about it may not be true for every baby, but the mum needs to cluster feed her baby more in the evening because she might not breastfeed fuller from one session as she does at other schedules in the day, when there is more supply.
A baby wanting to cluster feed is not always an indication of a low milk supply. As a mother, you may need to follow their lead as your body responds by producing more milk.
If your baby has finished feeding half an hour ago then ask for breastfeeding again as they cry, you might think that hunger is not the issue. But if you observed that nursing your baby stops them from crying, you may indulge them and feed them again.
This is very exhausting for nursing mums, but this is beneficial for your baby, especially during the first couple of months.
Doing cluster feeding will help your baby get as much feeding as they need. It will also help your body to produce more milk required to suffice your baby’s nutritional needs.
However, if you do feel so spent and exhausted from breastfeeding round the clock, you may opt to take a break and try other ways to soothe your baby. Eventually, you will learn to differentiate if your baby is breastfeeding out of hunger, or just wants to be comforted.
How to Reduce Baby Biting During Breastfeeding
Why A Feeding Tracker Tool Goes Hand-In-Hand With Your Baby’s Nutrition Needs
Should I Wake Baby Up From a Nap? 7 Things to Remember About Baby’s Nap Time
When Does Cluster Feeding Stop?
It can be so tiring when your baby is in a cluster feeding phase, but remember that they do not last long. These sessions rarely go on for more than 2 days. But if it lasts longer than expected, you may want to check your baby’s weight, as it can indicate that he’s not getting enough milk and enough calories.
Moreover, once you have established your milk supply, your child will eventually grow out of this habit, around 4 to 6 months. However, your older baby might still cluster feeding on occasion, especially when they need extra comfort like when they are sick, teething (ouch!) or having a growth spurt.
Meanwhile, hang in there, mum! We’ve got some tips to help you manage this demanding phase.
How to Stop or Manage Your Baby’s Cluster Feeding?
Dealing with cluster feeding is also a must because there are times when it is not normal. You can notice this abnormality in the following situations:
- Your baby is not gaining any weight
- Your baby’s cluster feeding does not result in dirty and wet diapers
- Your baby does not settle after every cluster of feeding
And by dealing with it, we should always remember that it is normal. We should take note of the following steps to make your baby’s feeding easier:
- Follow your baby’s needs and leads
- Expect that your baby will be sleepy and settled after feeding
- Try resting during the day to prepare for the night’s cluster feeding
- Try changing positions after each feeding to avoid feeling sore
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- Do not skip meals and eat properly
- Accompany yourself with friends and family to support you
While keeping up with your newborn’s feeding demand can be exhausting, remember that it’s not forever. So do not stress yourself out with your baby’s cluster feeding. If something happens that does not fit, consult your child’s paediatrician to find support.
This article was written by Nathanielle Torre and republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.