All about cluster feeding

All about cluster feeding

When your little infant or newborn starts demanding multiple short feeds in the space of a few hours, you might be experiencing what is called the cluster feeding phenomenon. In this article, we will be focusing on all that you need to know about cluster feeding and how to manage it.

Cluster feeding: What does it mean?

A cluster feeding baby demands several feeds within a close period of time. This usually occurs in infants who are just about a few days/weeks old and is said to be very normal.

This phenomenon happens more in the late afternoons or evenings. The baby will feed, pull off, fuss and cry, and then feed again, pull off, fuss and cry again. The whole routine can carry on for hours and can be extremely tiring for the mother. Though cluster feeding is usually observed in infants right after birth, it can also happen in older babies who suffer from colic or are generally going through a growth spurt.

A tiring phase for new moms

The cluster feeding phase can be quite tiring for new mothers. They end up getting very few hours of sleep and proper rest. A lot of mothers even worry that they are not producing enough milk for the baby and hence often end up giving complementary feed (formula milk). This is something that should not be done since supplementation will signal the body to produce less milk and that will make matters worse.

It is essential to feed the baby how much they demand. The more a mother feeds, the more milk is produced. Don’t worry about overfeeding the baby or guessing whether your baby is actually hungry. Just let them feed whenever they want to.

Identifying cluster feeding

It is a complicated process to identify cluster feeding as infants usually have an unpredictable feeding and sleeping routine.

Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • There are visible signs of hunger and the infant does not stop crying until fed.
  • Crying and fussing alternating with frequent feedings, often at a gap of less than an hour.
  • The infant cries even when her diaper is not wet or soiled.

The regular feeding schedule of a baby

All babies are different, but generally a routine feeding time for a baby ranges between 15 and 30 minutes. As per specialists, a baby should be fed at least 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.

If the infant feeds frequently, it results in

  • Low chances of jaundice
  • Healthy weight gain
  • Proper milk supply for new moms

Ways to deal with cluster feeding

Since this phenomenon happens more during the evenings, prepare yourself for it. Prepare an early dinner and wear comfortable clothes. To make this tiring phenomenon easier on yourself, remember these tips:

  1. Take a deep breath, listen to what your baby wants and go with the flow.
  2. Know that you are settling your baby down for a long sleep and there is rest hours ahead.
  3. Tell yourself this is a phase and will pass.
  4. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your family.
  5. Drink lots of water and eat small, frequent and healthy meals.

Pros and cons of cluster feeding

Pros

  • Post cluster feeding, the baby tends to sleep more.
  • It helps increase the supply of breast milk.
  • It promotes growth and development of the infant.
  • It increases the skin-to-skin time between the mother and infant, and improves bonding.

Cons of cluster feeding

  • There is an increased risk of nipple soreness.
  • It is not predictable.
  • It results in physical and emotional tiredness for the mother.
  • It disrupts the normal routine that one is used to during pregnancy.

Though cluster feeding results in tiredness, new moms need to remember that it is an important part of the baby’s development.