What is Cluster Feeding?
Breastfed newborns need to feed frequently – at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. This is because breastmilk is more easily digested than formula. Baby’s stomach is the size of a small marble when first born so it needs to be replenished more often with frequent feedings. Even as baby grows and their stomach capacity increases, it can feel like your baby won’t stop feeding—again, completely normal! Find out more about baby’s stomach size here.
Cluster feeding in newborns
As newborn babies need to feed very often, especially in the early weeks and months, they teach your body how much milk to make to get the nutrients they need to grow and develop. When baby has the instinct to feed and be close to you, it can often make you feel like you’re feeding your baby constantly… but remember this is very normal and it doesn’t last forever.
Why does Cluster Feeding happen?
Cluster feeding happens when babies want to feed more often and in a more condensed period of time. Cluster feeding happens more frequently at night and can coincide with baby preparing for or going through a growth spurt, preparing for longer stretches of sleep (though this is not always the case!) or they may be catching up if they didn’t eat as much during the day.
Life changes can also impact baby and they may want to be closer with you resulting in longer feeding sessions. This is often the case when baby is feeling discomfort from being ill or teething. It can also coincide with a change in your situation like a return to work, baby’s teething, or some other discomfort in baby’s life can also cause cluster feeding and fussiness.
At first you or concerned relatives may think this fussiness is down to your milk supply, however this is unlikely. Instead of not offering the breast or offering an alternative to breastfeeding like a bottle, this will not help in this situation and is not recommended, as it can affect baby’s nutrition and your bonding as well as your milk supply. Soothing, rocking, walking and offering the breast are the best things you can do. Remembering that this will pass is critical! It can be exhausting, but it won’t last forever.
How long does cluster feeding last?
If you find you’re feeding your newborn often you may be wondering when cluster feeding will stop. It’s important to remember that feeding frequency changes all the time depending on circumstance but cluster feeding usually occurs in the first few weeks and months. However, breastfeeding is not just about the nutrition, though that is very important, it is also about baby wanting to be close to mum. You and your baby will have many ups and downs and you will both get through this. Be patient, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a breastfeeding specialist or healthcare professional for tips and reassurance with this to make your breastfeeding journey as easy as possible.
Don’t forget, our social media pages are full of mums in the same situation as you and can share their experiences in order to help you too. Join in the conversation at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.