Cluster Feeding Tips – 7 Tips To Cope With Cluster Feeding

Cluster Feeding Tips - 7 Tips To Cope With Cluster Feeding

Cluster Feeding Tips

Cluster feeding is when babies bunch feeds close together at certain times of the day. Though they may leave a couple of hours between feeds most of the day, there will usually be a few hours of constant or close together feeds. Cluster feeding is most common in the evening, although may differ between babies. This can be challenging for mothers, so we’ve put together some cluster feeding tips to help make these feeding times a little less stressful.

Cluster feeding is very common in young babies. However, some mothers notice cluster feeding returns with older babies who are approaching a growth spurt or developmental leap.

It’s Natural

It can be quite frustrating to be a new mother with a cluster feeding newborn. You are undoubtedly exhausted, and probably emotional from all the postnatal hormones whirring around in your body. On top of that, cluster feeding can feel never ending, and babies are often fussy during periods of cluster feeding. Pulling off the breast, crying and general fussiness can all add to your frustration.

It can also make you feel like a failure. You may worry that you’re not producing enough milk to satisfy your baby, or that you are unable to soothe your fussy baby.

But don’t worry, cluster feeding is completely normal. Most babies will cluster feed during the early months. It is not a reflection of low milk supply.

Why Does Cluster Feeding Happen?

The exact reasons for cluster feeding are unknown. However, experts assume cluster feeding is a way babies boost breastmilk production.

Your baby’s stomach grows rapidly during the first few months of life, and your body must produce more milk to meet the increased demand. Cluster feeding may be natures way of kick-starting this process.

Some experts believe babies cluster feed in the evenings, because they’re filling up on milk before a big sleep. Although it’s unlikely your baby will sleep through the night during these first few months, you may notice a longer stretch of sleep following an evening of cluster feeds.

Concerns About Low Milk Supply

Cluster feeding is not a reflection of low milk supply. Cluster feeding is not a reflection of low milk supply. I said it twice in case you didn’t believe me the first time. If you’ve got a mother in law pressuring you to give the baby a bottle, and a husband wondering why the baby is always hungry, it’s natural to start doubting yourself.

Please believe me when I say you should not worry about your milk supply. Cluster feeding is nature’s way of increasing milk supply. If you supplement with formula, your body will not receive the cluster feeding cues that the baby needs more milk, and soon you will find that you are not producing enough milk to feed your growing baby, and so the prophecy comes true and you have to continue supplementing.

If your baby is producing a good amount of wet and dirty nappies, it’s unlikely you have a breast milk supply problem. It’s a good idea to make yourself familiar with the reliable signs that your baby is getting enough milk.

Cluster Feeding Tips – How To Cope

Here are our 7 cluster feeding tips to help make feeding times a little more relaxing.

Cluster Feeding Tip #1 – Acceptance

Babies usually develop a cluster feeding routine. You may find that between 6 and 10pm every evening, you are feeding the baby. Once you know this, you can accept it and plan your evening around it. That way you won’t feel frustrated that your plans have gone awry.

Cluster Feeding Tip #2 – Stay Hydrated

Producing breast milk is thirst business. You may find yourself particularly parched during periods of cluster feeding. Make sure you have a big glass of water next to you when you sit down to start feeding.

Cluster Feeding Tip #3 – Get Comfy

If you know you’re going to be stuck somewhere for four hours, make sure you’re comfortable.

Whether you’re snuggled up in bed, or propped up on the sofa, make sure you have your books, magazines, smart phone, TV remotes and DVD box sets nearby to keep you entertained.

Cluster Feeding Tip #4 – Eat First

If you know baby is going to start cluster feeding at 6pm, make sure you’ve eaten before then.

There’s nothing worse than sitting hungrily while your baby slowly enjoys their three course meal.

Cluster Feeding Tip #5 – Get A Breastfeeding Partner!

Can you just get me a…? You’ve heard of a birth partner, now you need a breastfeeding partner too.

A willing volunteer to get you snacks, drinks and provide entertaining conversations to keep you amused during cluster feeds.

Cluster Feeding Tip #6 – Look For Hunger Cues

If you tend to have a fussy, hungry and irritable baby in the evenings, act accordingly.

Instead of waiting for the crying to start (which is a late hunger signal), look out for hunger cues and offer the breast immediately.

Cluster Feeding Tip #7 – Take Out!

By using a sling or wrap, you can feed your baby on the go.

While feeding your baby in a sling, you keep your hands free to get on with other things.

Slings also help to keep fussy babies content, because they feel safe and happy being close to you.

Hopefully you found our cluster feeding tips really helpful! If you’re struggling with cluster feeding or are worried about your baby, speak to an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or the Australian Breastfeeding Association (La Leche League in the US).

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Last Updated: May 17, 2016

CONTRIBUTOR

Fiona Peacock is a writer, researcher and lover of all things to do with pregnancy, birth and motherhood (apart from the lack of sleep). She is a home birth advocate, passionate about gentle parenting and is also really tired.


38 comments

  1. My oldest son was like this. Exactly like clock work, his cluster feeding was between 10 pm and 2 am though, so we adapted to cosleeping.

  2. Does this apply to bottle fed babies or just cluster feeding in breast fed babies as my 5wk old does this from 6-10 every evening and he is bottle fed???

  3. This article makes me feel so much better. Baby has been cluster feeding from 10 pm to around 3 am every night. Very trying mentally. Thank you for posting.

  4. Do babies that cluster feed sleep/or like nap on you for about 20-30 minutes between each feed, or doze off and then want more during the cluster feeding time and if you put them in bed like normal they wont sleep and demand more feeding and are really grizzly and pull off the breast but always want to go back on? I’m not sure if my son is cluster feeding during 6am-1130am…Thanks

      1. My baby does. She likes to nap for a little while next to my breast and then wake and latch back on. I’ve wondered if its cluster feeding, or she just nurses herself to sleep, while still being hungry which wakes her? I’m unsure, but fortunately for me, its not in the middle of the night.

    1. I feel the same way. My 6 day old son cluster feeds forever and does the purple scream if I try to detach him from me!!

      1. oh my
        God I totally know how you feel about the purple!!! Lol my wee girl is the same especially if the milk doesn’t come RIGHT NOW!!

  5. My 2 week old cluster feeds from about 5-11/12 in the evening. It’s not easy because I could barely put my 3 yr old to sleep. How long will this last?

  6. Thank god for this article. I’ve been up crying in fustration most of the night due to not getting any sleep from cluster feeding! Typically its from 11pm till about 4-5am

    1. Oh I hear you. We’ve been going since 2am.. I’m exhausted. It’s now 5.30am… Not sure how much of good mum I will be to my 7yr old today…

  7. My son is 2 days old. First night he fed 10-6 and last night 12-10am. This seems like huge periods of time to me. I could cope if it was 3-4 hrs but this is ridiculous?! Feeling emotional!!

  8. My 6 day old baby cluster feeds from 1 or 2am too 5am or 6am
    I’m shattered and I just sit cry because he’s screaming. he feeds 2 hour during the day as well

  9. Thanks so much for this head-saving read! My baby is 5 days old and we had all sorts of drama with him not producing dirty nappies on day 3 and losing 10% of his body weight. We had to turn to formula until my milk came through which was devastating and made me feel inadequate as a mother. My milk finally came in on day 5 and baby gained a lot of weight. Such a relief. Until that evening when he had been feeding perfectly at 3 hour intervals all day and at 8pm he decided he was going to scream blue murder unless I fed him constantly. I was exhausted by midnight and my hubby suggested giving him formula which I denied saying I know my milk is good and it’s not the problem (though I didn’t know this and was started to feel like a failure AGAIN)! Luckily he went down not long after that without the formula! Thank goodness 🙂

  10. 3 day old is cluster feeding from 1-6am, i think. I cant believe how much she is eating! She is worth it thou.

  11. Aahhh… relieved by readind this article… thank you so much for this information… it was really very irritating to cluster feed my 2 months old… now i’ll pre plan my activities and will work on the suggestions given above

  12. My 6 week old is doing this between around 6pm and 10pm…. Then I take him to bed with me and he falls asleep on the breast the in my arm then wakes a few hours later for another munch…. He is my 4th and truly acceptance is key…. If you keep fighting it you will just loose it…I keep a rocker in the lounge room so I can grab a few minutes here and there for cooking and tending to my other kids and maybe a shower and toilet break if I’m lucky!….hang in there, it’s not forever 😉

  13. My newborn does his from 6:30pm to around 2am I’m exhausted also having a two year old. But I have managed to do with out formula even though I have a tin ready to go. Its tough but stick to it.

  14. Thank you, after reading this I don’t feel like a failure. My 2 week old has seriously been feeding allllllll day. For the last 2 days. I haven’t gotten a chance to do anything but feed her.

  15. Really helpful post I have 6 day old twins who feed regularly aNd settle well all day. My little boy cluster feeds from about 2.00am to 6.00am I thought I was slowly loosing my mind, this will help my sanity tonight.

  16. My munchkin was 6 weeks old yesterday. Today, he has done nothing but eat, fall asleep for 10-15 minutes, wake up screaming/starving, and we do it all over again. I can’t imagine how there’s anything left in my boobs for him to eat, he’s been latched so long today! Suggestions for getting through this quickly? I need my happy baby back.

  17. My 3wk old son has been cluster feeding for 3days so far (hourly, lasting at least 40mins). But it’s during the day till night ~11am-10pm. I’m hoping it passes soon!

  18. My baby is cluster feeding and its for at least 5 hours but not at the same time every day. It’s only like 16 hours apart from start to start. She still eats at least every 3 hours in between too. Idk what to do

  19. My 6 week old baby gets active from 11 pm till 3 am. How do I get him to sleep at around 12 or 12.30 even? I’m losing sanity….

  20. This article brings so much comfort. I have a 9 week old who cluster feeds from around 6pm to 11pm. Just when I think I’ve finally got her settled in the bassinet, she will wake up hungry about ten minutes later. It’s emotionally and physically draining and you do second guess yourself as a mum – am I overfeeding, am I under feeding, do I not know how to settle or comfort my baby properly? The only way I’ve kept my sanity (just) is to try as best as possible to squeeze in a nap during the day and for those short minutes she is in her bassinet between feeds, to lie down and just breathe!

  21. This seems to be going on with my daughter & her baby. HOWEVER, it is NOT just a few hours in the evening!!! It is 17 hours/day with VERY little down time. I think the baby is just accustomed to being held & doesn’t know how to comfort himself yet. If he is awake, he wants to be nursing ……… if he is tired & wants to sleep, he wants to be nursing. So basically, he has become spoiled & is unable to be put down and just lie comfortably until sleep takes over. My daughter is going to end up in a hospital from exhaustion before the next month is over. Any tips??? Oh, and lastly, I can’t try to help her because if I say anything, she thinks I’m criticizing her mothering skills.

  22. This makes me feel SOO much better. My one week old goes bananas from 10-2 am every night! She also fights me to latch on but once she does then just passes out asleep….I start to get nervous every night as the sun is setting because I know what’s ahead for the night. Glad I’m not the only one going through this. Hang in there mamas, we can do this.

  23. Thank you for this article. I thought my boobs were milk dry. One thing I am wondering is about mommy breaks during the cluster feeding period. I have a great husband who will take her for a little while during the feeds to give me a break. He does his best to calm her while i relax. How long can these breaks be? Is it prolonging the cluster feeding periods? I did do the mistake of formula supplementing since I got so desperate. Is it too late to take that back?? Ugh FTM here to a 4 day old.

  24. i think my little man is also doing this for the past day or so, he is 12 days old but if he feeds to much he is bringing the milk back up and sometimes its quite alot and it seems to be in the middle of the night when i think he is settled, im just worried he then doesnt have enough milk in his tummy. im also scared to keep feeding him incase he just brings it all back up again. when he has been sick he has fed between 1-2 hours every 15 mins then has a little break then feeds again. is this normal? sorry FTM here. I just want to do everything right by him.

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