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If you’ve made your way to this article, we bet we know why. You’re in the thick of it with a young newborn, and you’re trying to navigate your way through the breastfeeding journey.
First off, congratulations on your new little baby! Secondly, don’t panic. It’s very uncommon that anyone who has attempted to breastfeed their baby has not dealt with cluster feeding. It is normal, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Cluster feeding lasts for a different length of time depending on the baby, but a rough estimate is that it will completely stop between three and four months of age.
Today we’re going to be talking about cluster feeding, why it happens, how long it can last for, and what you can do to help it.
What Is Cluster Feeding?
First off, let’s look at what cluster feeding is and why it happens. Cluster feeding is when a newborn wants to feed seemingly nonstop over a short period of time. Well, it’s supposed to be a short period of time, but it feels like forever when your baby won’t let you move – even to go to the bathroom!
The cycle usually looks like this – baby starts feeding, baby rests, starts fussing again, wants to breastfeed again. The baby will usually repeat this cycle over and over again for several hours.
There are some clear signs to tell you that your baby is cluster feeding –
- They appear to be hungry again straight after nursing
- Nuzzling their head into you
- More alert than usual
- Smacking their lips
- Rooting onto anything that touches their cheek
- Not sleeping for very long between nursing
Your baby might not display all of these symptoms, but they are the most common signs of cluster feeding.
Cluster feeding is completely normal, even though you don’t feel like it is because no one warns you about it before you have your baby. Just know, however, that there are plenty of moms in your exact position right now wondering when the cluster feeding is going to stop.
Why Does Cluster Feeding Happen?
While your baby is a newborn, they are growing every single day. Their milk is where they are getting all of their nutrients from, so it’s vital that they are getting enough to keep up with their development.
Moreover, in those early few weeks and months, your milk supply is still regulating and you need your baby to nurse from you to ensure that your body is making enough milk for them throughout the day.
This is a simple case of supply and demand. The more milk your baby demands, the higher the supply is the next day.
Cluster feeding tends to happen in the evening when your milk supply is at its lowest. Your baby senses that you need to make more milk for them for the next day, so they’re telling your body to do just that – by feeding off you continuously.
Another reason why newborns might cluster feed during the evening is because this is the time that they are the most overtired and overstimulated. Feeding provides reassurance and comfort, which is what your baby might need at this time of the day.
Cluster feeding also allows your baby to fill up their tiny tummies a little more than usual before bedtime, so that they can sleep for a slightly longer stretch once the night hits.
How Long Will Cluster Feeding Last?
It doesn’t matter how many times people tell you how beneficial cluster feeding is – it’s tough on the parents and it feels like it’s never going to get better. However, we can assure you that it absolutely does get better.
It usually does get better with every week that your baby is alive, although there will be stages where they go through a growth spurt or an illness where they want a little more comfort and nutrition.
So, if your baby seemed to have stopped cluster feeding, only to start right back up again one day, don’t worry. They’ll likely stop again within a week or so.
The common growth spurts that affect cluster feeding are at three and six weeks, and maybe at 21 weeks too.
If your baby tends to be cluster feeding longer than a few days around a growth spurt, or still hasn’t grown out of this by four months, talk to your doctor. It might be that your baby isn’t getting enough calories to keep them full between feeds.
How Do You Stay Sane With Cluster Feeding?
We know that you don’t want to hear this, but there is not much that you can do to stop cluster feeding. It is a normal part of your baby’s growth, so us moms just have to ride the wave and get through it.
A couple of things that you can do to make the cluster feeding sessions easier is to make them self-care times for you.
You’re going to be sitting on the couch or in bed for hours in the evening, feeding your baby on and off throughout. So, why not take the time to put on your favorite TV show and eat all of the chocolate in the house?
Put a facemask on (or just give your face a quick moisturize) and relax. Make sure that you have your phone charger within reaching distance and DRINK. YOUR. WATER. Too many moms get dehydrated by being too busy with the baby. Make sure that you’re looking after yourself too.
We hope that this article has helped you slightly in the tough period that is cluster feeding. If you take one thing from this article, please know that this will end.
Take the time to enjoy yourself and do something for you while you’re feeding your baby. Remember, you’re helping them grow and giving them comfort in this big world that they’ve just been born into. Try and enjoy this bonding time rather than hating it. It will pass and you’ll always have the memories.