Cluster Feeding – What you need to know [Guide]

Being a new mom is tough and rewarding at the same time. And one of the challenges you could be facing is referred to as cluster feeding. Also known as bunch feeding, it often raises several questions, especially with first-time moms.

What is cluster feeding?” if you’ve ever heard or asked the question then keep reading to find out what cluster feeding means.

What does it mean when a baby cluster feeds?

Cluster feeding is when your baby feeds for very short periods and constantly. This usually continues for several hours. It’s common for the baby to have a low appetite between cluster feeding sessions. You will also notice a difference in feeding routines. For instance, babies are likely to sleep longer and feed less during the morning and day as opposed to following a regular schedule.   

In most cases, the baby only takes the breast for a couple of seconds. Then he or she leaves the breast and gets fussy, followed by another short feeding session and getting fussy again. 

As a mother, you can be left physically tired and emotionally depressed due to cluster feeding cycles. To a new mother, this can be an overwhelming experience because a million questions are running through your mind. And these questions are not exactly happy, seeing as cluster feeding can be confused with colic or teething. But it’s important to note that if your baby is colic, he or she won’t be soothed through feeding or formulas, unlike with cluster feeding. 

 

Is cluster feeding a real thing?

Yes, cluster feeding is a real thing and as mentioned earlier, it is not an exclusive occurrence. You’ll quickly find hundreds of sites that address the different topics associated with cluster feeding challenges. 

 

How does cluster feeding work?

Even though cluster feeding is a familiar occurrence, it can happen in different ways. This is because there are no specific rules for cluster feeding. For example, you might find that your baby cluster feeds all through the night and take long naps during the day. Or they feed right through the day under certain circumstances. 

It’s up to you to start taking notes about your baby’s habits and what they are telling you. And if you are not sure, there is nothing wrong with asking someone who has more experience. The point is to pay attention to cluster feeding if you want to have more control over the situation. Otherwise, the feeding sessions will take it out of you. 

How to avoid cluster feeding?

It’s a hard truth, but cluster feeding can’t be avoided. When your baby decides it’s time, then you have to do your best and go with the flow. However, this doesn’t mean you have to suffer through sleepless nights. There are many things you can do to make the experience more bearable for everyone involved. 

If you’re looking for a way to deal with cluster feeding, I suggest reading our article on how to cope with cluster feeding

 

Why does my baby cluster feed all day?

There are two main reasons why your baby could be cluster feeding all day. The most obvious reason will be growth spurts. If they are going through a growth spurt, it is perfectly normal for them to constantly feed. 

But keep in mind that babies have natural feeding instincts. When they feel they need to drink, they are going to show it. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with the milk supply. But this is what those wellness check-ups are for, just in case you want to be certain your baby is getting all the nutrients they need.  

 

Why does Cluster Feeding Occur?

There is no clear reason why cluster feeding occurs, even after some extensive research. This has led to many theories and rumors about what cluster feeding could mean. But many experts believe that cluster feeding is a method of filling up on supply. 

After a few hours of cluster feeding, chances are the baby will sleep for a longer period. Unless, of course, they are going through a growth spurt and they want as much milk as possible. Then you can expect the feeding times to go continue throughout the day. 

A good way to look at cluster feeding is to see it as your baby’s way of “activating” your body. When they feed every twenty minutes, it automatically signals your production to increase and maintain the feeding schedule. 

 

When does cluster feeding begin?

Cluster feeding can start as soon as 3 weeks after birth. Suddenly, you’ll notice that your baby is sleeping less and less at night while being more fussy than usual. It very likely means they are starting to cluster feed, although it doesn’t hurt to establish it with professional advice. 

However, don’t be surprised if your baby starts cluster feeding if they are only a few days old. Remember, the true source of cluster feeding remains a mystery and can break away from what normally happens in the situation.

 

What ages do babies cluster feed?

As mentioned above, cluster feeding can start very soon. Additionally, there are no specific ages you can prepare for cluster feeding. Everything depends on your baby and when their instincts tell them to boost their current supply.  

 

When is cluster feeding most common and normal?

For the most part, babies tend to cluster feed late in the afternoon or early in the evening. It is also possible that your baby prefers a different time to feed. But in regards to specific details about what is common and normal during cluster feeding, you won’t find a straight answer. 

 

Why do babies cluster feed at night?

One of the popular theories for clustering feeding in the early evening or night is based on “filling up” so-to-speak. As noted earlier, after a cluster feeding session, your baby will probably have a nice long nap and feed less until the next cluster feeding session.

 

Cluster Feeding – Frequently asked questions

In case we missed something above, we cover some of the most common cluster feeding questions and concerns new mothers have. 

  • Can cluster feeding cause oversupply?

It’s natural to be worried about oversupply, especially when your baby is burning the candle at both ends. But the odds of creating an oversupply when you are not using a breast pump are very, very slim. 

The use of a breast pump in-between cycles, on the other hand, is something to be mindful of. For some mothers, it is necessary to use a breast pump. Others find it’s not necessary at all. Everything depends on your body, your baby, and your situation. 

 

  • Can cluster feeding cause sore nipples?

Breastfeeding, in general, is known for causing sore nipples. Thus, the chance of cluster feeding putting the same strain on your nipples exists, so be prepared. 

 

  • Can cluster feeding cause vomiting and gas?

Gas and vomiting are natural consequences of feeding, especially during cluster feeding. This happens when the baby is having trouble digesting all the milk. Combined with the air they swallow, it is natural for vomiting and gas to occur near the end of a session. 

However, if your baby constantly throws up after feeding, it could be a sign to consult with your doctor. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have a big problem. But every mother’s situation is unique, which means you should be extra careful. 

 

  • Can you get Cluster headaches

Headaches and migraines can surface shortly after giving birth. And yes, breastfeeding can also spark this uncomfortable pain. It is widely believed that hormonal changes are mainly to blame in conjunction with the let-down of breast milk. 

Of course, the last thing you want is to drink meds that will influence the quality of your milk, but several options are safe to use during this time. But even some natural solutions can help, like trying to stay relaxed and getting sleep when baby is dozing off. 

Rest and a good diet can help a great deal in terms of preventing cluster headaches. Although, when they are constant and unbearable, get in touch with your doctor. 

 

  • Can bottle-fed babies cluster feed?

A very common question is whether bottle-fed babies cluster feed? Yes, they do. Just because the container is different doesn’t mean the needs of the baby are different or changes. That instinct to get what they need is going to make sure of it. 

 

Final Thoughts

As a final thought for all the new moms, remember to take care of yourself too. A big part of surviving cluster feeding in a way that is healthy for your baby involves keeping mom in a happy state of mind. That’s right, your baby appreciates it when you are content and relax. So, why not give it to them? 

If you have any questions, concerns or advice for others, we’d love to hear from you – please comment below!

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Jennifer C July 20, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks for the info. do all babies cluster feed? My baby girl has been waking up a lot at night and seems to want to feed every 30 minutes to an hour. It’s exhausting. Do you think that’s cluster feeding? Can you stop it

    • Reply
      Wise Mamma July 20, 2019 at 9:16 pm

      Hi Jennifer. You don’t say what age your baby is, but I’ll guess that she’s probably only a few weeks/months old.
      It’s possible she is cluster feeding, but 30 minutes seems a bit much for cluster feeding. Are you sure you’re giving her a full feed in the evening right before bed. Making sure she has a full tummy will help reduce it. Also if you wake up at night to feed try give her a bit more and she should wake up less. As for stopping cluster feeding, you can’t really do that as its normally due to growth spurts but you can read more about that here. https://wisemamma.com/can-you-prevent-cluster-feeding/

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