Does it seem like your baby just can’t get enough food lately? It’s possible that they are cluster feeding!
Don’t worry! Cluster feeding is totally normal and a healthy part of your baby’s development, even if it feels like you are a nonstop milk machine for a while.
The best thing you can do during these times is to be prepared, so check out this guide on how to manage cluster feeding.
What is Cluster Feeding?
So what is cluster feeding? From your perspective, cluster feeding will feel like constant feeding, day or night. If you feed your baby and it seems like they want to eat right away or they don’t get full enough after a feeding, they are likely cluster feeding.
This is just your baby’s way of expressing to you that they are ready for a bigger meal!
Here’s an important thing to remember. Cluster feeding absolutely does not mean that you are doing anything wrong! In fact, almost all babies deal with some sort of cluster feeding around 3 weeks and 6 weeks old as they have growth spurts.
Your baby can also start cluster feeding if they are starting to sleep longer stretches at night or making other adjustments that may affect mealtimes. Cluster feeding is how you and your baby play catch up and get back to a perfect supply.
How Long Does Cluster Feeding Last
If you are starting to get stressed about cluster feeding, you’ll be happy to hear that it shouldn’t last too long!
Each spurt of cluster feeding usually only lasts a few days. However, your baby may have several spurts in a row that can feel like they are cluster feeding for weeks without a big enough break to recover.
It might feel like your baby wants to cluster feeding for quite some time, especially as your supply normalizes for the first few months. But around 2-3 months when your bodies sync up a bit more and your supply settles, cluster feeding will become far less common.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you are dealing with cluster feeding after the first few months, you may want to consider talking to a lactation consultant in your area to get more support.
Can Bottle-fed Babies Cluster Feed?
A common question that moms have is whether or not bottle-fed babies can cluster feed. Most often when you talk about cluster feeding, you are referring to breastfed babies.
This is especially true because of the amazing process of breastfeeding. Your body and your baby’s body will communicate through hormones as they cluster feed and your baby can signal your body to create more milk!
But babies who are bottle feeding can still have growth spurts and have a sudden increase in their appetites. The good thing about cluster feeding in bottle-fed babies is that more than one person can do the feeding so the mom won’t be left alone!
How to Manage Cluster Feeding
Knowing what is cluster feeding and being able to manage it are two very different things. So here’s a guide to getting through this important process!
Hang in there momma! The more you feed your baby, the more your body will start to up its supply of milk for your little one.
You may be tempted to let someone else give your baby a bottle during this time, but it can actually prolong the cluster feeding process.
It’s important to have as much baby to breast contact as possible to help your body receive those supply-boosting hormones. It’s going to be hard and burn plenty of time and energy, but it’ll be worth it for both of you!
Ask For Help
Although you can plan to be the main source of food during cluster feeding, that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help.
It can be so isolating to be stuck in a chair feeding your baby all day. Make sure that dad is there to help in any way that he can. He could bring you meals, change diapers and clothes between feedings, or even take night shifts and bring the baby to you while you rest.
If you have other kids you may even consider getting a babysitter or organizing a playdate if your baby is cluster feeding so that they can stay happy and occupied and you can focus on your little one.
Create a Breastfeeding Station
If you haven’t created a breastfeeding station already, now would be a good time to start one!
Your station doesn’t have to be anything special. Just make sure that you have a comfortable chair, some snacks, a water bottle or two, and plenty of baby supplies like blankets and burp rags.
Having everything right there when you need it can be so helpful. And since cluster feeding will leave you feeling like you are glued to your chair, you’ll want to be in a comfy one with plenty of snacks!
Take Advantage of Non-Feeding Time
Maybe the most important thing when your baby is cluster feeding is to prioritize what is most important when your baby isn’t eating.
Your time is going to be pretty limited, so you’ll want to make sure that you make the most of it!
Take a shower, take a nap, go for a walk and get out of the house, or spend some time with your other kids when you can. Just do what you have to do and embrace your break time!
Remember that most spurts of cluster feeding only last a few days and even with longer stretches, in a few months you will be over this busy time!
Take advantage of all this time that you have bonding with your little baby. They won’t be little for long and even though it may be tiring, these happy days will leave fond memories.