Cluster feeding: What is it and how to cope when your ravenous baby won’t stop feeding
“Didn’t I *just* feed you?!” Ahh cluster feeding.
It can often feel like a total clusterf—k if we’re being totally honest but hang in there, mama. There’s no denying it’s beyond draining for any new mum, but it’s a normal part of the newborn days and indicates healthy development and growth.
In those very early days as your milk supply is still being established, it’s normal for babies to be ravenous and cluster feed (which simply means an excessive amount of feeds back-to-back) around the clock ⏰.
Reasons why newborns cluster feed:
🐥 Comfort – many babies will feel unsettled as soon as they come off the breast and find sucking an easy way to stay calm
🐥 Snacking in the early evening can help maintain your milk supply for the next day
🐥 Babies can get hungrier in the evening and try to ‘fill up’ so they can sleep for longer stretches overnight
🐥 Your baby is having a growth spurt
What are the signs of cluster feeding?
The telltale signs of cluster feeding are when baby becomes unsettled and shows signs of hunger (think poking their hungry tongue out looking for a boob, chewing their hand, nuzzling your breast, alertness, trying to suck your shoulder or relatch back onto the boob) right after you’ve fed them.
Many mums also worry that their boobs won’t have enough milk to feed their bubs during these more intense bouts but remember, they are never empty.
How long does a cluster feed last?
This varies with each baby but cluster feeding lasts for around 10-15 minute snack sessions over a two to three-hour period.
When should I expect of cluster feeding?
Typically cluster feeding in newborns happens when your baby is around the three to six-week mark, in the late afternoon/early evening and can last into the night. Helloooo witching hour(s) 🧙♀️.
How long does cluster feeding last in newborns?
Cluster feeding amps up when your baby is going through developmental milestones or a growth spurt and usually calms down after two to three-day bouts.
Should I let my newborn cluster feed?
Yes, be led by your baby but don’t forget to look after yourself during this time too. Remember that as your baby nurses, it’s helping your supply increase and meet their change and development needs.
When you set up your feeding station at home, it’s always handy to have lots of healthy snacks and a big drink bottle full of water close by so you can stay hydrated and well-nourished. Say YES to offers of help from friends and family (whether that comes in the shape of home-cooked meals or minding your other children).
Take special care of your nipples while your baby cluster feeds as they can become quite sore and tender (Lansinoh cream is a god-send) Oh, and a fab Netflix series to keep you entertained too of course 📺.
Signs you may need to seek medical help
While cluster feeding is a completely normal part of a newborn’s development, see your doctor or midwife if your baby is:
- Failing to gain weight
- Not having any wet or soiled nappies
- Unsettled after finishing a feed
While it’s exhausting AF to be permanently glued to the couch with a hungry caterpillar attached to you 🐛, it’s actually a good thing because this is your baby and your body working together to build that milk supply and get the good stuff flowing. Doesn’t make it easier though, we know, so lower the bar during this time and repeat after us: this too shall pass!
Need help or someone to talk to? Check out the Australian Breastfeeding Association National Breastfeeding Helpline: 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268)
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