By: Maria Itania, IBCLC

Hello new moms! Have you noticed times when your little one seems to want to breastfeed almost all the time, and it tends to happen in the evenings when you’re the most exhausted? This is called cluster feeding, and it’s totally normal. Today, we’re going to explore what cluster feeding is, why it happens, and how you can handle it, including when it might be time to seek help from a lactation consultant.

Cluster feeding is when your baby wants to breastfeed a lot for a few hours. It might seem like your baby is feeding almost every hour! This usually happens during certain times of the day, especially in the evenings. Cluster feeding tends to happen at the 2 week interval mark: 2 weeks of life, 4 weeks of life, 6 weeks, and so on until a baby is 12 weeks old where growth spurts tend to slow down.

Why Do Babies Cluster Feed? Babies cluster feed for a few reasons:

  1. Growth Spurts: Sometimes, your baby might be growing quickly and needs more milk to help grow.
  2. Comfort: Babies also feed more when they need extra cuddles and comfort, especially if they’re feeling a little fussy. Think of all the growing pains!
  3. Building Supply: More feeding tells your body to make more milk. It’s your baby’s way of making sure there’s plenty of milk in the future. As your baby grows, the extra stimulation tells your body to increase milk production to subside with the larger stomach size of your growing bundle of joy.

Tips for Handling Cluster Feeding:

  1. Find a Cozy Spot: Since you’ll be feeding a lot, find a comfortable place where you can relax with your baby. Watching a movie, or spending time in a central part of the home where you can be a part of the home makes you feel less isolated during a long cluster feed.
  2. Keep Snacks Nearby: Cluster feeding can take a while, so have some water and healthy snacks close by to keep your energy up. High fats and proteins are important ways to eat calorie and nutrient dense food. Peanut butter, avocado, hummus, and protein bars are great snacks to have on hand with a water or hydrating drink close by.
  3. Ask for Help: Don’t be shy about asking family or friends to help with other things around the house so you can focus on feeding and resting. Delegating tasks like laundry, cooking, and grocery shopping can help the mental load moms have when stuck in a cluster feed.
  4. Take Breaks: Between feedings, take short breaks to stretch, use the bathroom, or just breathe. Going outside and wearing your baby during a walk can help reset the mood.

When to Consult an IBCLC: If you find that cluster feeding is becoming overwhelming, or if you’re concerned about your baby’s weight gain, feeding habits, or if the baby seems unusually fussy during feedings, it might be a good time to reach out to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). If you notice your baby’s diapers are below the recommendation based off baby’s day of life, contact your pediatrician right away for a weight check ASAP and schedule an appointment with an IBCLC for a feeding evaluation. Remember after 2 weeks of life a baby should have on average of a minimum of 6-10 wet diapers and a minimum of 2-3 stools the size of 2 quarters every 24 hours. This represents adequate milk intake.

Remember This: Cluster feeding is a normal part of having a newborn. It doesn’t last forever, but it’s important during these early days. It helps you and your baby get better at breastfeeding, and it makes sure your milk supply stays strong. Remember, offering bottles during a cluster feed can actually decrease your milk supply and reduce the amount of stimulation your breasts need to maintain supply.

Cluster feeding can be tiring, but it’s a special time for you and your baby to bond. You’re doing a great job, and this phase will pass before you know it. Hang in there, and always reach out to your doctor or a lactation consultant if you have any worries!

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