Cluster feeding: the other kind of cluster f***.
If cluster feeding is keeping you up at night, don’t worry. This too shall pass. Today’s fussy baby is tomorrow’s awesome little adventurer. And if that sort of optimism is nothing more than a source of irritation right now, that’s cool too. Maybe just look at the little being in front of you and get them to pay you some cuteness tax.
So what does cluster feeding mean?
In one of those parenting facts that feels like everyone except you is privy to, cluster feeding (also called “bunch feeding”) is when your baby’s need to feed comes in spurts clustered into one part of the day – usually the evening.
Newborn babies need to eat often to get growing – and, in what seems like an organized effort conducted by the Global Union of Babies, many seem to want to get feeding in at night. In fact, babies are so into this cluster feeding idea that they often want to feed as often as every 30 minutes at night. Sheesh. This new houseguest of yours sure is demanding.
But don’t stress. (We know, the absolute worst thing to say to a stressed person – but seriously, don’t.) This is normal. Cluster feeding doesn’t mean that your baby is not getting enough milk. Rather, they may just be stockpiling for their long (please, please, please) nap ahead.
Also, a fussy baby is also a pretty smart creature. With this frequent feeding, they are promoting the increase of your milk supply. It works like this: your baby eats. Your body goes, “Wow, my baby needs to eat” and produces more milk. Your baby eats more, grows more, and everyone is happy.
Nature, hey? Amazing.
Newborn cluster feeding Q&A
Here are some quick answers to common cluster feeding questions:
How long does cluster feeding last for?
Cluster feeding can be the result of growth spurts that your baby is going through. With these come the need to nurse more often and for longer periods of time.
They need fuel and stat. While the timeline for growth spurts is not set in stone, they typically occur at about:
👶 3 weeks
👶 6 weeks
👶 3 months
👶 6 months
Why do babies cluster feed at night?
You’re going to love this answer: they want to prepare for sleep. In another thing that is absolutely amazing about feeding your baby, your milk helps them develop their circadian rhythm. Your body is working hard to make all of this happen. Awesome.
Can a pacifier help with cluster feeding?
Nope. They get in the way. Remember the part about your baby’s need to feed increasing your supply? Well, a pacifier can disrupt this process. They can also cause your baby to get confused by adding another nipple-looking thing to the mix.
5 cluster feeding newborn tips
- Tip #1: Give your newborn cluster feeding power. Essentially, let them drive. They’ll tell you the when and the how much. They’re pretty smart that way.
- Tip #2: Rest when you can. If the nights are long, prepare for them in the mornings by taking naps when you get windows to do so.
- Tip #3: Drink lots of fluids. Eat your favourite healthy meals. Just generally take care of yourself as best you can.
- Tip #4: If you have a partner by your side, rope ‘em in to help with the stress that can come with cluster feeding. This can be pretty draining on you. It’ll probably mean that you are not your best in the morning, so don’t be shy to ask for help then. Also, call on other family members and friends. Remember that it takes a village.
- Tip #5: Find your zen in a way that works for you. Whether that’s trying meditation, reading a book you love, or binge-watching your favorite series for the third time, do what you need to do to get through the long nights ahead.
And of course, if you’re concerned about anything, check in with your healthcare provider. That’s what they’re there for. You’ve got this.
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