Cluster feeding: the other kind of cluster f***.
If a cluster feeding newborn 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.
In this guide, we’re going to help you navigate cluster feeding ‒ formula, breastmilk, your choice.
Whether baby’s cluster feeding at night, cluster feeding all day, or you’re into cluster feeding day 3 (hang in there), we’ll cover all there is to know about cluster feeding.
In this article: 📝
- What does it mean when a baby is cluster feeding?
- When does cluster feeding start?
- How long does cluster feeding go on for?
- What are the signs of cluster feeding?
- More cluster feeding newborn FAQs
- How do you survive cluster feeding?
What does it mean when a baby is cluster feeding?
If you have a newborn, it seems like there’s a new parenting term each week.
So what is cluster feeding?
Simply put, 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 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.
So cluster feeding is just baby eating (much) more often than usual.
When does cluster feeding start?
So, at what ages do babies cluster feed?
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 cluster feeding timeline for growth spurts is not set in stone, they typically occur at about:
What weeks are cluster feeding?
Cluster feeding doesn’t have a strict schedule, but according to our Peanut mamas, it tends to happen when baby’s 3 weeks old, 6 weeks old, and 12 weeks old.
Do babies cluster feed the first night?
Not often, no ‒ the first time most babies cluster feed tends to happen at about 3 weeks old.
It’s hard to determine baby’s nursing patterns and preferences from their first feed ‒ they might just be a baby’s who’s seriously into breastmilk!
Can a 2-day old baby cluster feed?
Sometimes, yes, 2-day-old babies can cluster feed, although it might also be just how often that particular baby wants to eat regularly.
Can a 1-week old cluster feed?
Yes, sometimes, although not often. The first cluster feeding period of baby’s life is usually around 3 weeks old.
Do babies cluster feed at 10 days old?
Yes, some babies do cluster feed at 10 days old, it can be a totally normal part of your baby’s growth, although most babies tend to cluster feed at 3 weeks.
Do babies cluster feed at 2 weeks?
Yes, some babies start their first cluster feeding session at 2 weeks old ‒ it’s a little earlier than average, but every baby is different, you might just have a baby going through a growth spurt!
How long does cluster feeding go on for?
If you have a newborn cluster feeding all day and all night for the first time, we know what you’re thinking: seriously, how long does cluster feeding last?
The good news: not for long.
Usually, cluster feeding for newborns lasts for one to three days.
So if you’re into cluster feeding day 2 wondering when will this end, hopefully, it won’t last too much longer for you. Hang in there, mama.
When does cluster feeding end?
So what are the cluster feeding ages? When does cluster feeding stop in babies?
Usually, baby grows out of the cluster feeding stages after about 6 months.
How long do newborns cluster feed at night?
How about a 2-week-old cluster feeding all night?
You might be concerned that baby’s not getting enough sleep (or you’re not getting enough sleep!), but these cluster feeding stages are a perfectly normal part of baby’s development.
These bursts of newborn cluster feeding at night won’t last for too long, although it may feel like longer, and you may even get treated to baby sleeping a little longer afterward!
Is it normal for baby to cluster feed all day?
Yes, if your hungry little peanut is going through a cluster feeding phase, it’s totally normal for them to cluster feed all day.
This is particularly common in young babies ‒ around 3 weeks old ‒ because they’re going to need as many nutrients as they can get for all the growing they’re going to be doing!
How often does a newborn eat when cluster feeding?
There’s no definite answer for this, as every baby’s eating habits will be different.
When not cluster feeding, a newborn usually eats every 2-3 hours for about 30 minutes at a time.
But according to our Peanut mamas, their cluster feeding newborns can feed every hour for about 15-20 minutes for each session.
What are the signs of cluster feeding?
How do you know baby’s cluster feeding and not just plain fussy?
It’s true, it can be tricky to tell.
This is where your mama-brain can kick in (side note: maternal instincts are also present in adoptive and moms who go down the surrogate route).
You know your baby best.
Here are a few signs that baby is cluster feeding and gearing up for a growth spurt:
- They’re crying until they get fed or stop crying once they get fed.
- Their feeding periods are a little shorter but more frequent.
- They’re a couple of days old, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, or 6 months old (or thereabouts).
- They’re otherwise happy outside of their ‘hungry periods’.
- They’re still pooping regularly.
- They sleep well after a day or two of more frequent cluster feedings.
More cluster feeding newborn FAQs
Need more info on cluster feeding?
We’ve got all the answers to your cluster feeding questions ‒ tuck in!
Why is my baby cluster feeding 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.
The great thing about your newborn cluster feeding at night is that they may be preparing to sleep for a longer time than usual, to help them grow.
You can get through this, mama ‒ think of the restful nights ahead of you!
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 cluster feeding mix.
Is baby cluster feeding or comfort?
Interestingly, some of our Peanut mamas call cluster feeding ‘comfort feeding’.
This is because, for some babies, they might be cluster feeding because they have a poorly tummy ‒ thanks to newborn gas ‒ and some more frequent feeding can help (ahem) expel that gas.
And voilà! More comfort for baby!
Why is my baby feeding every hour?
We’ve got news for you, mama ‒ your baby is cluster feeding!
They might be going through a growth spurt for which they need more nutrients.
Or they might not be getting enough milk from regular feedings ‒ it might take a little time for your milk supply to increase to bay’s demand.
Can you overfeed with cluster feeding?
Yes, you can overfeed with cluster feeding.
Keep track of how much and how often you’re feeding baby, especially if you’re formula feeding.
Can newborns cluster feed on formula?
Yes, babies who are fed formula exclusively or as a half-and-half feeding schedule, can cluster feed.
Make sure you’re not overfeeding a formula-fed baby who’s cluster feeding by keeping track of how much they’re drinking each day and each feeding.
A formula-fed baby should be drinking 5.3-7oz per 2.2 lbs of their weight per day.
How to stop cluster feeding
Tempting though it may be, it’s not recommended to stop cluster feeding your newborn.
And when it comes to a cluster feeding schedule, that’s pretty much up to baby.
Only your baby will know when they want and need food, and, considering the amount of growth ahead of them, they’re going to need it!
How do I stop cluster feeding at night?
If you’re trying to cut down baby’s cluster feeding at night, try feeding them more often during the day.
If baby’s still fussing for their cluster feeding nighttime schedule, then, sorry, mama, but you might have to stick with it for a while!
Do babies cluster feed in the morning?
Yes, some babies cluster feed morning, noon, and night.
Others might keep their cluster feeding just to the morning, just to the noon, or just to the night.
Or a mix of two of the three!
Every baby is different, and in the early months, they’ll be in the driving seat for how much they want to cluster feed, to fit their growth spurts.
How do you survive cluster feeding?
We get it, a cluster feeding newborn can be emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting.
While it’s amazing for bonding and increasing your skin contact with baby, there’s no denying that having a newborn cluster feeding all night just plain sucks.
But we’ve checked in with our mamas on Peanut and have put together a few handy tips on how to make cluster feeding a bit better, so you can look after yourself while looking after baby:
- Let baby set the cluster feeding timeline. 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.
- 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.
- Drink lots of fluids. Eat your favorite healthy meals. Just generally take care of yourself as best you can.
- Keep track of baby’s weight and feedings. If you’re a first-time mama with a cluster feeding newborn, it can help put your mind at ease to keep track of baby’s weight with a doctor and make a note of their feedings. New to mamahood? Feel free to have a chat with our veteran mamas on Peanut ‒ all kinds of mamas are welcome here.
- Eat a balanced diet. An occasional ‘treat’ is totally fine, but it can help you feel your best to meal prep some healthy postpartum meals.
- Ask for help. 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.
- Self-care is key. 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.
- Switch it up. Changing breastfeeding positions (if you’re choosing to breastfeed) regularly can help with any nipple soreness or aching that can come with the cluster feeding stages.
- Set up comfy spaces. With easy-to-reach things to do nearby ‒ a comfy chair by the TV, propped-up pillows by the bed with a phone full of podcasts… Whatever works for you.
- “Plan” for feedings at different times. Is baby cluster feeding during your other children’s dinner time? Invite a friend over or have your partner step in to help. You don’t have to do it alone!
If you’re concerned about anything to do with cluster feeding, check in with your healthcare provider.
But if you have any general questions or are looking for advice about cluster feeding or anything else, you’re always welcome on Peanut. We’re here for you.
You’ve got this.
🍼 More from The 411:
First-Time Mom: 17 Things to Know
25 Postpartum Essentials to Know About
Breastfeeding in Public: Tips & Advice
World Breastfeeding Week: When It is & How to Celebrate
How to Stop Breastfeeding (When You’re Ready)
When Does a Pregnant Woman Start Producing Milk?
Tips for Breastfeeding with Large Breasts
My Baby Won’t Burp: What Now?
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A Nifty Guide to Bottle Feeding
What is Paced Bottle Feeding?