Breastfeeding can be the most beautiful and precious time spent with your baby. It encourages bonding, emotional security and nutrition that is so crucial to your baby’s development.
However, even with its beautiful moments, there are some days where you inevitably question –
“Is this normal?” “Why is my baby constantly demanding to feed?”
Rest easy Mama! Here’s the 101 on cluster feeding!
Your baby may be cluster feeding if they:
- Demand feeds close together during a similar time frame each day, usually afternoon or evening
- Are a few days/weeks old
- Breastfeed for short periods, detach from the breast then reattach while fussing
- Are going through a significant growth spurt– which happens often in their early development!
What causes the cluster feeding response?
- Your baby may be overtired and overstimulated. Being a little person is hard work! Babies often cluster feed in response to being overstimulated whilst having an immature nervous system.
- Its early days and your baby is trying to encourage an increased milk supply to meet their growing hunger after delivery (often days 2-4!)
- Your baby is going through a growth spurt and needs all the extra nutrients for their developing brain!
- Baby might be teething!
Managing cluster feeds:
- Stay hydrated. Keep water and snacks handy, your nourishment is just as important!
- Change positions as needed so you don’t get muscle aches or sore nipples.
- Plan ahead – if your baby is often waking and cluster feeding at similar times each evening, mentally and physically prepare for this time.
- Have some entertainment handy. Netflix, podcasts, music.
- The dishes and laundry can wait.
- Cluster feeding can be exhausting. When you’ve finished feeding, pass baby to a partner or loved one to settle if needed.
Remember, you’re not alone! Cluster feeding is a perfectly normal physiological response and the best you can do for your baby and yourself is to ride the waves of it as much as possible. Things will improve!
Written by Keryn Thompson RM & IBCLC (L-301766)
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Labbok, M., 2001. Effects of Breastfeeding on the Mother. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 48(1), pp.143-158.
Thulier, D. and Mercer, J., 2009. Variables Associated With Breastfeeding Duration. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 38(3), pp.259-268.