OK, What the Heck Is Cluster Feeding?

Whether you’re a first-time mom or a seasoned pro, breastfeeding is a tough gig. Especially when the periods between feedings decrease and you feel like you’re nursing constantly…like every 15 minutes constantly. Here’s what you need to know about those out-of-the-ordinary (yet perfectly ordinary) cluster feedings.

Wait, what’s cluster feeding again? Newborns typically nurse every 2 to 3 hours, but sometimes they change their feeding patterns to more frequent guzzling (with a side of fussiness thrown in). Also known as bunch feeding, this can be super frustrating for moms who suddenly feel like they’re nursing all the time.

When does this exciting exhausting new development kick in? “It seems to happen most often during the first few weeks of breastfeeding (because the milk supply may be more erratic) and then again around three months, but it can also occur later,” explains Jeffrey L. Brown, MD and clinical professor of pediatrics at New York Medical College. And while many moms experience cluster feedings in the evenings, it can also happen at any time of the day. (Sorry.)

Is my baby getting enough milk? What am I doing wrong? Deep breath. Cluster feeding is totally normal, say experts. The reasons why this happens are unclear (it could be due to growth spurts, increasing mom’s milk supply or babies just wanting more attention), but there’s usually no need for parents to be concerned or to supplement with formula. Your baby is one smart (and adorable) cookie who instinctively knows how much milk she needs—listen to her and feed her as often as she wants. Dr. Brown weighs in: “Cluster feeding is a common occurrence. Medical warning signs would be if the baby appears ill, has a weak suck or cry, or is not gaining weight properly. These suggest that she may not be getting enough calories.” Got that? You’re doing nothing wrong, but speak to your pediatrician if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms. 

So is there anything I can do? With your body working overtime, make sure to take care of yourself—that means staying hydrated, eating properly and getting as much sleep as possible (easier said than done, we know). Top tip: Keep a basket of snacks, water, the remote control and some reading material on standby and grab it whenever you feel a long feeding sesh coming on. Cluster feeds can be boring, but you might as well milk 'em (pun intended) for all they’re worth—Netflix binge, anyone?

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