Cluster feeding is when your baby wants to feed very often at certain times followed by long gaps without feeding.
For example, this may mean your baby wants to feed a lot in the evening, but not as much during the day.
This behaviour is common, especially during times of growth spurts. Your baby will go through many growth spurts in the first year. Each usually lasts a few days.
Why it happens
Cluster feeding can be very tiring. It is more common in younger babies, but older babies can also cluster feed. This is particularly true when they are approaching a growth spurt.
During growth spurts, your baby will need to breastfeed more often. This does not mean that your baby is not getting enough. Your milk supply will respond to this demand and increase.
If your baby is producing plenty of wet and dirty nappies and gaining weight, there is no need to worry. Cluster feeding is often a normal part of you and your baby’s breastfeeding journey.
Adjust your routine
Cluster feeding is especially common in the evenings. Some babies cluster feed for 2 to 3 hours before they settle and go to sleep.
If your baby has a particular time they like to cluster feed, it can be helpful to change your routine to match theirs. If possible, make time to feed your baby at this time and rest when they have settled.
Dealing with fussy feeding
It's normal for your baby to become fussy during periods of cluster feeding.
Tips for coping with fussy feeding:
- Be aware that this is normal behaviour that will pass.
- Your baby may be looking for cuddles and comfort. Time spent on skin-to-skin contact is always helpful.
- Wind your baby carefully after feedings and keep them upright if they are unsettled.
- If possible, feed your baby in response to their cues rather than sticking to a schedule.
- Ask family and friends for help with household jobs.
- Ask family and friends for help minding your other children if needed.
- Plan an afternoon nap while your baby is sleeping.
- Make sure you eat and drink well to look after your own health. You might be hungrier and thirstier during your baby's growth spurt.
- Make yourself as comfortable and relaxed as possible when breastfeeding.
- Respond to your baby's early feeding cues.
- Change feeding positions.
- Go for a walk with your baby in a sling.
It can be difficult to breastfeed when your baby is cluster feeding, especially if you're caring for other children.
Do not be afraid to ask for help from your family and friends.
You can also get in touch with your local breastfeeding support group. Other mothers will have practical tips to share on what worked for them.