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Breastfeeding: cluster feeding

What to do if your baby is fussy about breastfeeding, if they are feeding for very long periods, and how to get support.

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.

Why it happens

Cluster feeding can be very tiring. While it is more common in younger babies, 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. 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. If possible, make time to feed your baby on demand 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.
  • Wind your baby carefully after feedings and keep them upright if they are unsettled.
  • If possible, feed your baby on demand 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.
  • 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.

Getting support

It can be difficult to breastfeed when your baby is cluster feeding, especially if you're caring for other children.

Don't 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.

Page last reviewed: 14/11/2018
Next review due: 14/11/2021

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