Upon welcoming your newborn baby into the world, their feeding schedule will take priority over just about your entire day and night! You may notice different patterns of feeding as you get to know your new little one and one of those patterns is called cluster feeding. Today we are going to dive into what cluster feeding looks like, different factors that affect cluster feeding and some general tips on how to navigate it! We hope this post helps to bring you lots of knowledge on this common experience for parents and caregivers of infants.
Cluster feeding can present as a natural pattern of eating for an infant as it aids in the growth and development during key times. It also may take place around the time a baby is teething or feeling unwell because while cluster feeding provides frequent nourishment, it also provides comfort. While many newborns want to eat every two to three hours, babies who are cluster feeding will want to eat more often instead of following the pattern of eating every couple of hours. A baby who is cluster feeding may want to eat just a small bit, unlatch, fuss for a few moments and then want to eat again…and this cycle continues! You may feel as if all you are doing is feeding them around the clock and this is a good indication that cluster feeding is happening! This pattern of eating may take place during a certain time of day (say around dinnertime), or it may happen more regularly all day and night, and last over the span of a few hours. This will depend on your baby’s individual needs.
If you are breastfeeding, your body will adjust to the amount of milk your baby needs and cluster feeding will prompt your body to produce more milk to keep up with your baby’s cues. If you are bottle feeding, you may start to notice your baby wanting a bottle every half hour, but they don’t quite finish a full bottle at each feeding. Instead, they drink a little bit, turn away, then want more soon after. Typically, whether feeding from the breast or from the bottle, this pattern will only last a few days and then you may notice feedings space back out to every two to three hours again.
There are certain growth and developmental milestones where cluster feeding is more likely to take place, such as at two weeks old, six weeks, eight weeks, three months and six months. Cluster feeding helps babies around these times to get enough nourishment as they experience a sudden growth spurt. Cluster feeding is often common when a baby is feeling sick or teething as well as they may desire the additional comfort that frequent feeding offers during these times. For these reasons, cluster feeding can take place in both breastfed and bottle-fed babies. While these types of feedings can certainly feel unnatural, the most important thing to make note of is being sure that the baby is steadily gaining weight as well as producing an appropriate amount of wet and dirty diapers.
While keeping up with cluster feeding can be exhausting, keep in mind there are benefits to it! Cluster feeding is a way to provide comfort and security during a time your baby needs it, while keeping you in tune with their ever-changing cues. If you find yourself feeling burnt out and struggling to keep up, reach out for help! Be sure to prioritize your health by staying hydrated, nourishing yourself, resting when you can and lessen your commitments outside of tending to your little one.
If you do have any concerns in regards to the amount of milk your baby is getting during typical feeding times or through cluster feeding patterns, be sure to checkout these related posts right here:How to Avoid Overfeeding Your Baby
Has your little one fallen into a pattern of cluster feeding? If so, let us know your experience below! Wishing you happy feedings and lots of support!
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