What Is Cluster Feeding: Meaning, Causes, Signs & Managing Tips
Mothers who breastfeed their kids know how fulfilling this experience is. It helps you bond with your child; it helps in providing the required nutrition to your babies. But sometimes, breastfeeding can also be insanely exhausting.
If you feel like your child is continuously hungry lately and no matter how often you feed them, they are never full, your baby might be going through the phase of cluster feeding. It is tiring and exhausting, but do not worry, this won’t last long! This article will talk about what cluster feeding means, how long it will last, what is cluster feeding coping strategies, and everything you need to know about cluster feeding! (1)
Reasons For Cluster Feeding
No one reason has till now been confirmed by experts to support the reason behind the cluster feeding phase in babies. But there are several very strong theories that experts believe in(1).
Many experts believe that when your baby goes through a growth spurt, they suddenly gain extra weight and grow taller and require extra food to support that. Babies also do comfort feeding if they have pain in their bones or muscles due to the growth spurt phase, which leads to cluster feeding.
Parents have also noticed that babies usually indulge in cluster feeding during evening hours. The same pattern has been observed for colic pain as well. Experts believe that there might be a connection between the two. Kids might be irritated with the colic pain, and thus comfort feeding might lead to cluster feeding.
Sometimes if you have an increased milk supply, your baby will love to enjoy the milk and cluster feed and take long naps!
Signs Of Cluster Feeding
The most significant sign that will tell you that your baby is in the cluster feeding phase is that they will often feed for long hours. That is precisely what cluster feeding meaning is. But there are other signs and symptoms that your baby will experience, such as:
- ◾ Demanding feed within an hour of the last feed.
- ◾ Sleeping more extended hours than usual after feeding and getting up only to feed.
- ◾ Being fussy when you take the breast away, even if they have been feeding for an hour.
- ◾ Evening and night time feeds.
- ◾ The demand for meals is clustered together and is at a much higher frequency than usual.
How To Manage Cluster Feeding
We might just be repeating ourselves here, but cluster feeding is just a phase, and all you need to do is let your baby cluster feed and let the phase pass. Here are some strategies that will help you through the phase:
- ◾ If you feel like because of the constant feeding, you are in need to produce more milk, although your body is naturally equipped to produce on-demand, but you can try the Healthy Foods To Increase Breast Milk Supply
- ◾ Keep a bottle or jug of water near your bed or the feeding area. You might not get to get up if you are feeding in a lying down position while your baby is feeding.
- ◾ Keep nipple cream, breast pads and warm bottle ready in case you feel pain, numbness or tear in the nipple area.
- ◾ Keep shifting the breast every 20-30 minutes to balance foremilk and hindmilk.
- ◾ Keep changing the breastfeeding position to avoid backache due to constant feeding.
- ◾ If you have an older child, make arrangements to keep them engaged and under supervision while you deal with the cluster feeding phase.
- ◾ Ask all adults and family members in the house to pitch in with other work related to the baby or home.
- ◾ Listen to music or read a book while feeding. Pick any activity that helps you keep calm and not stress about the situation.
Can You Stop Cluster Feeding Of Your Baby
Yes, cluster feeding can get overwhelming and irritating. But you need to remember that the one you are dealing with is a tiny baby who doesn’t understand what is going on and is just seeking comfort in the only place they know they will find the utmost comfort – their mother’s breasts.
But there is nothing you can do about it. It is just a phase and will pass on its own. Forcing your baby not to feed can be stressful for them. So, all you need is to be patient and let it pass.
How Long Does Cluster Feed Last
Your baby would cluster feed in bunches or clusters, which is why it is known as cluster feeding. They will feed again and again within a gap of hardly a few hours. Typically, cluster feeding does not last for more than two to three days. But phases of cluster feeding might come and go again and again.
When To Consult A Doctor
Cluster feeding is a temporary phase and would last long. And you might be enjoying the long hours of cuddling and snuggling with your baby. But if your baby is on your breast for more than an hour at a time and if the phase of cluster feeding lasts for more than 2 – 3 days, this might mean that your milk supply might be low and your body’s natural milk production is not able to keep up with your baby’s hunger demands. This would be when you should see a doctor or a lactation consultant and get this treated.
Cluster feeding might be extremely exhausting, but please remember that this is just a phase and will pass soon. So just hang in there, keep calm and patient and let your baby snuggle up against you for comfort.
Some Common Questions Parents Ask
Q1 – Should I forcefully stop my child if he has been feeding for more than an hour?
Forcing your child away from your breast to stop the cluster milk can lead to crying. Let them feed as long as they want to, but do speak to your doctor or a lactation consultant to figure out if your baby is not getting satisfied due to a low milk supply.
Q2 – How do I ensure that my baby is healthy in the cluster feeding phase?
Keep an eye on their diaper count. As a disposable diaper might not help in such a situation, you might want to move to Newborn Langots to ensure that they have enough wet nappies through the day and are getting enough feed.