Cluster Feeding. Is it Normal?
Has your baby started eating nonstop in the evening? Welcome to cluster feeding! You feel like you fed her 15 minutes ago. Wait, yup, you did. But she wants to eat AGAIN already?! Is this normal? Are you producing enough? Is there something wrong with her? Yes. Yes. No. In that order.
Cluster feeding happens with ALL babies. Chest or bottle fed. It’s a sign that their stomachs are growing, and they are beginning to ramp up to longer stretches of sleep. Basically, they are trying to “top off” so they don’t wake hungry as soon.
You will notice that your baby wants to feed for several hours before bed. Don’t worry. This is normal. These marathon feeding sessions signal your body to produce more milk. The extra production will allow your baby to have the appropriate amount of milk as they grow. Bottle fed babies will also want to cluster feed as they reach and go through a growth spurt.
These evening feedings tend to be fussier feedings. Why? Because your baby is tired too. They may nurse, pull off fuss and nurse some more. Falling asleep between stages. All this back and forth can be frustrating for you. You’re tired, thirsty and you need to pee.
With all that fussing for hours on end you may start to have concerns.
Am I producing enough?
Does my baby have a lip or tongue tie?
Did I eat something that is making them fussy?
These questions can be amplified by other people in the house asking you the same questions. You partner, mother-in-law, sister. It can ruin your confidence.
I’m here to say, this is all normal. And if you have any major concerns about their fussiness and cluster feeding you can always contact a lactation consultant or your pediatrician.
This confidence drop leads to many new parent wondering if they should be supplementing with formula. Do you upmost to fend these feeling off if you want to successfully breastfeed. By supplementing you can interrupt the natural rhythm of lactation. Your baby’s demands are what help grow your supply so that they are getting enough as they get older and bigger.
That being said, if your lactation consultant or your pediatrician are concerned about your baby’s weight gain having the conversation about supplementation is advisable. Fed is best.
Keep in mind that bottle fed babies also cluster feed and have periods of fussiness in the evenings. This isn’t a case of either or. It is normal for all babies.
One theory on why babies are so fussy during cluster feedings is that the milk supply is lower in the evenings due to hormonal changes through out the day.
This is a commonly held belief with many lactation consultants. Not all lactation experts agree however.
Breastfeeding researcher, Dr. Peter Hartmann, says that this is not the case in nursing parents that he has studied. One thing he did find is that milk flow in the evening tends to be slower, which can be frustrating for tired and cranky babies!
Even if the volume of milk is lower, the fat content at this time of day tends to be higher. So, your baby is getting the right amount of calories.
Ditch the feeding schedule.
Your infant knows when they are hungry. Feeding on demand will result in a happier and more content baby. If your baby is showing signs of hunger feed them. Waiting until a scheduled time will result in a hard to console baby and a fussier feeding session.
Don’t worry about overfeeding them either. If they are acting hungry. Feed them. Fed is best.
Keep in mind that it IS possible to over feed a bottle-fed baby. If you are worried about this, you can talk to your lactation consultant or your pediatrician about it.
You can also look up information on how to pace feed your bottle fed baby.
If you have a very sleepy baby talk with your pediatrician about their weight gain. A newborn should be being fed every 2-3 hours during the day. More often is okay. Less often would be reason for concern.
When you bring your baby home from hospital the nurses may give you’re a feeding/diaper tracker. These charts track how often they are eating and how often they have a wet or soiled diaper. Your pediatrician will use this to determine if your baby is getting enough.
If you aren’t sent home with one you can easily find them on the internet. I have one for download HERE.
Cluster feeding typically stops when your baby is around 2-4 months old. Every baby is different and their needs are as well. But around there you should notice they start dropping the cluster feedings and start sleeping longer stretches during the night.
It isn’t out of the ordinary for cluster feeding to pick up a bit during a growth spurt.
How about those survival tips I promised you? Keep reading, you can jot them down or print them out.