Although the days of cluster feeding can feel never ending, Mother Nature has a plan and purpose...supply and demand. The connection between our baby and our body is amazing! Personally, I’ve always felt that breastfeeding went smoother if I followed my baby’s cues, as opposed to a following a schedule. This is one reason we created The Lolo Baby breastfeeding sling 🤍 to support you through those days when you feel like you are feeding around the clock.
Here is how my brilliant Mother-in-law and breastfeeding expert Dr. Jane Morton explains cluster feeding…
“From their earliest hours, healthy term babies know that by-the-clock feeding every 3 hours is not their typical schedule. Some feeds are back-to-back for a bit before they enjoy a longer snooze. Why is this helpful?
First, think of milk production. The frequent removal of milk signals the breast to bump up production. Especially in the early hours, days and weeks, frequency is key to establishing a generous milk supply, especially with growth spurts.
Second, consider baby’s schedule. When babies are a few weeks old, they commonly tend to nurse frequently in the afternoon and evening, taking more fat-rich (“stick to the ribs”) milk before they begin stretching out at night. Hibernating mammals do the same before the long winter nap.
And finally, consider baby’s self-soothing. Nothing more comforting than skin-to-skin snuggling and easy access to breastfeeding “on demand”. Some specialists call this “baby-led feeding.” You can think of it as very normal and healthy.”
I really love her simple explanations for all things babies and breastfeeding! I feel very lucky to call her a mentor.
WHAT IS CLUSTER FEEDING?
A newborn will typically eat every 2-3 hours or 8-12 times a day. Cluster feeding is when your newborn feeds more frequently or intensely over a period. Sometimes they will eat every hour and other times it feels as though you just finished feeding them and they are already asking for more. This is very common in the evening, like Dr. Jane said above, to stretch their night of sleep out.
It may also occur during a growth spurt. Babies grow at an incredibly fast rate during the first few months of life. This rapid growth means most babies will need to feed more often. Growth spurts generally occur around three, six, and eight weeks after birth.
For me it always seemed like right when I sat down to eat dinner…the baby wanted to eat again. Right when I was exhausted and hungry! For a new parent, cluster feeding can push you over the edge after a long day. It can be difficult to keep up with your baby's needs during cluster feeding, so it helps to have some tips on hand!
TIPS FOR CLUSTER FEEDING
Accept that this is normal, healthy and a short-lived phase
“This too shall pass.”
If motherhood has taught me one thing, it's that everything is easier with acceptance and surrender. Cluster feeding felt so much easier with baby #2 because I knew that this period was short lived! I knew that typically my night was dedicated to feeding the baby, and therefore I didn’t set many expectations to accomplish anything else.
Get a comfy setup where you can nurse, watch your favorite show, listen to a podcast or do something relaxing that you enjoy. Wear practical, comfortable clothing. Have something to drink and some snacks handy to keep you going during the long feeding sessions.
Use a Breastfeeding Sling
Cluster feeding is one of the main reasons we created The Lolo Baby! When I used the Lolo sling with my second baby, it was SO much easier at dinnertime and bedtime. It made going out to eat much easier, because I would just put my son in the carrier. While I ate, he ate! Everyone was very happy! Yes, he probably had crumbs in his hair by the end…but he was the second kid, what can you expect.
Ask for Help
If someone offers to help, take it! My neighbor Sally used to offer to help constantly - at first I turned it down because I felt bad. I really had to practice accepting help; so many people genuinely want to help a new mom. Recognize that we are not meant to do this alone and there is a reason for the saying "it takes a village to raise a baby". Ask a family member or friend for help around the house, while you dedicate time to feeding the baby. Accept food from friends, or order takeout instead of cooking!
Take a Bath With your Baby
Another gem of advice from Dr. Jane Morton! Getting in the bath with my baby was one of my favorite ways to relax during those evening hours. I still take baths with my kids most nights. Everyone is happier in the bath. You can cluster feed your baby for an hour in the bath while you relax...listen to some nice soothing music...usually it helps put them to sleep as well. It is quite nice!
YOU GOT THIS MAMA!
So just remember that cluster feeding is totally natural and helps your baby tell your body how much milk to make. Your baby may be more demanding during cluster feeding, but if you follow their cues and remain patient and understanding, they will eventually settle into a routine. This will not last forever!