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Helpful Tips on Managing Cluster Feeding in Babies

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What is Cluster Feeding?

Typically, newborns tend to nurse every 2-3 hours, which means that your newborn will nurse around 8-12 times in a 24-hour period.

When a baby is cluster feeding, they will nurse more frequently than their typical nursing schedule. These feeds will not only be more frequent but also in close succession to one another. Your newborn might begin feeding every hour or so. You might also notice that your baby will seem a little fussier during this period and that the cluster-feeding tends to happen more towards the evening hours.

While the exact causes of cluster feeding are unknown, experts suggest that it happens due to a range of reasons. Your baby might be experiencing developmental changes or growth spurts, or they might be soothing themselves through nursing. Another potential cause is that a mother’s milk supply tends to be slightly slower in the evening and night, due to which baby might be nursing more.

While your baby could be fussy due to many other reasons, here are some signs that baby is cluster feeding if:

• Your baby won’t stop crying until they are fed
• Your newborn is constantly feeding or eats more frequently, even if the nursing sessions are shorter
• Your baby seems soothed and relaxed when they are nursing
• Baby is still producing the regular amount of dirty diapers

Cluster feeding in newborns is quite common and typically happens during those first few weeks. Cluster feeding in older babies could be due to developmental changes.

Cluster feeding is NOT a sign of low milk supply and will not affect your milk supply. Breastfeeding is based on the system of demand & supply. So, if you increase the amount of nursing sessions due to cluster feeding, this actually signals your body to produce more milk to meet your baby’s changing needs.

However, if you do feel that you are experiencing a milk supply issue, speak to your doctor or a lactation consultant as soon as you can, so that they can help guide you correctly.

Cluster-feeding can also be pretty exhausting and overwhelming for new Moms who are already dealing with lack of sleep. So, what are some ways in which you can deal with cluster-feeding in babies? Let’s find out.

If you think that your baby is going through a cluster-feeding phase, here are some helpful tips to follow to help get you through this period:

1. Accept and embrace the situation
Cluster-feeding is a phase and won’t last for too long. Try and mentally accept the situation and prepare yourself for it. If your baby cluster-feeds during a certain time frame, try and get other tasks out of the way before that time window. Make your nursing area comfortable and keep your phone, charger, books, snacks all nearby so that you don’t have to move once baby starts feeding. Use this time to enjoy one-on-one time with your little one. Catch up on your favourite TV shows or books. Try and relax and embrace this situation for what it is.

2. Ask for support
Moms, you are absolutely marvelous BUT you DON’T have to do everything! Cluster-feeding can be exhausting and having to manage any other chores or tasks at the same time is nearly impossible. Make a plan with your spouse or other family members on how they can take over other household tasks during this time.

3. Care for your own needs and stay nourished
It’s important to stay well-hydrated when you’re cluster-feeding. Make sure you’re eating well and don’t miss any meals. Your breasts and nipples might also be sore from the constant nursing. Use a nipple-soothing lanolin-based balm in between nursing sessions to soothe dry, cracked or sore nipples.

4. Try baby-wearing
If you don’t want to be confined to the nursing chair, you could even nurse your baby on-the-go by putting them in a baby sling or carrier. This might take some getting used to, but it’s a great way to continue the nursing while you go about your other tasks.

5. Take short breaks whenever possible and try and squeeze in naps early on in the day
Even though your baby will require you almost constantly during this time, try and squeeze in short breaks for yourself whenever possible so you can shower, take a short walk, or simply sleep. If baby tends to cluster feed at night or during the evening, try and get some naps during the morning or afternoon to prepare yourself for this.

6. Go with the flow
Follow your baby’s cues and try and relax. Cluster feeding typically only lasts for a few days at a time.

If you’re still unsure about how to handle the cluster-feeding period, speak to your doctor or a lactation consultant and voice your concerns.

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