Your Complete Guide To Cluster Feeding Your Baby

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If you are going to have a baby or have recently had one, you may be wondering how to feed your little one.  There are so many newborn feeding methods.  The most common methods are breastfeeding and bottle feeding.  However, you could also try cup feeding, finger feeding, breast pumping, dream feeding, pace feeding, and cluster feeding.  What is cluster feeding exactly?  This is a question that many new mothers may wonder.  If you have been wondering this question yourself, you have come to the right place.  Today, let's take a look at what cluster feeding is and the pros and cons of doing it.  I hope this article answers all your questions about cluster feeding.

What Is Cluster Feeding?

Cluster feeding is when your baby has a lot of short feeds close together in a few hours.  It is most common for babies to cluster feed in the late afternoon or early morning.  While your baby may constantly be drinking milk during these hours, for a lot of the day they will not eat.  This is because they have taken in a lot of nourishment in those few hours, so they do not need any more until later in the day.

Although cluster feeding can be tiring for you, it is very beneficial for your baby.  Your baby gets lots of nourishment in a shorter period of time.  Your baby will also sleep for a longer amount of time after cluster feeding, which allows you to sleep or get work done.

Why Does My Baby Cluster Feed?

Newborn cluster feeding happens because your baby is growing and will experience some growth spurts.  It is during these first few weeks that your baby starts developing mental and motor skills.  Because of this, he or she will demand more milk.  What's great is that after cluster feeding, you will have a larger milk supply, which means you'll have plenty of milk for your baby's bigger size.

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How To Cluster Feed

Cluster feeding is very easy to do.  It is similar to breastfeeding your child, except that you have to feed your baby more often.  Here are the steps for successful cluster feeding:

  • Relax and follow your baby's lead.  As soon as your baby acts hungry, allow him or her to eat.
  • Let your baby drink milk as long as he or she wants to.  Usually, babies who cluster feed only drink for a small amount of time and then want to be fed again just a little while afterward.
  • Try to get plenty of rest before your baby cluster feeds.  Cluster feeding can last for a few hours, so make sure you are well rested.
  • Take care of your body.  Drink plenty of water and eat healthily.  Don't skip meals either.  Your body can burn up to 500 calories a day breastfeeding, so you must eat a lot of calories and drink a lot of water.  Also, you should take care of your breasts.  If your nipples are sore, try applying nipple cream.  Avoid underwire bras because they can hurt your breasts even more.

Pros and Cons Of Cluster Feeding

There are many pros and cons to cluster feeding.  Overall, the pros outweigh the cons.  If your baby has already started cluster feeding, you don't have much of a choice than to allow him or her to cluster feed.  But it is possible to stop cluster feeding by finding out why he or she is cluster feeding.  For example, your baby may be cluster feeding because he or she is teething.  If so, give your baby a teether or a cold washcloth to rub against his or her gums.  Because you do have a choice of whether you want to cluster feed or not, let's take a look at the pros and cons.

Pro:  Your Baby Gets Lots Of Nutrients In Just A Few Hours

In just a few hours, your baby will get so many nutrients.  This is beneficial because your baby gets most of his/her nursing done in a short period of time instead of nursing different times of the day.  Once your baby is done nursing, you can expect many hours to go by before he or she needs to nurse again.

Con:  It Will Take A While To Feed Your Baby

A baby on a normal nursing schedule will take one long drink, and then will wake up in a few hours to drink again.  But cluster feeding babies will take short drinks for a few hours, which means you need to plan on spending a few hours feeding your baby.

Pro:  Baby Will Sleep For A Longer Amount Of Time After Cluster Feeding

One big benefit of newborn cluster feeding is that after your baby cluster feeds, he or she will sleep for a long amount of time.  This gives you time to get work done or maybe even take a nap yourself.  If your baby cluster feeds during the night, you'll be able to sleep for a long amount of time before your baby wants to be fed again.

Con:  It Can Cause Sore Nipples

Because your baby will be nursing so often, you may develop sore nipples.  Nipple cream will help, as will wearing loose bras.  There are many remedies for sore nipples to try, including applying your breastmilk to your nipples.  Although sore, tired, and cracked nipples can be fixed, some people may not want to go through this painful experience in order to cluster feed.

Pro:  Your Milk Supply Will Be Kept Up Because Of Constant Feeding

Because your baby will constantly be nursing, you won't have to worry about your milk supply being low.  Your body will realize that it needs to produce more milk, and as a result, you will have plenty of milk for your baby even after he or she is done cluster feeding.

Con:  It Can Be Draining For You

Many mothers who have cluster fed their babies describe it as being draining.  After all, you have to keep feeding your babies every 10 minutes or so for a few hours.  Remember to eat and drink enough water so that you stay energized and have plenty of milk for your little one.

Pro:  It Helps Your Baby Get Through Growth Spurts

Your baby will experience many growth spurts during his or her first few weeks, which is why he or she will need extra milk.  Although it is possible for your baby to get through his or her growth spurts without cluster feeding, cluster feeding definitely helps.

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Do Bottle-fed Babies Cluster Feed?

It is more popular for breastfed babies to cluster feed.  That said, it is not impossible for bottle-fed babies or formula fed babies to cluster feed.  Cluster feeding a baby on a bottle is similar to cluster feeding a breastfed baby.  However, you won't need to eat and drink as much water and food because your baby will be drinking formula milk (unless you decide to breast pump milk).

Is It Possible To Overfeed My Baby?

While it is possible to overfeed your baby, it is very rare.  If you are breastfeeding your baby, it is less likely for your baby to get overfed because he or she will have to work to drink from your breast.  As for bottle-fed babies, try using a slow-paced bottle so that you don't overfeed your baby.  You can also try pace feeding your baby, which means having your baby sit up instead of leaning back.

How Much Does A Newborn Eat

A question you may be wondering is how much does a newborn eat.  On average, a newborn drinks about 1.5-3 ounces every 2-3 hours.  At about 2 months, your baby may be taking 4-5 ounces at each feeding and the feedings may be every 3-4 hours.  At 4 months, your baby may be taking 4-6 ounces at each feeding, depending on the frequency of feedings and his or her size.

By 6 months, your baby may be taking 6-8 ounces every 4 to 5 hours.  However, babies who cluster feed may take less than this amount of milk at each feeding.  This isn't a sign that your baby isn't eating enough.  Because your baby will be nursing multiple times in just a few hours, your baby will get all the nutrients he or she needs.

Signs My Baby Is Hungry

You should be able to easily tell when your baby is hungry and ready to cluster feed.  However, each baby is different, so you may not notice that your baby is hungry at first.  Here are some tips for telling if your baby is hungry.

  • Your baby will begin to move his head from side to side.
  • He opens his mouth.
  • Your baby sticks his tongue out.
  • Your baby puts his fingers in his mouth.
  • He puckers his lips as if to suck.
  • Anything that touches his cheek makes him turn in that direction.
  • He is crying.

Keep in mind that your baby will probably be fussier when cluster feeding.  This is because he or she wants to nurse more often, and therefore will get fussy (which is a sign he or she is hungry).  However, your baby shouldn't get to a point where he or she won't stop crying. If your baby is crying a lot, you waited too long to feed him or her.  Also, you should realize that crying isn't always a sign of hunger.  Sometimes your baby may cry when he or she needs a diaper changed, wants to be held, is bored, or is too hot or cold.

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How Long Does Cluster Feeding Last?

Cluster feeding can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.  Most babies do cluster feed for longer than 3 months.  The reason that babies cluster feed is because of growth spurts.  They need the extra nutrients in order to grow, hence the reason why they nurse often.  After your baby's growth spurts are over, he or she may get on a normal feeding schedule.

Other Reasons Why Your Baby Constantly Nurses

Although cluster feeding is very common, sometimes there are other reasons for your baby's constant nursing.  Such reasons include colic, baby reflux, simply over-exhaustion, or if your baby needs to burp.  If your baby has any of the following symptoms, you should visit a pediatrician or a lactation consultant.

  • Baby is losing weight
  • Baby has fewer wet and dirty diapers
  • Your breasts don't feel empty after feedings
  • Your baby has a fever

Final Thoughts

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I hope this article has answered all your questions on cluster feeding.  Cluster feeding is when your baby only nurses for a short amount of time but keeps wanting to nurse for a few hours.  Cluster feeding is caused by when your child goes through a growth spurt. Although there are some cons to cluster feeding, overall cluster feeding is a great way for your child to receive plenty of nutrients.  Remember that if your baby is losing weight, has fewer dirty diapers, or has a fever, you should contact a pediatrician right away.  I hope you found this article to be helpful.  Hopefully, you will now be able to successfully cluster feed your newborn baby.

Related Article:  Everything You Need To Know About The New Pace Feeding Trend

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