How Long Does Cluster Feeding Last | Should You Worry?
Cluster feeding is when your baby wants to nurse constantly for hours without letting go. This is usually normal in babies and is usually common in the evening hours when babies are fussy, and all they want to do is feed nonstop.
When your baby changes her feeding habits and she starts to feed in spurts every hour of the clock, you may start feeling worried and exhausted. “Am I producing enough milk?” “Is she getting enough milk?” Those are some of the questions that will be running through your mind. You will spend hours seated on your sofa breastfeeding a baby who will not be showing any signs of stopping yet.
Why Do Babies Cluster Feed In The First Place?
Nobody knows exactly why babies cluster feed. However, paediatricians suggest that cluster feeding may be a technique that your baby uses to help boost your breast milk production.
During your baby’s first few months, she will be growing at a very fast rate leading to growth spurts. She will, therefore, need extra breast milk so that she gets enough nutrients to sustain this growth. Her stomach will also be growing rapidly hence the need for more milk. We can, therefore, argue that cluster feeding, also known as bunch feeding, is nature’s way of making your milk production to increase.
Cluster feeding usually occurs mostly in the evenings. This is because babies always try to fill their tummies before they go to bed. Another reason why your baby may cluster feed in the evening hours is that she needs some extra bonding and comforting time. This is true if you are a working mother who goes to work in the morning and comes back in the evening and you don’t have milk storage bags to store some milk for the baby to drink while you are at work. She will therefore, breastfeed for longer so that she can calm herself after a long day of not having you around.
How To Tell If Your Baby Is Cluster Feeding
Cluster feeding usually starts during the first few months of breastfeeding your baby. Sometimes your baby might be cluster feeding but you may not be sure. To determine whether your baby is cluster feeding or not, you can ask yourself the following questions.
- Is your baby feeding constantly?
- Does she feed for only a few minutes at a time?
- Is your baby fussy after breastfeeding for a short time?
- Are there short pauses in between the feeding sessions?
How Long Will The Cluster Feeding Last?
For new-borns, cluster feeding usually occurs anytime, usually in the evening hours when she is likely to be fussy. Cluster feeding starts in the first two weeks of a baby’s life and is likely to go on up to the 4th month. Although in some babies, this can go up to the 6th month before it eventually ends, cluster feeding rarely extends beyond 6 months old.
Although the six months may sound like an eternity to you, especially when it is accompanied by crying and fussing in between the feedings, it will eventually come to an end.
Why Cluster Feeding Is Good For Your Baby
Although you may get worried when your baby is feeding for longer hours, experts recommend that you should not get worried. This is because cluster feeding is actually good for your baby since it is a perfect way to boost your milk supply. This is because the more your baby will be feeding, the more milk your body will produce.
Extra feeds before your baby goes to bed will help to keep her tummy full hence making her to sleep for longer. Therefore, if you don’t want to be woken up in the middle of the night by a hungry baby, then you need to encourage cluster feeding. Before you start thinking about controlling how long your baby is feeding, think about the extra nutrients, hormones and immune protection factors.
Cluster feeding also means that you will have more time to bond with your baby. You will also have enough time to relax as you breastfeed your baby.
Tips On How You Can Cope With Cluster Feeding
Below are 5 tips that can make you feel more relaxed as you nurse your baby for longer hours.
Plan Your Evening
It is normal for a baby to develop cluster feeding routine at one point in their first few months. Usually, most babies will cluster feed between 6 pm to 10 pm. You should, therefore, accept it and plan your evening to avoid having your plans for the evening going awry. You should never try to fight the cluster feeding.
Drink A Lot Of Fluids
Whenever you sit down to breastfeed your baby, make sure that you have a big glass of water by your side. This is because your body needs a lot of fluid to produce more milk that can sustain your baby’s cluster feeding.
Eat Something Before You Sit Down To Nurse
It is important that you eat before your baby starts to breastfeed. Therefore, if you know that your baby always starts to cluster feed at around 6 pm, then you should eat something before then.
Get Yourself A Breast Pump
Buying a breast pump and learning how to use it during this time when your baby is cluster feeding can be a huge payoff. This is because you will get to pump your milk in advance and store them in breast milk storage bags so that when the baby gets hungry, your husband may help with feeding the baby while you get to get things accomplished inside the house. Your husband will also get a chance to get to bond with the baby.
Make Yourself Comfortable
Cluster feeding can make a seasoned mother fret about all the things she can’t do because she has to sit down with the baby until the baby decides that she has had enough. However, this can be a very good time to indulge yourself in mindless pleasures of your choice. You can watch TV or listen to public radio.
Although it might be a very tiring experience, you should know that cluster feeding is an entirely normal and temporary experience that babies have to go through during their early months when they are going through a growth spurt.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed and frustrated, just know that you are not the only one since all mothers who breastfeed their babies go through this. You should, therefore, accept it and try to enjoy it as you get to bond with your baby because when it finally comes to an end, you will miss those cluster feeding days since those days of snuggling with your baby for long hours will be gone.