What is cluster feeding?
Cluster feeding basically means that the baby needs to nurse or drink from a bottle very, very frequently during certain periods of time in the day. And, when you have a new baby it is very common for this to happen in the late afternoon or during the course of the evening. So, this can be extremely frustrating and difficult time for parents because you keep trying to nurse your baby, or give your baby the bottle and the baby keeps breaking away and crying, you are trying to soothe your baby but it doesn’t seem like there is anything you can do. You even try to put your baby to sleep, but nothing works. Meanwhile, you don’t think your baby has colic because at other points of the day, say during the morning or early afternoon or even during the night, your baby feeds beautifully and then goes down to sleep. So, this is an immensely thwarting thing for the parents and they must know how to deal with it.
Cluster Feeding: Causes and Tips to Cope With it
Under what cases is cluster feeding normal?
Babies of all ages cluster feed and yes it is normal under few cases and they are:
- If your baby is demanding for cluster feeding for three to four hours in a day, that is a limited time period in a day.
- If the mother is able to provide an adequate amount of milk supply to her baby.
- If your baby is pooping enough and producing wet and dirty diapers.
- If you are able to observe health changes in him, in a right manner, like he is gaining weight.
Under what cases cluster feeding is not normal?
If your baby is having any of the symptoms given below, then you are required to see a pediatrician immediately, as under few cases cluster feeding is not normal, and they are:
- If a baby continues to cry all day unless they are breastfeeding and you observe uncountable hunger cues in them.
- If in spite of cluster feeding, your baby is not gaining weight or is losing weight at a rate of 4 percent within 24 hours of his birth, or at a rate of 7 percent, any time after the birth.
- If your baby is demanding for non-stop feeding and you are unable to produce that much amount of breast milk.
- If your baby remains lethargic, sleepy or is having tremors even after long periods of non-stop nursing.
Causes of cluster feeding
Cluster feeding is when babies bunch feeds close together at certain times of the day. Though they may leave a couple of hours between feeds most of the day, there will usually be a few hours of constant or close together feeds. Cluster feeding is most common in the evening, although may differ between babies.
Cluster feeding can occur due to many reasons, and some of them are given below:
- Growth spurt: these are periods of physical growth and weight gain. It can cause fussy and clingy behavior in your baby. Your baby will cry more and will protest when you try to put him down. This can be a difficult time for all parents, but it does pass. And, cluster feeding can occur due to this reason, as your baby might require continues breastfeeding for his development.
- Developmental leap: this is the time when your baby develops mentally. Leaps mean that all of a sudden your baby will learn and understand a new concept, it could be something as simple as distance or he learns to crawl, or they might learn reference of objects to other objects, so all these things will require cluster feeding.
- Build-up milk supply: this is a mother initiated reason for cluster feeding. Some mothers might pump a lot of milk and the more you pump, the more your baby is going to receive.
- To make baby sleep for a longer time in the night: cluster feeding can be helpful, as your baby might feel full a go to sleep for longer hours during the night, than usual.
How to cope up with cluster feeding?
You have to be a little bit flexible with your schedule. There are times when you might have an idea about how things are going to work, for example, you fed your baby at 4:00 pm and you might think that the next feeding is going to be at 7:00 pm, but guess what? It just not going to work. Your baby is not going for it, and when this happens you will have to reorient yourself and sort of go with the flow.
Here are few things that work for cluster feeding, and they are:
- If you are nursing, then nurse the baby as often as he sees the need and, try if you can do a full feeding.
- Try putting him in the crib with a swaddle and some dim lights and very little noise. If your baby won’t go down in a crib, try soothing him. Put him in a carrier or a baby Bjorn and try some music or a loud whisper of ‘Sooshing’ sound.
- If none of these things work, then try taking your baby outside and just have a nice walk in a park or if you live in suburbs, you might think about popping your baby in the car and just go out for a ride.
- Keep your baby hydrated and feed him well, all the time. Also, when you are feeding him, your body also requires energy to create breast milk, so make sure that you are also taking proper diet and water at regular intervals of time.
Things to remember
Usually, cluster feeding can happen from about 2 weeks of age onwards, for another month or 6 weeks to 7 weeks. Do not despair, this fussy period of cluster feeding is a very common thing. It just means that you have a very young baby who is manifesting very normal things and you are going to kind of go with the flow, and sooner, if you keep up with having good habits like feeding him regularly, and putting your baby down for a nap on time, then everything will fall back into place very quickly.