Cluster Feeding in Babies: Benefits and Side Effects

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A newborn changes the life of a woman as soon as it enters into the world. The woman has now transformed into a mother, a more mature and responsible woman . Being a mother is not an easy task. Taking proper care and understanding the baby . Every mother wants to provide all comfort to the baby. To her all it matters is the health and well being of the baby. Breastfeeding is the most important job of a mother to take care of the baby.  Her feeding is all what on the baby is dependent upon. Normally, a mother feed the baby for around 9-10 times a day. This is considered ideal for basic proper nourishment of the baby.

cluster feeding

In this article:

What is Cluster Feeding ?
How Long Does Cluster Feeding Go on for ?
What Ages Do Babies Cluster Feed ?
How to Stop the Baby from Cluster Feeding ?
How  to Identify the Baby is Cluster Feeding ?
Causes of Cluster Feeding ?
Benefits of Cluster Feeding
Side-effects of Cluster Feeding
Management of Cluster Feeding

A Guide for Cluster Feeding in Babies

What is Cluster Feeding ?

This term is coined for time when the baby needs plenty of short feeds over short duration of hours. This is normal and mostly seen during the early days of breastfeeding and often in the late afternoon or early evening. But in some babies, they prefer  to fill up on milk for few hours and then sleep for longer hours. It can vary from hours to minutes . It can be seen that baby is ready for feeding in every 20 minutes and this is not surprising. It is believed that this might enhance the milk supply of the mother.

How Long Does Cluster Feeding Go on for ?

Every baby has a different feeding habit. But considering the typical breastfeeding session of a baby, it lasts for 10 to 30 minutes. Doctors advise to feed the baby for at least 8 to 12 times in a day.

This frequent feeding helps to :

  • Prevent jaundice
  • Promote weight gain in healthy aspect
  • Enhance the milk supply in mother

What Ages do Babies Cluster Feed ?

According to many surveys , it has been observed that initial 2 months of life , in which most rapid growth take place is considered best time to cluster feed the baby. Growth significance is maximum at the following times :

  1. Day 2
  2. At the age of 2-3 weeks
  3. At 4-6 weeks of age
  4. And lastly at 3 month

During this time period babies requirement of nourishment increases at it is essential  to fulfill their needs by breastfeeding in cluster.

How to Stop the Baby from Cluster Feeding ?

As known, cluster feeding increases or enhances the milk supply in the mother, it is good for baby but sometimes when it becomes too exhausting for the mother with the overflow even after complete enough breastfeeding of the baby. It is advised to visit a lactation consultant, who may help her out to figure out and give tips to nurse the baby properly during the most important months of the baby’s development.

How  to Identify the Baby is Cluster Feeding?

It is difficult to identify as newborns rarely have any specific schedule of sleeping and feeding. The baby could be cluster feeding if :

  • They are a few days or weeks old
  • Show unusual hunger sign or don’t stop crying until breast fed
  • Urge to eat constantly or eat in frequent short sessions
  • Still have regular wet and dirty diapers

Causes of Cluster Feeding?

The exact cause of cluster feeding is still not known but it is believed that it is basically done to enhance the milk supply in the mother. There are some other noteworthy causes also :

Growth Spurts : During this phase the baby demands more nutrition as the body is working hard . Therefore , the quantity of required nutrient needs to be increased now which is fulfilled by frequent breastfeeding sessions.

Baby Sleeps Well : In some mothers cluster feeding improves the baby’s sleep.

Developmental Milestones : During initial first six months babies go through many milestones. Cluster feeding provides self soothing comfort to these babies.

Benefits of Cluster Feeding

  • Cluster feeding induces long happy sleeps.
  • Enhances the milk supply in mother
  • Helps baby to regulate emotionally and neurologically
  • Increases skin to skin time of mother with the baby which is in terms beneficial for both mother as well as baby

Side-effects of Cluster Feeding

  • Chances of nipple soreness increases.
  • Can be unpredictable
  • Can be exhausting and tiring emotionally as well as physically also
  • Time consuming task

Management of Cluster Feeding

It is normal to practice cluster feeding but it can be taxing on the whole family. Following tips are considered management of cluster feeding :

  • Keep yourself hydrated and intake of snacks should be regular
  • Breastfeeding positions should be changed from time to time
  • Practicing nursing habits while the baby sleeps in the carrier

Reference

https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/cluster-feeding

https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/cluster-feeding

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