Breastfeeding comes with a TON of new terminology, that you often have to learn on the fly! One frequently asked question is, what is cluster feeding? You might’ve heard of this before giving birth, as it’s a fairly common phenomenon, so let’s chat about it!
Defining cluster feeding
Cluster feeding just means that your baby is feeding at shorter intervals, usually around every hour but potentially every 30 minutes.1 Typically during the first few weeks of breastfeeding, you’ll feed an average of 8-12 times a day. If you’re finding that feedings are more frequent than usual this is usually cluster feeding! Cluster feeding is very normal and is not reflective of how much milk is being produced.1 Cluster feeding mainly occurs for two reasons. First, either babies are trying to fill up even more before bed to get a long sleep, or they are going through a growth spurt! If the clusters are typically in the evening, try and follow your baby’s lead and feed on demand.
Growth spurts are very common during the first year, since little ones grow so quickly! The typical times that babies experience these periods of rapid growth are 2-3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months old.2 Since every child is different, this timing might not be exact! When your baby is going through a growth spurt, they’ll want to nurse very frequently and for longer periods of time.1 Your supply will increase as well during these times, since you produce more milk the more you breastfeed! Growth spurts can be taxing on a breastfeeding mom, so remember to increase your fluids and calories. They typically last for just a few days, but again it’s different for everyone!
When it's a concern
You may start asking: Am I producing enough milk? Rest assured that if your baby is producing plenty of wet and dirty diapers and is growing, then yes you are! If you are concerned about your baby's growth talk with one of our lactation professionals. Also, let your child's pediatrician know if you have growth concerns.
If your baby is lethargic, or not producing at least 5 wet diapers, contact their provider. These are not common with typical cluster feeding. Or, if your baby seems to cluster feed all day long, this may be a sign that baby is not effectively feeding, or there is not enough milk.
Keep in mind, most cluster feeding is normal. If you want additional ways to increase milk supply, check out this post.
- Cluster feeding and growth spurts. WIC Breastfeeding. (n.d.). https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/cluster-feeding-and-growth-spurts.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 11). How much and how often to breastfeed. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/InfantandToddlerNutrition/breastfeeding/how-much-and-how-often.html.