Attention exclusively breastfeeding mamas! Whether your new to the game or an old pro, we need to talk about cluster feeding.

The life of a newborn is glorious. Baby eats and sleeps, while someone else takes care of all the rest.

Cluster feeding is something every exclusively breastfeeding mama is bound to go through. And it can be a tough challenge to overcome.

breastfeeding cycle

So before you think you are going crazy, or that there is something wrong with your breast milk supply, etc. Let’s talk more about cluster feeding and help you get a better understanding of what is going on.

In this article:

  • What is cluster feeding?
  • Why do babies cluster feed?
  • Infant growth spurts
  • Tips to get through cluster feeding

This article may contain affiliate links. And this is not intended to replace the medical advice of your provider. See disclosures for more information.

cluster feeding

Cluster Feeding: How to Cope & Conquer

Typical Breastfeeding Schedule of a Newborn

I know that may sound like an oxymoron. Because anyone who knows how babies operate will tell you that they seem to deviate far from ever being “typical”. But bare with me.

The general rule of thumb for newborns is that they should be eating every 2-3 hours. Sometimes more frequently, but never more than 4 hours in between feeding.

So this is what I mean when I say the typical breastfeeding schedule of a newborn.

When a baby is first born, they will tend to be very sleepy. Waking only to eat, and usually dozing off soon thereafter.

It can become pretty routine. Retrospect, it is actually quite nice!

The immediate newborn phase is usually quite typical. Exhausting. Yes. But mama can pretty much come to know her baby’s routine.

The real challenges start when your baby changes the game.

Just when you thought you had your baby’s game figured out, they change the rules.

Here’s the scenario:

Your baby is 4 weeks old. Up until now, she has been eating routinely every 3 hours. The other night you even slept for the most consecutive hours since she was born. Hello rejuvenation!

And then, out of nowhere. Your baby starts waking more often in the night, or nursing constantly in the evening for hours at a time.

What happened to my sweet little routine-oriented baby?

Mama, meet your baby’s first major growth spurt.

Growth Spurts of Infants

Babies go through an immense amount of growing in their first year (obviously). And beyond, but for now our focus is on the beginning.

Loosely speaking, the general guidelines for growth spurts are :

  • 7-10 days
  • 2-3 weeks
  • 4-6 weeks
  • 3 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
cluster feeding and growth spurts

Does that seem overwhelming? Imagine how your baby feels. Babies are growing a mile a minute. It’s no wonder why they may seem to fuss all the time.

Growth Spurts and Breastfeeding

During a growth spurt your baby will naturally want to nurse more.

The demand on their growing bodies requires more energy. And to get more energy they need more calories. More calories equal more nursing.

So if you are wondering why your baby is still nursing after 45 minutes. Or if they are wanting nurse for 15 minutes every hour for 4 hours straight. Rest assured, mama.

There is nothing at all wrong. Your sweet baby is probably just going through a growth spurt.

cluster feeding

When does cluster feeding most likely occur?

Cluster feeding is most likely to occur around any of the growth spurt time periods mentioned above. And they typically happen in the evening time.

It is your baby’s natural instinct to want to eat more, when they need more calories. And in preparation for sleeping longer stretches at night (praise the Lord), your baby tends to cluster feed in the evening time.

How to deal with cluster feeding.

When you are in the trenches of exclusively breastfeeding, it can sometimes be tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To get through the struggles of cluster feeding, here are some things you can do.

  • Get your household tasks done earlier in the day.
    • If you know your baby has started to tend to cluster feed in the evening time, plan to get things done earlier in the day. Realize that you are going to be “tied up” for a possible few hours and plan accordingly.

  • Have snacks/water on stand by
    • Being hungry or thirsty will not make your job any easier, mama. Remember to take care of yourself too. And if you are stuck in one place nursing your baby for hours on end- be prepared with a snack and bottle of water for you.

  • Be comfortable
    • Breastfeed your baby somewhere you can be comfortable. If you are going to be spending a lot of time in that one spot, you want it to be comfortable for you. Back support is super important to remember!

  • DVR, Amazon Prime, Blogging Perhaps?
    • Keep yourself entertained and sane by recording some shows or movies. Late night Amazon Prime shopping was a definite coping mechanism I used. And lastly, maybe you will find interest in dipping into the world of blogging.
    • Find something you enjoy. Something to pass the time and relax, mama. Because it won’t be forever, but it will be for now. And you have to figure out a way to roll with the punches.
    • Read Why Starting a Blog is Amazing

Cluster Feeding May Seem to Never End

I know what your thinking. Because I have been right where you are, mama.

You are tired. And you don’t know if you can take another minute (or however many your baby will nurse for).

But hang in there. I promise what seems like forever and a day will once be behind you.

You will sleep again.

Your baby will eventually wean from breastfeeding. And you won’t be their sole source of nutrition forever.

Read: Weaning from Breastfeeding

I have never heard anyone say exclusively breastfeeding is easy. But I have heard again and again, how it is so worth it.

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