One of the first hurdles breastfeeding mums encounter with a new baby is cluster feeding and, particularly if you don’t know what it is, you might find it concerning when it happens to your baby, and chances are it will.
You can learn more about cluster feeding and the best ways to handle it below.
Simply put, cluster feeding is frequent, or even constant, feeding over a period of time. It often happens for two to four hours in the evenings but can occur at any time during the day or night. Your baby may act fussy and seem hungry again right after you’ve fed her, which can be very frustrating to you.
One of the worst things about cluster feeding is that it can really knock your confidence as a new mum, especially if ill advised friends and relatives try to persuade you that your baby is cluster feeding because your milk is not sufficient and you should offer formula or other supplements. Actually, supplementing is one of the worst things you can do because it tells your body to make less milk, and the point of cluster feeding is to boost your milk supply.
Remember that your baby knows what she needs. In the early days she is building up your supply, and as time goes on she is increasing your supply so she can grow, so by supplementing your body would not be receiving the signals your baby is trying to send it about how much milk she will need, and you could find yourself struggling to keep up. The best thing you can do for your baby and your supply is to feed on demand and keep yourself hydrated while the cluster feeding is happening. And make sure you have a comfy chair!
Cluster feeding is often at its most noticeable during growth spurts, and babies certainly have a lot of those! Your baby may cluster feed in the run up to a growth spurt to ensure that the extra milk she will require is there by stimulating your supply.
In the vast majority of cases, cluster feeding does not indicate low supply. If your baby is gaining weight well and producing sufficient wet and dirty nappies it is unlikely you have a supply problem, but if you are concerned or just want to talk to someone about it you can always attend your local breastfeeding support group or baby health clinic for advice.
As a new mum you’ll face plenty of challenges but it’s advisable to arm yourself with information and trust your instincts as a mother. Cluster feeding often lasts no longer than a few days at any one time so remind yourself of that fact and try to relax and enjoy the extra time you’re spending bonding with your little one.