I've already written a little about cluster feeding in my posts nursing a newborn baby and when does breastfeeding get easier.
I want to expand on those a bit and give some newborn cluster feeding tips.
Many moms want to know how long cluster feeding lasts, and when cluster feeding stops.
Keep reading for my experiences and tips after breastfeeding a newborn baby three times!
What is cluster feeding? Cluster feeding is many feedings close together
Some babies will cluster feed peacefully, but some may pull on and off the breast, cry and fuss in between feedings, and just generally seem unhappy.
While they are nursing it may seem like your baby is pulling on and off the breast because they not getting enough milk, but they could be doing this to increase your supply during a growth spurt.
Sometimes they are fussy and other times they nurse nonstop not pulling off at all.
Sometimes they will fall asleep in between the fussing, and after nursing nonstop for hours, and just when you think you can unlatch and move, oh no...they wake up and fuss to nurse some more.
Your baby may want to feed several times in a short period of time, or this cycle can go on for a few hours.
This can happen every day during the first several weeks of a newborn's life or during growth spurts.
For many babies the cluster feeding stage starts early on, usually in the first two weeks of life, and can go on until 3-4 months old. A lot of times cluster feeding begins as early as day two.
This may sound like a long time but it does eventually end.
Cluster feeding coincides with a fussy time of day.
Cluster feeding can occur any time but for newborns it is usually in the evening, and when your baby is fussy.
It seems common that it starts in the early evening when your baby will start to get fussy, and want to cluster feed on and off for hours.
This can go on until 9 or 10 PM or even later, and then your baby may have a longer period of sleep.
In my case it was always in the evening that my babies wanted to cluster feed. It usually would start anywhere from 5PM or 6PM and go until 9 or 10 PM.
After that my baby would have a little bit longer stretch of sleep.
Cluster feeding tips
Remember it is most likely not your milk! Many women wonder if their baby is getting enough milk due to the fussiness, and seemingly endless need to nurse.
All this nursing will automatically increase your supply as it is needed. Although supplementing can be tempting it can cause your milk supply to go down since breastfeeding is all about supply and demand.
I know when I was nursing my first baby the evening fussiness and cluster feeding demands caught me off guard.
It's easy to get worn down and wonder if you are doing something wrong, why is your baby so hungry, and if it would just be easier to offer a supplement.
You may be encouraged to supplement by people who don’t understand cluster feeding (in laws, partner, parents). They mean well but try not to doubt yourself.
The best thing you can do is hang in there. This is temporary, and your baby is getting what he/she needs from you.
Try to accept it and plan for it as part of your day. My first instinct with my first baby was to really fight the cluster feeding. If my baby was fed I wanted to give her to my husband and have a little break.
It was easy to get frustrated as soon as I tried to move away for a few minutes and get anything accomplished.
Trying to go out or have outings during this time of day was not happening either. Once I accepted this new temporary schedule and worked with it I was a lot less stressed.
More cluster feeding tips for survival
Find something great to watch on tv, binge watch a series on Netflix, or watch movies.
Use this time to relax and chill out. Find a comfortable spot. Get a nursing pillow.
Once I thought of cluster feeding as a part of my day I set myself up on the couch with my baby each evening.
My husband brought me dinner, we watched tons of stuff, and I was able to feed my baby and keep her calm while enjoying myself.
And going along with that one above, utilize your partner. Have them bring you dinner, drinks, and whatever you need. I looked at it kind of like an extension of pregnancy. I could really use the help and he was happy to do it.
If you cannot stay still and need to move around or tend to other children try wearing your baby. Get a sling, wrap or baby carrier and wear your baby around the house.
This is especially helpful if you have other children and cannot just sit on the couch all evening. This is also helpful when your baby hates to be still and you need to keep moving.
Once I had my second baby I also had a toddler to take care of so this worked for me. I spent the early part of our evening with him in a wrap or sling so I could feed my toddler and take care of her.
Then, once she was in bed I was able to commence my cluster feeding on the couch.
If you need to work at home or want to sit at a computer use a nursing pillow and cluster feed at the same time.
Once I went back to work after my first baby I needed to work evening shifts (at home) occasionally. I was so worried about how I would get through cluster feeding and working at the same time.
I had read a tip to use a regular pillow on your lap, and put a nursing pillow on top of it. This brings your baby up to a better height so you can have your arms free to type.
Get a great book. If you are going to be spending a few hours sitting each evening having something great to read really helps. I got through several books while nursing my son in the early days.
When your baby finally passes out for good go get some sleep!
Once your baby finishes cluster feeding in the evening they will usually have a longer sleep stretch. Rather than try to get other things done this is a good time to get some rest yourself.
How long does cluster feeding last and when does cluster feeding stop?
All of my babies cluster fed and even though I have three babies, I wondered with every single one of them, when does cluster feeding stop?
Once I had my second and third babies, I did try to understand and embrace this constant feeding as a temporary time in my baby's life.
But, it was still wearing, and I still wondered if it was normal. Each baby is different and each cluster feeding experience has been tiring to me.
Cluster feeding ages:
I have asked other moms and based on my own experiences, I will say cluster feeding begins to lesson and stop sometime between three to four months old.
It can go on till six months in some cases, but I do not believe that is common. Some babies may go even longer but again, this is not common.
Sometimes during growth spurts your baby may nurse more frequently but it won't be as consistent as those early days of constant feeding.
Every baby is different, but the peak - extreme period of multiple feedings for me has always ramped up between two to six weeks, continued for several weeks, and then lessened.
By about four months breastfeeding was always much easier for me with each baby and cluster feeding had mostly stopped.
The good news when you are in the thick of it is to remember it does stop at some point.
Yep, the day will come and you will realize you are no longer spending every single night sitting on the couch feeding from 5-9 PM, or whichever time frame your baby has chosen.
Cluster feeding timeline. Cluster feeding is a temporary time in your baby's life.
Remember this period of time is temporary. Cluster feeding is hard and can be exhausting but it does come to an end.
Most babies start to cluster feed less by 6-8 weeks and most have outgrown it by 3-4 months.
They may still cluster feed occasionally when going through a growth spurt, but it's nothing like those early weeks.
While it is tiring, cluster feeding is totally normal and temporary. Many moms have gone through it and are going through it right now. Try to accept the cluster feeding and enjoy the downtime with your baby.
I actually miss those early cluster feeding days now. Sure it's nice to have my evenings somewhat normal again, but holding and snuggling with your baby for hours is kind of awesome too.
Let me know if you have any questions about cluster feeding and your survival tips for getting through this period!
Read more about cluster feeding and breastfeeding with these articles below
When Does Breastfeeding Get Easier?
Cluster Feeding Fussiness and Newborn Babies
Why is My Newborn Cluster Feeding All Night Long?
Ways to pass the time while cluster feeding:
10 Ways to Pass the Time While Cluster Feeding Your Baby
Saturday 28th of March 2020
Hi- this is a super insightful article and made the cluster feeding experience as a FTM a lot easier. I have a quick question- my baby just turned 6 weeks old and I noticed her sucking at her hands pretty aggressively while she was asleep (in her swaddle which holds her hand up to her face). However, she wasn’t awake and asking for a feed. Is this a hunger cue? Should I be waking her up to eat? Any advice will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!
Tuesday 31st of March 2020
Hi, I am not sure about it being a hunger cue since she is asleep. As long as she is gaining weight and sleeping through my instinct would be to let her sleep and not wake her. Sucking hands can be a hunger cue when awake but she might just be suckling them in her sleep. Please ask your pediatrician if you have any other concerns about it.
Wednesday 4th of March 2020
Hi! First of all, your article and all the comments and responses have been soooo helpful!! All of the official baby websites say cluster feeding phases should only last for a few days at a time and I was getting so frustrated because my baby has been cluster feeding every day for weeks now! My little girl suddenly started cluster feeding all the time around 6-7 weeks. She’s now 11 weeks and still doing it. I have been losing my mind wondering why and thinking my supply just must suck. But I always seem to have plenty for her and her weight was above average at her 2 month appointment and the doctor is confident she’s nursing just fine. I got tired and frustrated (especially because I have a 2 year old who is hungry for attention) and tried bottles but she won’t take them so I’ve had to just keep cluster feeding her. Trying to space her feedings out results in less diapers which obviously isn’t good. Does this still sound normal? She’s been doing it for a month and I’m tired but I can keep hanging in there if there’s hope in sight...what you wrote seems to agree with what people have told me that things will get better around 3-4 months.
Thursday 5th of March 2020
I am glad the article was helpful! I do think it sounds normal, it really is different for everyone but after three babies I think everything is kind of normal if that makes sense. They were all different but I know I cluster fed them all, a lot! If your baby is above weight and she is nursing well then you are doing everything right. You could try spacing out and even if she has less diapers I would not worry too much as long as she is still gaining weight. Or just power through it and hope it gets better because yes it will. I cannot say exactly when but in general 3-4 does seem to get easier. Hang in there and good luck!
Tuesday 31st of December 2019
Hi. My little one is 6 weeks old and has cluster fed from day one. Her timing though is from 4pm till midnight. And then up again at 3/4am. Is this normal? I have been told she is not gaining as much weight as she should. Also during the day her feeds are long - not frequent but long. Is this because she just isn’t getting enough milk?
Monday 13th of January 2020
Sorry for the delay replying. I think that sounds pretty normal for six weeks actually. I am not sure about the weight gain, definitely check with your pediatrician but the hours of cluster feeding and breastfeeding do sound normal. It is a lot in the early days. Also more nursing could mean she is trying to up your milk supply, not necessarily that you do not have enough milk.
Thursday 10th of October 2019
My little one has been cluster feeding for hours but it during the “typical” times. She’s pretty much fed every hour for the past 24 hours, but in less intense times she starts at night (like 11pm) and cluster feeds til morning. As she doesn’t always sleep much during the day I’m hardly sleeping!
Thursday 10th of October 2019
How old is she? I think trying to start the cluster feeding earlier in the evening might help. Try nursing her more frequently in the early evening to see if you can push it all earlier. I know it's hard but hopefully temporary.
When Does Cluster Feeding Stop? - Breastfeeding Needs
Thursday 11th of October 2018
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