When I first came home from the hospital with my first newborn baby I initially believed things were going smoothly.
My baby was sleeping a ton, and just waking up for a diaper change and feeding every couple of hours. It was really calm. I believe that was day one.
Then the second evening came and my baby did not want to sleep anymore.
She was crying constantly, eating constantly, I would feed her constantly and try to get her back to sleep, and then if she drifted off and I set her down she would wake and the cycle would start again.
I was totally wondering why is my newborn cluster feeding all night long?
Does this sound familiar to you or did this only happen to me?
When my baby came home she had been in the NICU and we already had a rough start to breastfeeding with me having to pump to bring in my milk supply.
I remember feeling so overwhelmed and exhausted. Being awake all night was not in my plan.
I had spent the first day at home thinking how easy and "good" she was, sleeping peacefully in her rock n play (they were not recalled back then, 7 years ago).
Then evening would come and the scenario I described above would start. I don't remember how long it went on but I do remember feeling desperate and somewhat depressed. I wasn't ready for it and kind of freaked out.
The good news is cluster feeding is temporary and lasted on and off till about 3 months, then mostly went away. And it got into a more manageable time frame of early evening followed by a longer period of sleep.
But it did not start that way, oh no it was rough at first with her wanting to feed off and on all night long.
The reason why your newborn is cluster feeding all night long can vary:
When a baby is born it immediately starts going through growth spurts and they are frequent.
When a baby wants to cluster feed constantly it is usually due to a growth spurt and the constant feeding is raising your milk supply to the level needed to satisfy your baby.
It is always a good idea to cluster feed and let your baby feed as much as needed during this time. This will ensure your milk supply is meeting the level needed.
Very rarely is the issue your milk supply. Even though it may seem like there is not enough milk there usually is and your baby will be raising your supply further with their nursing.
The La Leche League has lots of good info on feeding frequency here.
My best advice I can give in regards to cluster feeding is that it is temporary, and it is useful for your baby's growth.
In my case I found the all night sessions really ended after the first few days at home.
It then turned into more manageable (ha) early evening hours long sessions. And while even those felt rough to deal with in the beginning, I eventually accepted it and found ways to deal.
My biggest tips are to embrace it and try to get your baby to start the cluster feeding session earlier in the evening. This seemed to lead to a little earlier final crash out time for everyone.
So say cluster feeding lasted from 5PM - 10PM instead of starting at 8PM and going till 1 or 2AM. Which is how it was when we first came home from the hospital.
And when it comes to embracing it what I mean is to find things you can do from the couch while feeding.
Watching TV, movies, reading, etc. It helps to have a good way to pass the time while stuck on the couch.
I have written a lot about cluster feeding since I had so much trouble accepting it when my first baby was born.
Ana | Our Happinest
Friday 15th of November 2019
I love this post Jen! Like you said, cluster feeding is DEFINITELY NOT a sign of low supply, despite many women being advised so.
I’d also like to add that you don’t need to switch sides frequently while your baby is cluster feeding. I’d suggest sticking to one side at a time for at least a full hour (or longer if it doesn’t feel empty). This allows baby to get all the fatty hindmilk out as well, and helps to prevent that frothy green poop commonly associated with too much foremilk and not enough fat.
Cluster feeding really isn’t so bad, unless you’ve got a bad latch then LOOK OUT! Otherwise, enjoy the bonding time. It’s easy to feel like you aren’t getting anything done while baby is nursing all the time, but you are! Bonding with baby and providing nourishment and security is the top priority those first few months (or forever... you know.. whatever). The dishes, laundry, etc can wait.
Saturday 16th of November 2019
Great tips here, thanks!