Breastfeeding for Beginners

Experienced Lactation Consultant  (IBCLC)  & Midwife 

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Cluster feeding

Cluster feeding is frequent or persistent feeding over a period of time – usually a few hours. It is a normal breastfeeding pattern and is more likely to occur during the evening or night. It is often followed by a long period of sleep.

It is thought that cluster feeding may have a physiological function; that of stimulating increased volumes of breast milk and it is frequently reported by mothers shortly before their milk ‘comes in’. It is most likely to occur in the first six weeks after birth and sometimes during growth spurts.

Breast milk is easily digested so breastfed babies feed about eleven times a day – almost every two hours! That is not cluster feeding. Cluster feeding occurs more frequently and sometimes, constantly. Babies will eventually settle after a feeding session and often sleep for an extended period of time – up to about five hours.

Management:

  • Always look at the big picture – over a twenty-four hour period
  • Eliminate illness as a cause – take baby’s temperature
  • Ensure that baby is latched well and not just sucking on the nipple
  • Feed your baby whenever he or she appears hungry (refer to Feeding Cues)
  • Do not use artificial teats, dummies or other nipple substitutes until breastfeeding is established - at about six weeks
  • Avoid giving breast milk substitutes, unless there is a medical need
  • If there is a pattern to the cluster feeding, plan your day accordingly