If your newborn has shifted from regular feeding times to ‘grouping’ a greater number of short feeds over a shorter period of time, it's likely that they're cluster feeding.
When any newborn changes their feeding routine, it’s normal to be a
little concerned at first, especially if you're a first-time mother. Am I
producing enough milk? Is my baby getting the nutrients they need? What am I
If your newborn has shifted from regular feeding times to ‘grouping’ a
greater number of short feeds over a shorter period of time, it's likely that
they're cluster feeding.
Don’t be alarmed – cluster feeding is very common in breastfeeding
babies around the 6-12-week mark. Babies need to feed around 8-12 times in any
24-hour period, however, these are not always consistently timed across the
day. It’s not something that you need to worry about, but knowing how to
identify the signs early makes for a better-prepared mother when the time
Why does it happen?
Newborns often get into cluster feeding habits around early to
mid-evening. While experts haven’t yet mastered the baby brain, it’s believed
to be a mechanism for filling up before going to sleep. Often newborns will
have a longer sleep when they’ve had a larger meal, so cluster feeding is their
way of making sure they’re well-nourished for the night.
As your bub grows, so does their stomach. While the scientific reason
for cluster feeding is unknown, it’s likely that it’s your baby’s way of
telling you to up the ante on breastmilk production.
Some theories behind cluster feeding pinpoint growth spurts as a reason.
The leap in growth requires a baby to use more energy – energy which is
extracted from milk.
How long does it go for?
Babies can cluster feed at any time. Generally, 10-12 days and then
again at 3 months are standard ages. By the time your baby is 4-6 months old,
you’re most likely past the typical clustering period.
Does my baby cluster feed because
I’m not producing enough milk?
Don’t let cluster feeding dishearten you – it’s not a reflection on your
ability to produce milk. Rather, it’s to do with your baby’s growing capacity
and building up your milk supply. It has also been noted that increasing the
number of feeds at night helps promote milk production for the following day.
Feeding is stressful and tiresome at the best of times, so when your
baby is asking for multiple feeds over a short amount of time, it can be easy
to succumb to the pressure.
It’s important to not go down the bottle route prematurely –
transitioning to formula too early inhibits your ability to read your baby’s
hunger signals. Even supplementing will impact this ability; as inconsistent
feeding will slow down your milk production.
Looking out for your baby
Keep an eye out for signs that
your newborn is getting enough milk
Every baby is different in how they develop and manifest growth.
However, a number of common indicators that your baby is getting the nutrients
that they need out of their feeds include:
The most obvious indicator of a baby getting
enough to eat is weight gain. They’ll also grow in length and their head will
#2 Wet nappies:
Studies show that babies who are being
sufficiently fed produce at least five very wet nappies every 24 hours.
#3 Dirty nappies:
A typically breastfeeding baby will be
defecating around 3 times per day. It will generally be light in colour, often
yellow-mustardy. It’s also normal for it to contain milk curds.
Keep track of the signs
indicating that your baby is hungry:
Mums are always on the lookout for signs that their little ones are
hungry. Short, low-pitched cries that rise and fall are the most common sign
that a baby is hungry. However, there are some other behavioural cues that
should put up the red flag that your bub is ready for a feed.
Sucking on fists
Opening of the mouth while breastfeeding
Actioning towards a bottle or breast and making a sucking motion
LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF:
#1 Hydration is key:
Make sure you’re keeping up your fluids when breastfeeding, especially
when cluster feeding
#2 A well-fed mum makes for a
Once your little one gets into a routine, plan your day around this.
That way, you save yourself the frustration of feeding on an empty stomach.
#3 Happy mind, happy mum, happy bub:
It’s important to get out of the house and occupy your mind with things
other than feeding, dressing, bathing and ogling after your newborn. Carrying
and feeding your baby in a sling is a great way of multitasking; your hands are
free to get on with other tasks, and your baby is contently close to their
#4 Don’t skip sleep:
Cluster feeding can be incredibly draining, so be sure to follow the
rule ‘when the baby sleeps, mum sleeps’ religiously. Having ample energy is
essential, especially when your baby opts to cluster in the evening after a
#5 Consider including these foods in
Having a well-balanced diet is a sure-fire way to ensure that you’re
passing on essential nutrients to your baby. Opt for foods that are rich in
calcium, like cheese, yoghurt, fish, tofu and beans. You should be aiming for
1000 milligrams of calcium per day.
Magnesium promotes muscle function, so get your 350 milligrams per day
from seeds, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables and seafood.
Zinc supports your immune system, and 12 milligrams per day can come
from incorporating beef, lamb, poultry and eggs.
It’s also a good idea to take a postnatal vitamin to help along the
process of getting your energy levels, nervous system, immune system and
production of red and white blood cells in order.
PUT IT TO THE TEST:
Step by step to cluster feeding:
Step 1: Create a calm environment – give your baby a
relaxing bath and ensure that the house is quiet and composed
Step 2: Follow your baby’s lead – learn and listen to
their signs and signals
Step 3: Have some feeding aids handy – whether that be
something to snack on or keeping an extra set of hands, like your partner
nearby, it helps to have some added support during those exhausting and
occasionally stressful times.
Every mother and child is different, so if you have concerns regarding
your baby’s feeding schedule or your ability to produce sufficient milk,
consult a lactation consultant or your healthcare professional.
Welcome to Babyinfo – the ultimate pregnancy and newborn information guide. We are here to help you find all the pregnancy and baby info you need to make the most beautiful experience of your life even better.
Our team is comprised of an amazing mix of experienced mothers, recently pregnant women, and editors with tremendous medical knowledge in the fields of gynaecology and childbirth.
Think of us as your friendly advisors, here to give you honest, easy to understand and authentic information. We are here to be your support at this crucial time in your life, when you need it the most.
Note: This website is in no way meant to replace doctors, hospitals, or other healthcare providers that may be utilized by current mothers or mothers-to-be. All mothers are advised to see a doctor for medical advice and the appropriate care before, during, and after pregnancy.