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How to Stop Cluster Feeding Your Baby.
If your baby is nursing every hour for days straight, you might feel like they’ll never stop.
Fortunately, cluster feeding is a normal part of the breastfeeding relationship.
Your baby will cluster feed frequently in the first few months of life because they’re increasing your milk supply, need comfort, or are going through a growth spurt.
To survive cluster feeding, remember to care for yourself, get help from your support network, and focus on caring for your baby.
Considering Causes of Cluster Feeding
Recognize normal cluster feeding.
All newborns and young infants cluster feed at some point.
Many will nurse every hour for a few days or increase their number of nursing sessions for several weeks.
Your baby will naturally outgrow cluster feeding by 4 to 6 months old.
Cluster feeding is no cause for concern if your baby is growing well.
Your baby should be steadily gaining weight and producing at least 6 wet diapers a day, if they’re a newborn (under 2 months old).
Older babies will make at least 4 to 5 wet diapers a day.
Avoid supplementing with formula.
Cluster feeding is one way that that your milk supply will increase to match your baby’s needs.
You may worry that your baby isn’t getting enough milk because they’re nursing a lot, but the cluster feeds will signal your body to produce more milk.
Don’t offer formula along with the breastmilk or your body won’t bump up your milk supply to match your baby’s needs.
Remind yourself that your once you’ve made it through this period of cluster feeding, your baby will be able to get enough breastmilk from your normal nursing sessions.
Comfort your cluster feeding baby through life changes.
Young babies also choose to cluster feed when they need extra comfort from mom.
Your baby might be getting sick or want extra attention during a big adjustment at home.
For example, if you’ve returned to work, your baby might just want to be near you.
Consider any big life changes that your baby is going through.
If they’re starting at a daycare or are getting over a big illness, they may just want more of your attention.
Check to see if your baby is teething.
If your baby is actively cutting a new tooth or two, they may breastfeed more because it helps them handle the pain.
Use a clean finger to feel in their mouth for swollen gums or teeth poking through.
Consider offering your baby a cold washcloth to chew on or give them pain medications as recommended by their pediatrician.
Track how long your baby sleeps at night.
As your baby gets older, they may begin to cluster feed because they’re preparing to sleep longer stretches at night.
While more research is needed to determine if this is the main cause of cluster feeding, cluster feeding may mean that your baby will soon sleep for longer periods between nursing sessions.
Consider if your baby is going through a growth spurt.
Babies grow quickly in the first several months of life which means they’ll need more nutrients.
If your baby is growing or advancing developmentally, they may need to breastfeed more.
You might find that the baby cuts back on nursing once they’ve finished a developmental leap or growth spurt.
Coping with Cluster Feeding
Prepare for the cluster feeds by taking care of yourself.
You may forget about your basic needs while you’re so concerned with feeding your baby.
Set out plenty of water or drinks so you stay hydrated.
Place snacks near your nursing station so you remember to eat.
Keep yourself comfortable and entertained so you don’t mind breastfeeding for long stretches.
For example, set out comfortable pillows and blankets in your space.
Have interesting reading material or your favorite movies available.
Respond to your baby's cues for milk.
If your baby is frequently signaling that they want to nurse, feed them as soon as you see the cues.
Waiting to nurse the baby will just make the baby more upset and likely to become fussy.
Signals that your baby wants to nurse include rooting around to find a breast, sucking on their fingers, mouthing (opening and closing their mouth repeatedly), and waking up restless or fussy.
Reorganize your priorities.
Remind yourself that cluster feeding sessions won’t last forever.
Tell yourself that you need to focus on feeding and comforting your baby for several days or weeks.
Sleep whenever you can and put things off until your baby gets through the cluster feeding session.
For example, you may need to let housework, work duties, or social interactions wait while you care for the baby.
Enlist support from friends and family.
It’s easy to feel like cluster feeding will last forever and you’ll never have time to yourself.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed, ask your support network to help.
Ask your partner to help out around the house.
See if family members can come over and look after your other children.
Take up offers of help from friends, ask people to bring you meals, or just ask friends to come over and keep you company.
People that offer help genuinely want to make things easier, if they can.
Invite friends or family to come over and do simple tasks, even if it is just holding the baby so you can take a shower.
Get professional help, if necessary.
If cluster feeding lasts for several weeks or even months, don’t hesitate to contact a lactation consultant.
It’s also a good idea to talk with your baby’s pediatrician to discuss your baby’s nursing habits and growth.
You should also talk with your doctor or a lactation consultant if you’re in pain or have discomfort when you’re breastfeeding.
Many hospitals or birth centers offer hotlines that you can call.
You may be able to call a nurse or lactation consultant any time or day.