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What is Cluster Feeding and How Long Will it Last?

The growing business can be tough for little ones. Your baby, at any given point, may seem insatiable while you’re nursing. You may be at wits end with your little bundle of joy.

Welcome to the wonderful stage of cluster feeding!

It may at first seem like your baby is just being fussy. Suddenly your baby isn’t leaving your side for a second and you’re feeling a bit tender. Cluster feeding is tough.

If you notice your baby is starting to cluster feed, it’s most likely accompanied by a growth spurt. While all of that might sound like a relief, you probably want to know how long cluster feeding will last and how often it will happen. Since you’re probably not getting a lot of sleep right now, we’ll only tell you the important stuff.

What is cluster feeding?

Most newborns will come out of the womb hungry. In the first two weeks, your newborn will breastfeed about 12 times in 24 hours. Around the one- to two-months-old, feedings start to decrease to between 7 to 9 times a day. The range of these feedings could be between 90 minutes to three hours apart. What a relief, but suddenly, out of nowhere, your baby will decide this isn’t enough. Cluster feeding has begun for baby and mommy.

Once your baby has decided to cluster feed, you’ll find in a typical evening that your baby will feed for 10 to 15 minutes at a time for two to three hours.

When does cluster feeding start?

You’ll commonly find your little one starting to demand more breast milk around three weeks. Your infant will be hitting a small growth spurt, and with that bigger belly will come bigger milk demands. The volume on their cry will be turned to an 11 also.

You may already know your baby’s hunger cues and see their demands rising, but if not, be prepared for your little one to smack their lips, position themselves to nurse, or even root around for your breast. They’ll get as comfortable as possible, which is great, but you’ll feel as exhausted as possible. Not great!

How long does cluster feeding last?

In most cases, the session won’t go beyond two days, depending on if your infant is getting enough calories. Your newly competitive eater will be pushing your exhaustion, so plan not to get much sleep during this period. Try to stay relaxed and go with the flow. Stay hydrated, keep yourself nourished, and cash in on any foot rubs your partner said they would do.

Remember: You can breastfeed anywhere, so if you’re on the go, bring a sling or carrier.

Some moms may feel discouraged during this time and feeling like their milk supply isn’t adequate. There are supplements available to help, but without them, don’t get discouraged. You can do this–and the cluster feeding period will pass. It’s extremely hard but it will pass.

What can you do for your nipples during cluster feeding?

Your nipples are going through a battle right now. While cluster feeding is temporary, your nipples don’t exactly know that. Here are some of the best tips for helping your nipples during a cluster feeding session:

Nipple Balm: You’ll want to slather nipple balm on your nipples. Earth Mama’s nipple butter is a great product to grab and keep handy (Purchasing this item, may earn us a small commission).

Nursing Cups: These are absolute lifesavers for sore and cracked nipples. We’d recommend Silverette, as they’re antibacterial, and the silver has natural healing properties to promote healing. For best use, store in the fridge to give yourself the full benefits (Purchasing this item, may earn us a small commission).

Stay Hydrated: Consume at least 80 to 120 ounces of water daily to give your body a chance to heal and rejuvenate faster. Try our Lactation Drink Mix for an added boost.

How does cluster feeding affect my milk supply?

Your milk supply is tied to your baby’s needs. Early on, your little one was probably sleeping more than they were breastfeeding. You may have gotten into a simple routine and predictable schedule. Suddenly, your little one is demanding a feeding every 20 minutes. The good news is that doing so will trigger your body to produce more milk, but the bad news is that the experience is challenging for a mom.

Your baby’s breast milk or formula intake will double during their first six months.

How do I stop cluster feeding?

While super inconvenient (and exhausting and demanding, and did we mention exhausting?), cluster feeding is nature’s little way of ensuring we can feed our growing baby. Be prepared for a little bit of a challenging ride but know that it won’t last forever. You may still feel that cluster feeding is becoming burdensome; if so, reach out to a lactation consultant for help. They may be able to help you stick to your goals and get through those first few crucial months.

What is “power pumping”?

Your baby wants to pump, you up! If you can find time to pump between feedings, you can keep your milk flow increasing. You’re not only attempting to satisfy your baby’s hunger needs, you’re trying to get ahead.

Spend around 10 to 20 minutes pumping then take a rest for 10 minutes. This process will repeat for about an hour. This on-and-off type of pumping allows you to mimic cluster feedings.

Final thoughts on cluster feeding

There are many other reasons why your baby could be cluster feeding, but the following are less common.
  • Your baby might need to be burped
  • Your baby might be overtired
  • Low supply: Your milk should come in around 2 to 5 days following birth and make about 1 to 2 ounces every 2 to 3 hours after the first month.

If you suspect any of the above reasons, you may want to reach out to a lactation expert for an analysis.

Cluster feeding is a normal part of your baby’s development. While short-lived, it can be a challenging time for any mommy. Take heart that it’s a great sign your baby is going through a growth spurt and working hard to keep up with it.

We recommend our Pink Stork Total Lacation to support your breastfeeding journey.