What is Cluster Feeding?

Cluster feeding is pretty much what it sounds like...it is back to back nursing sessions that your newborn can demand every 20 minutes to 2 hours. These feeds—one after another—help her boost your milk supply while she is going through a growth spurt. Cluster feedings can sound like a lot (because they are!), but there is an advantage to grouping feedings close together. 

Benefits of Cluster Feeding Newborn

Cluster feeding your newborn has a number of benefits, including:

  • Providing the nourishment your baby needs for a growth spurt
  • Soothing a fussy baby
  • Creating a calm and cosy environment for your newborn
  • Promotes better sleep for your baby
  • Boosts mums’ milk supply and milk production

Do Bottle Fed Babies Cluster Feed?

Usually, cluster feeding occurs with breastfed babies. However, formula-fed and bottle-fed babies can also cluster feed. 

Encouraging Cluster Feeding 

When you give your sweet little baby a series of quick milky meals every 1-2 hours they load your baby’s system with calories to keep her well stocked with nutrition through the night. 

Good sleep is closely linked to feeding. If your baby awakes peckish night after night, good first steps are to boost daytime calories, add a "cluster feed" in the early evening, and end your night by dream feeding your baby. Each one of these feeding strategies are like "topping off the gas tank." Your goal is to give your baby enough "fuel" to keep her tummy from rumbling at night—a top cause of frequent night awakenings.

When and What Time to Cluster Feed

Because your goal is to help your baby sleep at night, the best time to encourage a cluster feed is between 4pm and bedtime.

So if your baby starts crying 60 minutes after a feeding, calm her with the 5 S’s and then see how she acts. If she is opening her mouth and searching for a nipple, give a little more milk. 

Can Cluster Feeding Cause Stomach Pain?

Some doctors warn parents not to overfeed babies for fear that the milk might back up and cause colicky pain. But this is nonsense.

The women in the !Kung tribe in Southern Africa nurse their babies 3-4 times an hour, and their babies rarely—if ever—have colic.

Give cluster feeding a try, and you will see that a baby with a full tummy is usually a happy baby! And likely you will be happier too if cluster feeding is your solution to awakening less often in the middle of the night!

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