Cluster Feeding- Causes & 5 tips to cope with it.

Newborns and infants need to be breastfed often, at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. This is for the reason that breast milk will more easily digest than formula. As baby grows, even though their stomach capacity increases, they still continue to nurse frequently as the demand of their body needs also increases. This, again, is completely normal! However, did your little one suddenly changed from being breastfed every three hours to every hour? And while you are wondering if your child is not latching properly and not getting enough milk, or if you are not producing enough milk, within a couple of days does the child returns to his or her usual "once in three hours" schedule? Well, you are just witnessing ‘cluster feeding'.

What is cluster feeding?

Cluster feeding is typically used to describe a change in feeding habits of a newborn or young infant. They shift from feeding every two to three hours, to feeding every hour. This phenomenon can last for a couple of days or so or even longer.

Is it something to do with my milk supply? Should I try formula?

Cluster feeding is not an indication of low milk supply. Conversely, it is considered as nature's way of increasing milk supply.  Not offering the breast or offering an alternative to breastfeeding like a bottle is not recommended. This is owing to the fact that, if you supplement with formula, your body will not receive cues to produce more milk, and soon you will find that you are not producing enough milk to feed your growing baby. Comforting the baby and rocking and offering the breast is the best thing you can do when your baby shows the tendency of cluster feeding.

Why does cluster feeding happen?

The exact reasons for cluster feeding are unknown. But the experts do have some theories:

Cluster feeding is baby's way to boost breast milk production: Your baby's stomach grows faster during the first few months of life. Therefore, your body must produce more milk to meet the increased demand. Cluster feeding is considered as nature's way of kick-starting this process.

Filling up for longer stretches of sleep: According to this theory, as the babies tend to cluster feed in the evening, they're filling up on milk before a big sleep. To support this theory, babies tend to sleep through the night after an evening feed around this period.

Growth sprout and developmental leap: Cluster feeding used to appear at various times in an infant's first six months of life. Usually, the first time occurs shortly after birth. Other common times the baby shows the tendency to cluster feeding is when a baby is 10 to 12 days old and then again at three months old. By the time the infant is 4 to 6 months old, cluster feeding, more often than not, will over. All these periods are usually associated with growth sprout and a developmental leap of the child. Growing demands more energy and babies get their energy from milk, so they demand breastfeed more often. Likewise, while baby goes through developmental changes, feeding turns out to be a means to make them feel comfortable

Coping with cluster feeding

Pinning down 5 tips to tackle cluster feeding more easily;

#1. Accept It:

Accept the fact that the babies will develop a cluster feeding routine. And they tend to show a pattern. Find the time during which the baby tends to cluster feed. Once you know this, plan your evening around it. That way you won't feel frustrated during that stretchy feeding schedule

#2. Eat well and drink well:

Stretchy feeding schedule points out that you need more energy. Therefore, ensure that you are well hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Also, eat small, well-nourished meals more frequently and nutritious snacks every few hours.

#3. Make sleep a priority:

If your baby has a stretchy sleeping hours means, he or she will have more awaken hours during the day. If you did not manage to get a good sleep with your baby, the day will be more exhausting for you, as once woke up baby needs your constant attention. Therefore, make sleep your top priority, and try to sleep when your baby does.

#4. Get comfy:

You know you're going to be stuck somewhere for four hours, and it is inevitable. Therefore, make sure you're at ease. Pick a comfortable place and posture. Ensure you have your books, magazines, and TV remotes close at hand to keep you entertained.

#5. Find a breastfeeding partner:

It will be great if you could find someone in your home as your breastfeeding partner.  He or she could help you to get water and snacks and engage in interesting conversation so that those stretchy hours will go fast.

When should you call the doctor?

Although cluster feeding is inconvenient, as aforementioned, it is quite normal for babies to do. However, if your baby tends to feed over an hour at a time or if the cluster feeding lasts more than about 48 hours, it is better to contact your pediatrician or lactation consultant for an opinion.