Guide to Cluster feeding your Newborn — Sleep and the City

Cluster feeding typically occurs in the early evening, which can be confusing for parents that are thinking to themselves, “What’s going on?”  Cluster feeding may even get you a few extra hours of sleep at night!  However, cluster feeding can sometimes lead to an INCREASE in night wakings, but WHY?? Today on the blog, we are talking about how to identify night wakings caused by cluster feeding, and be sure to check out our FREE schedule generator here!

Why do babies cluster feed at night?

With many sounds, lights, and action in the early evening around the news being on and dinner being prepared (possibly even a visitor stopping by after work to visit the baby), newborns can become easily overstimulated.  Many babies cluster feed to comfort themselves to sleep, or as a way of self-soothing. To reduce chances of feeding solely for comfort, you can work to identify an alternative soothing method your baby may prefer by taking our online newborn sleep class here.

What are the signs of cluster feeding?

There are a few clues that your baby is looking to cluster feed including: 

  • Baby is under 8 weeks

  • They want to eat constantly for short periods of time, or one breast per session

  • Short eating sessions that only last 5-15 minutes

  • Won’t stop crying unless they are fed

  • Baby is constantly “rooting” 

How long does cluster feeding go on for?

This is seen more in the newborn stage under 8 weeks, and the phases of cluster feeding can typically last 48 hours or less each time.

How do I stop cluster feeding? 

While you can’t always stop cluster feeding, you can do your best during the day to bulk up those feeds!  Make sure baby is getting as much milk as they can throughout the day, and discourage frequent snacking under 2 hours.  “Snacking” is defined as short 10 minute feeds throughout the day, which also mean baby will be up all night due to hunger (and taking larger feeds at nighttime versus the daytime, when it’s likely more preferred).

Can a pacifier help as an alternative to cluster feeding? 

Yes, give it a try!  Simply changing scenery can also help a fussy baby versus always offering a feed.

Can cluster feeding increase night wakings?

Possibly.  If baby is receiving short “snack” feeds all day, this results in baby waking up frequently at night to feed and make up for those calories missed in the daytime.  Also if baby has digestion issues, or underlying medical issues such as reflux or trapped gas, baby could wake up at night more often. To learn how to naturally begin to see night wakings drop off, click here.

I feel this in my SOUL, you guys. Which is why I created the Newborn Sleep Academy, the full online newborn sleep class (self-paced!) that walks you through sleep goals each month, what to expect when it comes to sleep, and how to encourage your baby to sleep in the safest way possible without tears (from baby OR you!).

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