Cluster feeding happens commonly around 3 and 6 weeks and is when your baby's feeds are very frequent or 'clustered' together. They seem to feed continuously over a period of several hours, often occurring in the evening or early hours of the morning and may not settle to sleep easily. It can be an exhausting time, but please know it is very normal and doesn't usually indicate a low supply. If this is something you're concerned about, please seek guidance from a Lactation Consultant. There is no exact answer as to why baby's cluster feed.
However, researchers have developed a few ideas:
Your baby may experience increased hunger in the evening, and need to 'fill up' before sleeping for a longer period of time at night. It is very common for baby's to then sleep for one longer stretch after cluster feeding. However, they may wake up ravenous, and soon let you know about it!
Some babies also have a strong association of sucking to soothe, combined with increased tiredness by the end of the day they may then become unsettled soon after coming off the breast. So you may find your baby wants to stay close to you in the evening for extra comfort.
Frequent feeding in the early hours of the evening may also help your milk supply for the following day.
It is common to feel that your milk supply is lower in the late afternoon or evening as your breasts may be feel emptier. Don't worry you still have enough milk, and as your breasts are more drained there is a higher concentration of fat and calories in your milk.(1)
So, what can you do to help prepare yourself for these feeding periods?
Try to cook and eat dinner earlier in the day, so you have time to sit and feed during this period of time. Set yourself up on a comfy chair with water and snacks so you can relax.
2. Try to reduce stimulation in your home, turn off the lights and television. Try having a warm
bath with your baby, or baby wearing.
3. Lean on others - If you have a partner/friend/family member that can help, ask them to
occasionally take the baby to settle if you need a break.
If you need support with feeding reach out to a Lactation Consultant, GP or Paediatrician. These seasons can be tough, but they will pass.
During the fourth trimester your baby is adjusting to the world and is connecting with you through their senses. To help with settling try swaddling, side holding and turning on some white noise to calm your baby. I have a newborn workshop coming your way shortly, and we will go through all things adjusting to life outside the womb and how to settle into a daily rhythm. In the meantime if you need help with any of this, my newborn sleep package if perfect for you!