Cluster Feeding

Cluster Feeding

Cluster Feeding

So often I hear mums say, "My baby wants to breastfeed all evening - I'm
worried about my milk supply."


It is very common for babies to be fussy and feed often in the evenings,
particularly in the first few months.


Cluster feeding is when your baby feeds frequently or almost continuously
over a period of time. It can sometimes be followed by a longer sleep which is
always welcomed and maybe that your baby is “tanking up”.


Babies can also be quite unsettled and fussy during this time.


I know it is hard but the important thing to remember is this behaviour is
normal!


We are unsure why babies go through this fussiness especially in the
evening. Some mums feel like their supply is lower in the evening BUT . . .
Dr. Peter Hartmann, a breastfeeding researcher, has said that in the women
he has studied, milk volume is not low at this time of day. Even if milk volume
is lower in the evening, fat content is typically higher in the evening so the
amount of calories that baby is getting should not be significantly different.
In saying that your flow of milk can be slower in the evening so this can
contribute to your baby’s fussiness.


Another thought is that evening fussiness is due to baby’s immature nervous
system as this does settle around 3-4 months of age. However, Dr. Katherine
Dettwyler (who does research on breastfeeding in traditional societies) states
that babies in Mali, West Africa and other traditional societies don’t have colic
or late afternoon/evening fussiness. These babies are carried all day and
usually feedseveral times each hour.

Although we are still unsure what causes this fussy period of cluster feeding
we do know that during this time babies need small, frequent feeds combined
with lots of cuddles and being held.

Here are a few things that may help you get through this tricky time:
● Get yourself a baby carrier or sling so you can keep your baby close
and still get stuff done if needed.
● Feed on demand. Using feeding schedules especially in the first few
months is not recommended as it can impact on your milk supply
● A slow cooker is something that every new mum needs. Pop
everything in first thing in the morning and voila you have a meal ready
for dinner
● Hold and cuddle your baby and listen to their needs
● Freezer meals can be super helpful or if you are not prepared uber
eats are a winner!
● Try and bath your baby around 630pm to set a calm environment for
the evening
● Baby massage can help for calming too
● If bub won’t settle a buggy walk or a drive in the car can help and it
also breaks up the evening. Fresh air can do wonders during the fussy
times.
● Ask for help and remember this is just a phase and it will get better
● Drink plenty of fluids and make sure you are eating a well balanced
diet.
● Skin to skin can help immensely to boost your breastfeeding hormones
and also calm your wee one especially when you feel like supply is
down in the evenings.

If you can try and avoid offering expressed milk or formula top ups during this
time as this can cause a drop in supply as your body doesn’t know to make
more milk. If you do want/need to give a top up ensure you also express so
you don’t compromise your supply.

The first 3 months can be hard but just know this behaviour is normal and it’s
a phase and it will settle! If you are struggling please ask for help.