Many parents have experienced the phenomenon of having a perfectly contented and peaceful baby throughout the day, only to see them become completely inconsolable around bedtime. Most folks tend to focus on what they are doing in the situation that is upsetting their baby rather than what is happening in these cases. As it turns out, the culprit is what is known as cluster feeding. Read on to learn more about cluster feeding, its causes and how you should respond to it.
What is Cluster Feeding?
Simply put, cluster feeding is when a newborn or infant frequently feeds with short intervals between feedings at certain times of the day and has more spaced out feedings at other times. It is not uncommon for the closely spaced feeds to occur during the evening hours. Your baby may become extraordinarily fussy while following a latch, release, and cry cycle. Unfortunately, if you are unaware of the possibility of cluster feeding, it can be supremely difficult to catch. As a result, it is common for mothers to blame themselves for their newborn’s fussiness. This self-blame can be compounded by family members or loved ones reinforcing notions that the baby isn’t getting enough to eat or doesn’t like what they are being fed.
Why do Babies Cluster Feed?
While cluster feeding may be a sign of a growth spurt or developmental advancement in your child, it is more likely that your baby is feeding more closely together in anticipation of sleeping for longer durations. In most instances, children who feed in this manner will sleep much longer stretches after a cluster feed than the do during other parts of the day. It is critical for you and your partner to remember that the fussiness is not a matter of baby not getting enough or something being wrong with the milk. Even formula fed babies experience these types of fussy times, so there is no reason to believe that you are doing something wrong.
How Should I Handle it?
If your baby is a cluster feeder, feed them as frequently as they want for as long as they want then watch them drift off to sleep for longer stretches. If you are breastfeeding, it is necessary to avoid supplementing with formula because if you are not nursing as much during the cluster feed time of the night, you are signaling your body to make less milk during that time of the day. It is also a good idea to enlist the help of your partner to make things more comfortable for you by bringing you snacks, fetching your phone, or making sure you have the remote while you feed.