12/21/11

Cluster Feeding


What is Cluster Feeding?
Cluster feeding, or bunch feeding, is when feedings are spaced closer together than usual. This usually occurs in the evening with younger babies and is often followed by a longer than usual stretch of sleep. Many babies will cluster feed on their own during the early months while other times moms may introduce a cluster feed to help extend night sleep.

Please keep in mind that cluster feeds are totally fine and normal, even if you are trying to do a 2.5-3 hour routine etc. You will just adjust your routine to work with this while it lasts.

What does The Baby Whisperer suggest:
Along with the dreamfeed, The Baby Whisperer suggests cluster feeding to help baby "tank up" before bed. Click on the link to find more about tanking up.

She suggests you cluster feed at two hour intervals in the evening before bed. Usually you will end up cluster feeding the last two feedings before bed, often turning the last feeding into two feedings and making bedtime a bit later. So, if you normally feed baby around 7 pm, then feed at 6pm and 8 pm instead and have baby's bedtime be after the 8 pm feeding. Instead of long naps, you will have short ones before and after these cluster feedings, so the nap before 6 pm would be short and the nap after 6 pm would be short. This is just a suggestion, you can cluster feed in whatever way works best for you and your baby.

When should I START cluster feeding?
I suggest you do it soon after baby's birth. If you haven't been doing it and baby is younger than 8 weeks, then go ahead and try it. Most babies will naturally cluster feed in the evening.

When should I STOP cluster feeding?
Most babies do best when cluster feeding is stopped around 8 weeks of age. But pay close attention to your baby to see if it needs to be stopped sooner or stopped later. My boys have needed it to be stopped sooner. More like 5-6 weeks of age. My daughter was never interested in cluster feeding so I didn't do it.

What if my baby won't cluster feed?
First off, try a little longer. Many babies need time to get used to things. If this still doesn't work, then don't worry about it. Put all your focus on the dream feed instead.

What if my baby does a nursing marathon cluster feed?
Some babies will want to nurse all evening long, usually during their fussy period. Sometimes babies will even nurse for a minute, cry for a minutes, then nurse again for a minute. Many mothers start to worry about their milk supply and about their diet (i.e. is something they are eating hurting baby's tummy?). Rarely are these things a problem and supplementing, which sometimes occurs in response to this, often makes the situation worse, not better. Baby is just fussy and this is how many babies react. I have even had to nurse my boys standing up and rocking in the evenings to get them to be content.

On a side note, but a very important note, I want to point out that I do not sit and nurse my babies endlessly in the evening. I generally stick to a feeding routine, feeding more often if baby actually seems hungry, or if baby isn't soothed by other methods (i.e. rocking, baby carrier, pacifier). It is important to me that baby knows how to be soothed in other ways outside of nursing. It is also important to me that someone, mainly my husband, can soothe baby if I am not available. These things are important to me and reflect in the advice I give, but they are certainly not the opinion of everyone.

Do I really need to cluster feed? It is so hard to do!
Of course you don't have to do it. But for many babies it is extremely helpful in encouraging them to sleep longer stretches at night. It sure can make the evening extra busy when you are trying to take care of children and get dinner ready so some people don't do it (that is, if baby doesn't ask to be fed). If doing cluster feeds makes life too difficult in the evening then 1) keep in mind that it is only for several weeks and will be over soon or 2) Don't' do it and focus on the dreamfeed instead.


12 comments :

  1. Hey Rachel! Just stopped by from Bloggy Moms and It's great to meet you! Really great, and informative post, makes me wish I would have kept breast feeding longer. Wishing you happy holidays!

    Lisa @ EarlyLitMama
    http://www.EarlyLiteracyMama.blogspot.com

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  2. Hi Rachel,

    Great advice here.

    I did this with both DS and DD. Unfortunately, it was with standing and holding them and they were not lightweights!

    Love your blog - I'm at http://insightfulmommy.com/new-book-release

    Many thanks!

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  3. Thanks for stopping by Made in a Day! Glad you enjoyed my crafty stuff! I am following you!
    Kim@madeinaday
    http://madeinaday.com

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  4. I love your blog! My husband & I are trying to have a baby and the amount of books written about baby sleep is insane. So I look foward to your future posts :)
    Cheers,
    Tess
    inlovebythebeach.blogspot.com

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  5. Thanks so much for stopping by lisa. I'm so glad you liked the post!

    Rachel

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  6. Christine,
    I had to stand and hold with my babies for a couple (few?) weeks when they were at their fussies. I tried to focus on the exercise I was getting and it made it not so hard to do. My kids are heavy weights too. I think my oldest was like 20 lbs at 4 months. CHUNKY!

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  7. Thank you for the follow and visit, lovely Mrs. P!

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  8. SoCal texax,
    Good luck with the future baby and getting pregnant! I hope my blog will be helpful to you then. or maybe you'll be lucky and have a perfect little sleeper :)

    Rachel

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  9. Hi Rachel,

    I'm glad I found your blog. Some questions on cluster feeding:

    1. When/how did you know to stop the cluster feeding with your kids?

    2. Did you stop both clusters or just one(ie. from 4pm, 6pm, 8pm to just 4pm and 6pm)? How did you adjust your routine?

    Thanks so much,
    Abigail

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  10. ajoypetite,
    1)My kids weren't hungry any more for the cluster feeding and it seemed to hurt more than help

    2)I fed at around 7, 10, 1,4,6,8. Then I moved to 7,10,1,4,7. Naps/bedtime continued to be after each feeding so when I dropped a feeding one nap was dropped also.

    I hope that helped!
    Rachel

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  11. Hi Rachel, this is really helpful. I am feeding my 7 weeks old baby at around 7,10,1,4,7 now. Is it too late to do cluster feeding since you mentioned that it will be dropped in week 8? Last night, he slept from 7pm - 12am.. and woke up crying. My first instinct was to feed him then diaper change. But I guess that agitated him and he was awake from 12-2.. crying and nothing soothes him. Then, he finally fell asleep in daddy's arms at 2.30 am. I'm just wondering, could it be my baby is ready for STTN but I screwed it up for him? Hope to hear from you soon! Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Bundles of Joy,
      OK, first off, there is no "screwing up" here. You are doing a great job! And you are learning how to do things just as your baby is learning about his new world.

      I can't tell you for sure if the cluster feed will work right now. Most likely, it won't be too healthy bc there ar some babies that will get agitated with a sudden change in feeding and sleep no better at night dt habit, there are some who will not sleep better but no worse and there are some who will sleep better. So you'll have to try it out for a few nights to be sure if you want to.

      Remember that babies have their off days every now and again so that may be al that this night time fussiness was. Maybe he had gas right then or something. If you are not doing this already, I would only change a diaper at night if needed (likely you won't need to with one feed, but you may need to with 2 or more) and I would feed, change diaper then finish up the feed so he is relaxed right before bed again. At night, I consider it ok if he falls asleep at the end of the feed as long as you get that full feed in him. With the night feeds, you may want to give him a couple minutes to see if he'll fall back asleep or offer a pacifier. that is sometimes all some babies need to sleep a bit longer.

      good luck
      rachel

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