How Does Cluster Feeding Work?

Cluster feeding is a natural phenomenon where an infant wants lots of short feeds over a few hours.1,2 This is both normal and healthy.1,2,3 Many babies cluster feed within their first few weeks and when they are in a growth spurt.1,2,3,4,5 Cluster feeding sessions most often happen in the late afternoon or evening, and they are usually followed by a nice, long nap.1,2,3,4

Why Do Babies Cluster Feed?

Some parents worry that their baby is cluster feeding because they are not getting enough milk.3 In many cases, cluster feeding does not mean you don’t have enough milk. However, if you notice that your infant does not settle or appear content between feedings, it may indicate that your baby may not be receiving milk effectively.3 If you notice this, please check in with your care provider.

In general, cluster feeding is a healthy and common newborn behavior. In fact, it is thought to be a natural way for babies to establish a strong milk supply.3 It often happens in the late afternoon or evening.2 Once the milk supply is well established, feedings may be farther apart.1 Cluster feeding may also be a way for your baby to fill up before a long night’s sleep or satisfy the increased hunger associated with a growth spurt.3

Cluster Feeding Tips

Here are a few tips to make cluster feeding work well for all:

Trust Your Baby

A healthy baby will let you know when they need food.1 Watch for these hunger cues, and if your little one seems to want more than usual, follow their lead.4 Still, if you’re concerned about your baby’s appetite or lack thereof, use this guide to be sure your baby is getting enough food.

Stay Hydrated

While it’s important to stay hydrated while you’re nursing, it may be even more important during a cluster-feeding phase.4 As your baby increases their demand for food, make sure to keep your own hydration in mind.

Nourish Yourself

While you’re taking care of your infant, nourishing yourself serves both you and them.4 Remember to make your own nutritional needs a priority.4 Sure, this supports your child’s well-being, which is crucial, but your nutrition matters for your well-being, too, and it’s all too easy to forget that.

Honor Your Other Needs

Cluster feeding can be challenging for parents.4 It’s best to acknowledge that this increased demand for food can be physically and emotionally taxing.3 This is a great time to ask for help, if possible, and practice relaxation and other coping techniques.3,5

At times, babies just eat and eat. When your baby’s in a cluster-feeding phase, know that you are experiencing a healthy, natural phenomenon. And don’t forget, these feeding sessions are often followed by a long rest, which can apply to you too. For more information and resources to support you, please visit our Breastfeeding Resource Centre.

Times to See Your Care Provider

As mentioned above, cluster feeding can be a normal part of a baby’s feeding routine. That being said, please see your care provider if you are concerned about your baby’s feeding or if you notice that your baby is not gaining weight, has less wet diapers or is persistently irritable.