Babies do not come with an instruction manual and they are figuring things out just like you.
Babies need to feed very often, especially in the early weeks and months as they teach your body how much milk to make and also get the nutrients they need to grow and develop. When baby has the instinct to feed and be close to mom, it can often make you feel like you’re feeding constantly. This is very normal.
Breastfed newborns need to feed often –at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period–because breastmilk is more easily digested than formula. Baby’s stomach is the size of a small marble when first born so it needs to be replenished more often with frequent feedings. Even as baby grows and their stomach capacity increases, they still continue to nurse frequently—again, completely normal!
Cluster feeding happens when babies want to feed more often and in a more condensed period of time. This often happens at night and can coincide with baby being fussy. Breastfeeding and consumption of breastmilk are instinctual. When babies cluster feed, they are sometimes preparing for longer stretches of sleep (though this is not always the case!) or they may be catching up if they didn’t eat as much during the day. Your return to work, baby’s teething, or some other discomfort in baby’s life can also cause cluster feeding and fussiness.
In addition to being frustrating, cluster feeding can also invite concern and can cause anxiety in concerned relatives who may assume this behavior has something to do with your milk supply. It really doesn’t! Not offering the breast or offering an alternative to breastfeeding like a bottle will not help in this situation and is not recommended. Soothing, rocking, walking, and offering the breast is the best thing you can do. One pediatrician advised a breastfeeding Lansinoh mom to, “find a soft spot on the couch and hunker down.” Her baby cluster fed for three hours a night, every night, for two months. Remembering that this will pass is critical! This stage is exhausting but it won’t last forever.
Remember that breastfeeding is not all about the nutrition, though that is very important. It is also about baby wanting to be close to mom. You and your baby will have many ups and downs and you will both get through this. Be patient, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a breastfeeding specialist for tips and reassurance with this or any situations as you and your baby continue on your breastfeeding journey.