Demystifying Cluster Feeding
The Benefits of Cluster Feeding
If you are new to parenthood or breastfeeding, you might not be familiar with the term 'cluster feeding.' Cluster feeding is when a baby breastfeeds back to back and back to back and back to back. Cluster feeding could translate to your baby cueing to feed as frequently as every 30- 45 minutes for a few hours in a row. It can feel like you are feeding your baby for 4-6 hours, consecutively.
I like to give new parents a fair warning about the reality of cluster feeding.
If you don't know that cluster feeding is healthy and beneficial to both you and your baby, it can feel overwhelming or like a warning sign (is my baby starving?! Will my nipples fall off from my baby being on the boob for hours?!)
Here's the deal: cluster feeding is entirely normal. Not only is it normal, but it is protective of your long-term milk supply.
Early milk production has been shown to affect milk production during established lactation significantly. Milk production and adequacy at six weeks after birth connects to milk production 4–6 days after birth. Allowing your baby to cluster feed will ensure you have enough milk down the road. Interventions that promote an adequate milk supply by the first week postpartum are critical.
If you’re not sure if baby is getting enough to eat, check out this post or contact me for follow up.
Interventions that are protective of your milk supply include:
Skin-to-skin contact and milk removal (breastfeeding or expressing) within an hour of birth. Skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant for the first hour after birth results in earlier effective breastfeeding and an increased likelihood of breastfeeding 1–4 months after birth than when infants were swaddled in blankets. *If you can’t do skin-to-skin or your baby is transferred to the NICU, hand express or pump within the first 1-6 hours after delivery.
Frequent milk removal during the first 24 h after birth. Early initiation of lactation, particularly breastfeeding or expressing within an hour of birth, has been shown to lead to a higher rate of breastfeeding beyond six weeks for term infants. There is also a positive effect of the number of breastfeeds in the first 24 h on milk production on days 3 and five after birth.
Allow your baby to feed at the breast as long and as frequently as they like. Also to note, there is a strong dose-response relationship between feeding frequency and a decreased incidence of significant hyperbilirubinemia (aka jaundice) on day 6. Frequent suckling in the first days of life has numerous beneficial effects on the breast-fed, full-term newborn.
Exclusively breastfed neonates also had a significantly lower risk of sepsis, diarrhea, and respiratory infections compared with those partially breastfed. Reducing neonatal mortality and morbidity can be achieved with the promotion of early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding during the first month of life.