Along with all the joys of motherhood also comes its fair share of sometimes, tiring yet unpredictable changes. For instance, you might unintentionally make feeding mistakes while bonding with your baby as you breastfeed. Your newborn seems to have a mind of his own and demands short feedings within a couple of hours? You might be scratching your head and thinking, “wait, didn’t I just feed my baby”? No, you’re not getting forgetful. Newborn babies generally tend to cater to their hunger pangs in this way. This is known as cluster feeding.
What Is Cluster Feeding?
Cluster feeding is a pattern emerging with infants and newborns when they want to nurse more frequently for shorter durations, typically during a certain period, like mornings or evenings. Each feeding session during a cluster feed entails a short span of time with shorter intervals between each feeding session. Cluster feeding is also commonly referred to as bunching or bunch feeding and offers quite a few benefits.
What Are The Benefits Of Cluster Feeding?
- Helps Regulate Milk Supply
- Comforts the baby
- Nutritional Needs Are Met
- Sleep Regulation
- Happy Hormones For The Mother
Cluster feeding helps stimulate the breasts to produce more milk and increase milk supply, especially during growth spurts. As the feeding sessions frequently send signals to the body to produce more milk, there is an instant increase in milk supply.
The close skin-to-skin contact with the mother and the familiar taste of breastmilk offers a sense of comfort and calm to the baby. It also helps strengthen the bond between mother and child as it happens frequently throughout the day.
Babies see growth spurts and go through periods of rapid growth, all of which are aided by only breastmilk (for those breastfeeding) for the first six months. Cluster feeding helps infants take in as much as they need without making them uneasy and as much as they can handle. Cluster feeding also helps meet their increased nutritional intake for the day.
A well-slept and well-fed baby is often a happy one and cluster feeds can help babies fall asleep quickly as they are not on an empty stomach. If your baby’s cluster feeds take place at night, it will even help set a healthy bedtime routine. The fuller the baby is, the longer the stretches of sleep he will be able to get.
The first few months can be taxing on any parent, especially the mother, so she should be given every opportunity to rest as much as she can. Along with that she needs healthy doses of relaxation. Frequently nursing your baby can release hormones such as oxytocin which has a calming effect on the mother.
How to Spot Cluster Feeding Patterns
While it’s important to note that every child is different and exhibit unique behaviors, there are tell-tale signs you can look out for:
- Your baby may suddenly show a desire to be fed more frequently than usual. Make note of the intervals between the feeds, you will notice that the intervals are shorter.
- Your baby may linger around and the nursing sessions will get longer. Do not mistake it for longer feeding sessions. While the feeds may be relatively short, your baby may stay at the breast for extended periods of time.
- The feeding clusters take place during a certain time period in the day on repeat. For instance, some babies take to the breast more often in the morning while some may show the same behaviors during the evening.
- If your baby is increasingly sucking at things or displaying a sucking reflex more often even while not feeding, this could mean that your baby wishes to be close to you and wants to be fed again.
- Look out for hunger cues in your infant. Some telling signs include the baby turning and reaching towards his mother’s breast, sucking on their hands and fingers, making sucking sounds, all of which hint toward a strong desire to feed.
- Changes in sleep patterns are also a sign of an upcoming feeding cluster. While the baby may enjoy well-rested naps on account of being fed frequently, the interval of their naps may shorten significantly.
Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
For most breastfeeding mothers, the calorie and nutritional intake of their infants is a pressing concern. Many mothers often worry that their newborn may not be getting adequate milk supply judging by the short feeding time during cluster feeding sessions. Here are a few ways you can gauge if your baby is drinking enough:
- What’s your baby’s diaper output like? The healthier the feed, the more the output. Newborn babies are considered to be getting enough breastmilk and nutrition if they soil their diapers or pants three to four times and urinate about six times a day.
- It’s common for newborn babies to suddenly drop a few pounds following the days after birth but should be able to steadily pick up all the lost weight and add on a few more pounds as the weeks progress.
- When feeding your baby, keep an ear out for swallowing sounds. Sometimes babies may be unable to extract any milk from the breast even though the sucking stance seems to be correct. Swallowing sounds ensure that the baby is getting fed.
- However, sometimes just letting your baby nurse at your teat without swallowing anything is also advised. It stimulates milk production and helps soothe a fussy baby.
- Babies will tell you when they are satiated and they have had enough, you just have to pay attention. They will unlatch from the breast on their own and settle down for a nap, or make soft cooing sounds to indicate relaxation.
- If you feel like you’re not 100% sure about all these signs or you may be second-guessing yourself, consult a lactation consultant or a professional who can tell you whether or not your baby is in fact getting enough breast milk.
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