Cluster Feeding & How to Survive It

Cluster Feeding & How to Survive It - Image

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Just when you felt like you and your baby settled into a nice breastfeeding pattern, did they just start breastfeeding every hour? Do you suddenly feel like you’re spending your entire day as a 24-hour buffet? Don’t worry mama! This is called cluster feeding. Cluster feeding is perfectly normal, and we’re here to answer your questions and cheerlead you through it.

What is Cluster Feeding?

Cluster feeding is when your baby breastfeeds several times in a short period of time (2). AKA your baby clusters some feedings together. This usually happens because of one of two reasons:

  1. Sleep. Your baby is stocking up on milk before or after a longer stretch of sleep. Definitely worth it for some zZz’s!
  2. Milk Supply. Your baby is going through a growth spurt and needs to increase your milk supply. That growing baby needs more milk!

Supply and Demand

Breastfeeding works as a supply and demand system. During a growth spurt, your baby’s appetite demands your body to up its milk supply. The more your baby sucks, the more milk your breasts make (4). After a few days of cluster feeding, your milk supply will increase to match your baby’s needs. To your relief, your baby will usually return to her typical eating pattern (1).

When Does Cluster Feeding Happen?

Growth Spurts

Growth spurts typically occur around three weeks, six weeks, and three months (4; 5). Your baby may get a little hangry for a few days during these growth spurts! He may be fussier than usual, and he may want to eat every hour, even up to two or three days (3; 4). We promise it won’t last forever! 

Certain Time of Day 

Some babies, particularly in the first weeks of life, will routinely cluster feed during a certain time of day. They may want to eat every hour for three to six hours every day (4). This is very common, particularly before or after a long nap or a long stretch of sleep at night (1; 6). Your baby just wants to make up for that meal they missed while they slept! 

How Often Should I Feed Her?

Throw Out a Schedule

“How often should I feed my baby?” is one of the most common questions a new mom asks. We live in a society that runs on schedules, and we want to know how our newborn baby will fit into a routine. Do not put your newborn baby on a regimented eating schedule (4; 6). Schedules don’t give any room for when your baby needs to cluster feed. Allowing your baby to eat when she’s hungry will satisfy your baby, stimulate your milk supply, minimize soreness for you, and decrease your chance of breast engorgement (2; 3; 4). 

It’s true, newborn babies typically eat every two to three hours. But that is not a set timetable! Don’t think, “It hasn’t been three hours, so she shouldn’t be hungry yet,” or, “I just fed her an hour ago! Surely I don’t need to feed her already!” Every baby’s eating pattern is different. It’s better to think that your baby should be eating at least 8 times in a 24-hour period. Most babies eat 10–12 times in 24 hours.

While you should not discourage your baby from eating as often as she likes, you may need to encourage your sleepy baby to eat. For the first month, your newborn baby should not go longer than 2–3 hours during the day or 3–4 hours at night without a feeding (5).

Feed on Cue

Remember to look for the cues that signal your baby is hungry (5):

  • Smacking her lips
  • Sucking on her hands
  • Turning her head to look for your breast 
  • Becoming more alert and squirming
  • Opening and closing her mouth

If you see these hunger cues, do not wait until your baby is crying to feed her. Crying is a late, distressed sign of hunger (5). Encourage your baby to breastfeed as long as she is actively sucking and swallowing milk (2; 6). If she starts to fall asleep before she is full, tickle her feet or rub her back to keep her engaged in the eating process (5). 

Long story short—feed that baby whenever she wants for however long she wants!

Is My Baby Getting Enough?

Cluster feeding often makes parents anxious. When you see your baby wanting food every hour, it’s easy to wonder if they’re starving! Remember, cluster feeding is normal and is nature’s way of producing more milk for your growing baby. There will be plenty of milk to help your baby through a growth spurt (4).

The Signs

Here are signs that your baby is getting enough milk (1): 

  • Breastfeeding at least 8 times in 24 hours (usually 10-12 times)
  • Eating 10-45 minutes at each feeding and seems content after feedings
  • Has several periods of swallowing during each feeding
  • Breasts feel softer or lighter after the baby has nursed
  • Wet and dirty diapers
  • Gaining weight 

If you are worried that your baby is not getting enough milk, talk with your pediatrician. 

Do Not Supplement

Do not give your baby extra formula during cluster feeding. In order for you to create more milk for your growing baby, your baby needs to breastfeed more (4; 5). Remember, more suck = more milk. Supplementing extra formula will hurt your milk supply when your baby is trying to help it increase.

Is Something Else Wrong?

Cluster feeding often coincides with a fussy time of day or a fussy growth spurt. It’s hard to know when fussiness is normal or an indication of something else (like colic or reflux). Do not be alarmed if your baby has a day of sleepiness after a growth spurt (4).

Babies may cry or want the comfort of your breast not just when they’re hungry. They could be tired, bored, lonely, or uncomfortable (1). Click here to read about why babies cry and how to comfort them. If your baby’s crying makes you feel that something is wrong, talk with your pediatrician. Trust your gut, mama! 

Tips to Survive Cluster Feeding

Tips to Survive (and Thrive) During Cluster Feeding

  1. Create a Comfortable Nursing Space: Set up a cozy, relaxing spot for nursing. A comfortable chair, pillows for support, and a footrest can make a big difference.
  2. Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Have water and healthy snacks within easy reach. Staying well-fed and hydrated is crucial for maintaining your own energy and milk supply.
  3. Practice Good Latch Techniques: Ensure your baby is latching on well to prevent sore nipples. Don’t hesitate to consult a lactation consultant if you’re having difficulties.
  4. Use Feeding Time Wisely: Cluster feeding sessions can be a great time to catch up on your favorite shows, read, or just enjoy some quiet time with your baby.
  5. Take Breaks When Needed: If you need to use the restroom or stretch your legs, it’s okay to take a short break. Your baby will be okay for a few minutes, and you can return to feeding more comfortably.
  6. Wear Comfortable Clothing: Choose clothing that makes breastfeeding easy and comfortable. Nursing bras and tops can be very convenient during cluster feeding periods.
  7. Alternate Sides: To ensure a good milk supply in both breasts, and to prevent nipple soreness, remember to switch sides frequently during feedings.
  8. Keep Baby Close: Consider babywearing during the day to keep your baby close and content, which might help reduce fussiness and the intensity of cluster feeding sessions.

Cluster feeding is hard! But we promise it won’t last forever. Some moms prefer to put their baby in a sling and cluster feed on-the-go, while others prefer to cluster feed at home, curled up with some Netflix. Either way, do what you need to do to get through it, mama. So, grab your favorite snack, settle into that cozy nursing spot, and embrace the beauty of these close moments with your little one.

Kopa Birth’s online childbirth classes allow you to prepare for a natural childbirth in the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class to learn more about preparing for natural childbirth.


  1. Huggins, K. (2005). The Nursing Mother’s Companion (Fifth Edition). Boston, MA: The Harvard Common Press.
  2. Injoy Health Education. 2016. Understanding Breastfeeding: Your Guide to a Healthy Start (Seventh Edition). Longmont, CO: InJoy Birth & Parenting Education. 
  3. La Leche League International. (1991). The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (Fifth Edition). New York, NY: Penguin Group.
  4. Mayer, D., MD, American Academy of Pediatrics, NJ Chapter, & Pediatric Council on Research & Education. (2011). Breastfeeding FAQs: A Guide For Physicians. Retrieved 2020, from
  5. Meek, J.Y., Yu, W., American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011). New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding (Second Edition). New York, NY: Bantam Books Trade Paperback
  6. Simkin, P., Whalley, J., Keppler, A., Durham, J., & Bolding, A. (2016). Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide (Fifth Edition). Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.

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Meet Katie Griffin

I’m a registered nurse, Lamaze certified childbirth educator, and the mother of 7. I help women realize their dream of a natural, intimate, and empowering hospital birth.

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Just when you felt like you and your baby settled into a nice breastfeeding pattern, did they just start breastfeeding every hour? Do you suddenly feel like you’re spending your