You might be one of the lucky new parents who have a newborn that sleeps for hours on end. So much so that you sometimes wonder why other people complain about getting so little sleep. That is until your baby starts to do the same thing and you wonder what is wrong. The good news is that likely, nothing is wrong. Your baby might be cluster feeding.
What is cluster feeding?
Well as the name suggests, cluster feeding is just a bunch of feedings in a row. Breastfeeding moms know that it can take anything from a couple of minutes to an hour for one feeding session. When the baby screams for more milk an hour later, moms tend to worry whether they are producing enough milk.
Although it is a legitimate concern, they probably don’t have to worry about having too little milk for their babies. They are just hungry.
Why do babies cluster feed?
When a baby is born, his or her stomach is as big as a walnut. No wonder they need to feed so often. The good news is that their stomachs tend to expand quite rapidly. However, one would think that if their stomachs can hold a higher capacity, they should feed less. This is, however, not the case.
As obvious as it might seem, babies are just little people, and their instincts are very much the same as an adult’s instincts. This means that they will naturally tend to sleep more in the evenings. As they prepare for a more extended stretch of sleep, they want to stock up on nutrients. This is when they cluster feed. It usually happens in the evenings between six and ten, but this is not necessarily the norm.
Another reason why babies tend to cluster feed is when they experience growth spurts. Again, babies are just little humans, and they also go through growing phases. If you think of teenage boys, most of them tend to stretch quite considerably between the ages of 13 and 15. Ask any teenage parent, and they will tell you that the boys are eating them out of house and home.
It is just natural for the body to crave more food when it is going through a period of fast growth. It needs the sustenance to maintain all the body’s functions.
How long does this phase last?
Concerning baby development, it is one of the longer phases. It usually starts at about two weeks and can continue for as long as four months. Not all babies are the same, and their development doesn’t happen at the same pace. It can become quite a challenging period as well, but this is where both parents need to be involved.
Dads can’t do much in terms of feeding the baby, but supporting mom is equally essential. If her body is tired and overworked, she might produce insufficient amounts of milk. This is where dad can ease the burden and rub out some winds and ease mom’s burden.
Will I run out of milk?
A mother’s body is intuitive and will adjust to the demands that baby puts on her. Of course, she must take in enough liquids to keep on producing milk. However, for new moms, they might think that baby is cluster feeding because he or she isn’t getting enough milk. Then they are tempted to supplement their feeding with formula.
Not only does baby formula not have the same nutritional value, but it also sends the wrong signals to the body. When mom supplements her milk, her body registers that she is giving out less milk. Her body then produces less milk naturally. Before she knows it, she will have run dry and needs to feed the baby with formula milk alone.
The key is not to stress and to know that if you stay healthy and your stress to a minimum, you should always produce enough milk for the baby.