Cluster feeding is pretty much what it sounds like. It is a series of quick milky meals given every 1-2 hours. These feeds—one after another—are meant to load your baby’s system with calories to keep her well stocked with nutrition through the night.
Good sleep is closely linked to feeding. If your baby wakes up hungry night after night, good first steps are to boost daytime calories, add a cluster feed in the early evening and end your night by dream feeding your baby. Each one of these feeding strategies are like "topping off the gas tank." Your goal is to give your baby enough "fuel" to keep her tummy from rumbling at night—a top cause of frequent night wakings.
The Ideal Time to Cluster Feed
Because your goal is to help your baby sleep at night, the best time to cluster feed your hungry hippo is between 4 p.m. and bedtime.
So if your baby starts crying 60 minutes after a feeding, calm her with the 5 S’s and then see how she acts. If she’s opening her mouth and searching for a nipple, give a little more milk.
Can Cluster Feeding Cause Stomach Pain?
Some doctors warn parents not to overfeed babies for fear that the milk might back up and cause colicky pain. But this is nonsense.
The women in the !Kung tribe in Southern Africa nurse their babies 3-4 times an hour, and their babies rarely—if ever—have colic.
Give cluster feeding a try, and you'll see that a baby with a full tummy is usually a happy baby! And likely you’ll be happier too if cluster feeding is your solution to waking less often in the middle of the night!
You may also be interested in:
Feeding from Both Breasts or One: What's Best for Sleep?
What Is Dream Feeding? And How Do I Do It?