What is Cluster Feeding?

Cluster feeding is pretty much what it sounds like...it's back to back nursing sessions that your newborn can demand every 20 minutes to 2 hours. These feeds—one after another—help her boost your milk supply while she is going through a growth spurt. Cluster feedings can sound like a lot (because they are!), but there's an advantage to grouping feedings close together.

Encouraging Cluster Feeding

When you give your sweet little baby a series of quick milky meals every 1-2 hours they 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 Frequently Feed

Because your goal is to help your baby sleep at night, the best time to encourage a cluster feed 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 happybaby! And likely you’ll be happier too if cluster feeding is your solution to waking less often in the middle of the night!

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.