What if your baby’s entire feeding routine changed and you didn’t know what to do?
Baby cluster feeding is perfectly normal, but it takes most parents by surprise. And if you’re not sure how to handle things, this can significantly disrupt your baby’s feeding routine.
Wondering what cluster feeding is and how you can help to manage your baby’s routine? Keep reading to discover the answers!
What Is Baby Cluster Feeding?
Our guide will walk you through how to deal with cluster feeding. First, though, we need to answer the big question: what, exactly, is baby cluster feeding?
This term refers to a specific change in your baby’s eating behavior. Specifically, it refers to periods where your baby is eating much more than they usually do. These periods are typically short (two to three hours at a time) and are referred to as “clusters” (hence the name).
The good news is that cluster feeding is very normal and commonplace. The bad news is that this change in behavior can be disruptive to baby and mother alike, though it may only last two or three days at a time.
But by identifying how to identify and address cluster feeding, you can help get everyone back to their usual routine.
Is Your Baby Cluster Feeding?
Now you know what cluster feeding is. But that brings us to the big question: is your baby cluster feeding? To answer that, you need to understand the different signs of cluster feeding.
First of all, you should know that cluster feeding primarily affects newborns and babies that are just a few weeks old. If your child is older than this, then a change to their eating behavior is most likely not cluster feeding.
Second, much of their hungry behavior will look familiar. But the baby may cry until it is fed and may eat voraciously over short bursts of time.
While cluster feeding, a baby will seem happy and content. They will not be angry or display signs you might mistake for colic (more on this later).
Finally, your baby’s diapers should still be as wet and dirty as they usually are. If you see signs that their digestion has been disrupted, then you are dealing with something other than (or perhaps in addition to) cluster feeding.
Understanding Your Baby’s Feeding Schedule
We have mentioned how cluster feeding can seriously affect your baby’s feeding schedule. But to understand if that schedule has been affected, you need to have a good working knowledge of their schedule.
Usually, a session feeding your baby can run up to 30 minutes. And babies get hungry pretty often–often up to 12 times over the course of a day.
While this feeding schedule can be exhausting to the mother, frequent feeding is actually a good sign. It shows your baby has a healthy appetite. And regular feeding will help your baby maintain a good weight while keeping conditions such as jaundice at bay.
On top of that, regular feeding helps a natural milk supply develop. However, from regular feeding to cluster feeding sessions, there is nothing wrong with relying on high-quality baby formula.
How, then, can you tell cluster feeding from a standard feeding session? As we noted before, your baby may wish to have more feeding sessions than usual and/or feed more during those sessions. And such a baby may cry and fuss until it is fed.
Causes of Cluster Feeding
It’s one thing to know what cluster feeding is and what the signs are. But many parents dealing with a cluster feeding baby are more curious about what the causes of cluster feeding are.
The honest (if frustrating) answer is that the medical community isn’t entirely sure what causes cluster feeding. Some think it helps regulate the nervous system while others think hungry babies simply want to store enough food to make it through the night.
The important thing, though, is that you realize cluster feeding is completely normal. And like other challenges related to parenting, this is a challenge you will soon overcome.
Formula and Cluster Feeding
How does formula factor into cluster feeding? It depends on how you want to approach the matter.
Cluster feeding does not necessarily mean you should supplement breastfeeding with formula. But the opposite is also true: a baby may cluster feed on an all-formula diet, and this doesn’t mean the baby is craving breastmilk.
Generally speaking, we recommend sticking with either breast milk or formula for your baby. And you should consult with your child’s pediatrician before making any changes to your baby’s diet or lifestyle.
How to Tell Colic From Cluster Feeding
Earlier, we mentioned that a cluster feeding baby may cry until it is fed. Of course, sudden crying may also be a sign of colic. How, then, can you tell colic from cluster feeding?
The first way to tell is to pay close attention to their crying. A baby with colic may for hours at a time several days per week. Furthermore, these cries may be so intense that they sound more like screaming.
Colic crying is also something you can set your watch by because babies with colic usually cry around the same time on certain days. Conversely, a cluster feeding baby will mostly cry because they are intensely hungry.
A baby with colic usually looks tenser than a cluster feeding child. And most importantly, giving milk or formula to a cluster feeding baby will almost instantly soothe them. Sadly, babies with colic are much, much harder to calm down!
Your Next Move
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