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Cluster feeding

4-minute read

Key facts

  • Cluster feeding is when your baby wants lots of short feeds over a few hours.
  • Cluster feeding is very common, especially in the late afternoon or early evening.
  • No one really knows why some babies cluster feed, but it may be a way for your body to boost your milk supply.
  • If your baby cluster feeds, this does not mean that you don't have enough milk.
  • Cluster feeding can be exhausting; it's a good idea to think of strategies to help you cope when your baby feeds frequently.

What is cluster feeding?

Cluster feeding is a time when your baby wants lots of short feeds over a few hours. It's normal and often happens in the early days of breastfeeding.

Cluster feeding is a normal behaviour for your baby. It's more common in the late afternoon or early evening, but it can happen anytime of the day.

It seems that some babies prefer to fill up on milk for a few hours then often have a longer sleep.

Why do some babies cluster feed?

There is no particular reason why some babies cluster feed. Some people believe it might boost your milk supply. If your baby wants more milk, then feeding more often will trigger your body to make it.

Is my baby cluster feeding?

If your baby is having a lot of short feeds close together over a few hours, you are cluster feeding.

If you are cluster feeding, you might also find that your baby:

  • has short rests or sleeps between these feeds
  • feeds for a few minutes then pulls off and on the breast
  • cries and is fussy during this time

Common worries about cluster feeding

Cluster feeding can make you physically and emotionally drained. Many parents feel exhausted and frustrated. Some mothers say they feel like a failure, or that they lose confidence about being able to breastfeed.

You might worry that you don't have enough milk because your baby takes a long time to settle. You might also think your breasts feel empty.

But there is always milk in your breasts. They are never completely empty.

What can I do to make cluster feeding easier?

The first thing to remember is that this is normal. Cluster feeding doesn't mean that you don't have enough milk.

To make cluster feeding easier you can:

  • relax and follow your baby's lead
  • feed to their need
  • look forward to a sleepy, settled baby after feeding
  • try to rest in the early part of the day to prepare
  • drink lots of water
  • make sure you eat well — don't miss meals
  • get as much family and partner support as you can

Things to look out for

Cluster feeding is a normal part of a baby's feeding routine. Talk to your nurse, midwife or doctor if your baby:

  • is not gaining weight
  • is not producing wet and dirty nappies
  • is not settling after they have finished feeding

Where can I go for help and advice about breastfeeding?

For advice and support contact:

Speak to a maternal child health nurse. Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. This is a free service, and is available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022

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Cluster feeding | Australian Breastfeeding Association

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