Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Cluster feeding

5-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 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 have a longer sleep.

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

Why do some babies cluster feed?

Your baby may like to cluster feed in the evening because:

  • they need to 'fill up' before a longer night-time sleep
  • extra feeds in the evening can help maintain your milk supply for the next day
  • they feel a need to suck for comfort especially if they are tired from the day
  • your baby may sense that you feel tired or stressed at the end of the day and cry because they want to be close.

Is my baby cluster feeding because I have a low milk supply?

When your baby is cluster feeding it can trigger your body to make more milk. When you are breast feeding, you and your baby adjust to each other's needs. If your baby wants more milk, then feeding more often lets your body know to produce it.

Cluster feeding is normal and not usually linked to a low supply. But if you're concerned about your milk supply, there are ways you can check if your baby is getting enough milk. Look at the whole picture such as:

  • how many wet nappies they have
  • if they usually sleep well after feeding

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 can't make enough milk. Get as much support as you can so that you can take care of yourself.

To make cluster feeding easier you can:

  • try to accept that this is how your evenings might be for a while
  • follow your baby's lead and feed when they want
  • rest when your baby has an afternoon nap
  • make a start on dinner earlier in the day so you have less to do in the evening
  • drink lots of water and don't miss meals
  • ask someone else to hold your baby whilst you take a break

When should I speak to my doctor or midwife?

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

Your doctor can check both you and your baby for medical causes for your baby being fussy.

Resources and support

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. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

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

Last reviewed: December 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

Cluster feeding | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Baby feeds all evening? Witching hour, empty breasts, unsettled baby. It's usually all normal.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Is it really low supply? | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Fussy or crying baby? Soft breasts? Baby cluster feeding? Can't pump milk? It can be hard to know what’s going on. 

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Breastfeeding your baby

Breastfeeding provides all the nutrition your baby needs during their first 6 months of life. Find out all you need to know about breastfeeding.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

How to increase breastmilk supply

Read on to learn about some of the causes of low breastmilk supply, what is normal and tips on how to boost your milk production.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

A day in the life of a newborn

Most babies settle into a daily pattern of sleeping, feeding and playing, whether you follow what your newborn does or establish a simple routine.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.