By Mercy Nixon,
Cluster feeding, also known as bunch feeding, refers to a feeding pattern when the baby needs lots of short feeds over a few hours. It is normal behavior observed in newborns anytime of the day.
Cluster feeds usually happen between 3 weeks to 6 weeks of life because the baby experiences growth spurts, and hence, they require more milk than usual.
Usually, mothers experience this issue more in the evening or in the late afternoon, and lasts up to 6 months of age.
Identify when your baby is cluster feeding
*When they are a few days or weeks old.
*They won’t stop crying until they are fully fed.
*They want to suckle constantly in short sessions.
*Benefits of cluster feeding
*Mother will start to produce more milk.
*Baby will sleep for a long time after cluster feedings.
*Helps babies to remain emotionally and neurologically regulated.
*Increases skin to skin bonding with the baby.
Risks of cluster feeding
*Mother experiences soreness in the nipples.
*Mother is exhausted both physically and emotionally.
*Often takes time away from family and household work.
Tips to help deal with cluster feeding
*You should get plenty of water, rest, and nutrition beforehand.
*Involve parents and relatives for any additional help if you need it.
*Smoothening techniques can calm fussy times.
*Try baby wearing in a carrier to reduce stimulation around them.
How to manage cluster feeding
*Keep a large bottle with water and snacks near the mother to stay hydrated and nourished.
*Nursing area can be provided in front of television or audio books
*Sit on the floor or on a couch so that mother can engage the elder child if needed.
*Mother can plan to express milk and feed the baby.
*Wrap the baby in a swaddle to recreate an experience of the womb.
*Offer pacifiers in the worst conditions.
*Dim light and reduce other external stimuli.
*Seek medical help to track on growth and development to assure proper weight gain, and also, to ensure about adequate milk supply.
*Cluster feeding does not indicate inadequate milk supply or the necessity of giving formula
*Contact a lactation consultant for further assistance.
(The author is a Lactation consultant, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chennai, T Nagar)
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