Cluster Feeding

Most babies have a “witching hour” or fussy time each day for the first 12 weeks of life. Don’t be confused, it rarely lasts only an hour and is more often 2-4 hours in duration.

For most babies this is in the evening, but it can occur at any time of the day. During this time, baby may be difficult to soothe. They often show feeding cues more often than typical, but when offered food, seem to quickly fall asleep, taking a shorter or smaller feeding than usual.  

When you move from your arms, they wake up acting frantically hungry. They refuse to be put down and if they are nursing babies, they seem to only settle with their lactating parent.

What’s going on?! 

Breasts tend to have a slightly lower volume of milk in the evening, but the milk is fattier than morning milk to help prepare for a longer stretch of sleep. Because of this, babies often cluster feed, or eat frequently, for a chunk of time during the evening. 

Nursing babies seem to strongly prefer their lactating parent, often fussing excessively with a non-milk maker, then settling when placed on the milk maker. 

Babies (and you) are often overtired and overstimulated at the end of the day, making matters feel worse. 

Sometimes, if the breastfeeding support partner has been at work and is just arriving home, it adds a layer of frustration for all because it doesn’t feel like they can help relieve the lactating parent.

Evening cluster feedings can be really hard for the whole family.  Here are some techniques to help you through those fussy times.

Surrender & Pre-Plan

  • Look for a pattern in these fussy times. When in the day do they seem to begin and end?
  • Get ready for it. Eat something about an hour beforehand and get done whatever must be done.
  • So if baby says, “Please sit on the couch and nurse me for the next three hours,” your nipples don’t mind it, and there is something good on TV, just do it. Let him cluster on and off the whole time. Because this is just a phase that will pass way too quickly. When else will you have permission to sit and soak in your baby for hours?

Take It In Small Doses

  • Does your baby have to be on the breast for three hours straight? No, not really. So if you don’t want to be nursing for that long, or you need to break it up a little, then go ahead. Try 45 minutes on, 15-30 minutes off. Hand baby to your partner to soothe to hold baby off long enough for you to breathe, pee, and eat.