What Is Cluster Feeding?

When your baby "bunch feeds," or wants to nurse multiple times close together, this is known as cluster feeding. This behavior is most common in the afternoon and is generally indicative of a growth spurt (but is sometimes a sign of an upset stomach — your baby may not know that this does not mean he or she is hungry). Against common misconceptions, cluster feeding is not a sign of low milk supply! It's just nature’s way of increasing your milk supply to meet a growing child’s demands. In fact, some women practice cluster pumping to increase their milk supply and express extra milk for their babies.

Should I Be Concerned?

Many women become concerned when their child cluster feeds because it's often accompanied by the baby becoming very fussy, feeding, then pulling away, fussing, breast feeding again, etc., and the process can go on for hours. This can cause mommies to get confused or feel like they are doing something wrong. It's important to remember that this behavior is completely normal for a growing baby. Cluster feeding is sometimes, but not always, followed by your child sleeping for a longer period of time than usual. Growing takes a lot of energy, so your baby needs more food and more sleep. It can be easy to doubt yourself when your child is constantly fussy, but your baby is just doing what he or she needs to increase your milk supply. This is a very natural and normal process, and although it can be very stressful, it will not last forever. If you are concerned that you aren't producing enough milk, you may want to try cluster pumping. Breast milk increases when there is more demand for it; if you pump more often, your body will typically produce more milk. Many women find that by pumping more often for shorter periods of time, they are able to increase their milk supply.

What Is Cluster Pumping?

Cluster pumping typically involves pumping for 5 to 15 minutes, taking a break, then pumping again, taking a break, and so on over the course of several hours. For example, you might pump for 10 or 15 minutes starting at 8 a.m., pump for 5 minutes at 8:30, pump for 10 minutes at 9 a.m., and continue this on-off schedule until 11 a.m. While this type of pumping schedule can be time-consuming, the way that it mimics cluster feeding can improve your milk supply. A related technique, called power pumping, involves pumping or breastfeeding as usual, then resting for 10 minutes, pumping for 10 minutes, and continuing this 10 minute on-off cycle for 60 minutes, once a day for several days in a row.

When your baby wants to nurse frequently, it's called cluster feeding.

How Else Can I Increase My Milk Supply?

In addition to cluster pumping, you can help improve your milk supply in other ways. There are certain foods you can eat to help increase milk production, such as lactation cookies, whole grains, and oatmeal. You should also be sure to get enough rest, eat enough healthy calories a day to compensate for the 500-800 burned each day through breastfeeding, and avoid stress. If you are on hormonal birth control, consult your doctor about its effect on lactation as some studies show hormonal birth control can have adverse effects on breast milk production.

Need a Breast Pump?

Breast pumps can be a great asset to breastfeeding mothers, but they can be costly. Under the Affordable Care Act, however, breast pumps can be covered up to 100% by insurance companies. Aeroflow Breastpumps can help you quickly and easily find out if your insurance policy covers a pump. Simply submit your information through our Qualify Through Insurance form and let our Breastpump Specialists take care of the rest. Your dedicated Specialist will work directly with your insurance company and healthcare provider to determine your coverage and will contact you within 3-5 business days to discuss your pump options and shipment date. No insurance? No problem. Aeroflow Breastpumps strives to also provide the best equipment to your family at the lowest prices. Check out our online store, Aeroflow Mom & Baby, to purchase your top-brand breast pump out-of-pocket.