Cluster Feeding and Power Pumping: What Are They and How Do I Do It?

Newborn babies feed quite often throughout the day and night, generally with about 2 to 3 hours between each feeding. When your breastfed baby is suddenly fussing more and wanting feeding sessions much sooner than every 2 to 3 hours or is nursing for extended periods of time only to be ready to eat again less than an hour later, this is known as cluster feeding. Cluster feeding can be worrisome to breastfeeding moms because they are not sure their babies are getting enough to eat or that there is enough milk to satisfy their babies. Additionally, they may be tempted to supplement because they feel they have a low milk supply.

Why Do Babies Cluster Feed?

If your baby starts cluster feeding, this often goes hand-in-hand with fussiness and is generally linked to growth spurts. Babies will experience several growth spurts in the first few months of life; so many in fact that it sometimes feels like your baby is in a never-ending growth spurt! Growth spurts typically occur around 7-10 days after birth, between 2 and 3 weeks, again between 4 and 6 weeks, and around 12 weeks. Each time your baby goes through one of their growth spurts, they may temporarily start to breastfeed more or cluster feed as a way to boost your milk supply. Take comfort in knowing that growth spurts are temporary and will not last long.

How Long Does Cluster Feeding Last?

Periods of evenings filled with back-to-back feedings with a fussy baby are generally short-lived. Most growth spurts and episodes of cluster feeding will pass in just a few days. After a growth spurt, your baby’s feeding patterns will likely return to how they were prior to the growth spurt. Cluster feeding in the late afternoon may help your baby sleep better and for longer stretches!

What Can I Do to Increase My Milk Supply?

Cluster feeding is mother nature’s way of boosting milk production - as demand for breast milk goes up our bodies receive the signal to begin producing more milk to meet the baby’s increased consumption. During periods of cluster feeding and growth spurts, it is important to continue breastfeeding on-demand and allowing your little one to decide when they have had enough to eat. Be sure to continue drinking plenty of water and consider incorporating powering pumping into your routine. Additionally, we encourage you to reach out to a lactation consultant or IBCLC for personalized breastfeeding support and medical advice.

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What is Power Pumping?

Power pumping is like boot camp for your milk supply and mimics what it is like when your baby is going through a growth spurt or cluster feedings. When done properly, moms will begin to notice their milk supply increasing after about 3 days of a daily power pumping routine.

When is the Best Time to Power Pump?

To be most effective, power pumping should be done once a day for 5-7 days in a row at approximately the same time every day. Depending on your schedule, you may find it is easiest to power pump after your baby’s first time nursing for the day or just before you go to bed. Pumping in the morning is nice because moms generally have the most milk in the morning and you will not need to worry about there being enough milk available for your baby's needs at the next feeding. Pumping in the evening hours is especially helpful in boosting milk supply in the latter part of the day and is less stressful since babies will usually sleep the longest at the beginning of the night. After power pumping for 5-7 consecutive days, you should see the full effects and can stop power pumping. If you would like to further boost your milk supply, consider doing another 5-7 days of power pumping after taking a week off from power pumping.

Power Pumping Instructions

  • Pump for 20 minutes
  • Take a 10 minute break from pumping
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Take a 10 minute break from pumping
  • Pump for 10 minutes

Need a Breast Pump?

Breast pumps come in handy so many times throughout a mother’s breastfeeding journey and are especially helpful when trying to increase milk production. Under the Affordable Care Act, many moms can get a free breast pump through insurance. Fill our Aeroflow Breastpumps' Qualify Through Insurance Form and they can quickly and easily help you find out if you qualify for a free pump.

About the Author

Brianne Griffis, Certified Lactation Counselor

Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.