Cluster Feeding: What Is It?

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on March 07, 2024
5 min read

Cluster feeding is when infants want to feed more frequently than usual. Often, feedings get shorter as well as more frequent. While cluster feeding can happen with both breast and formula feeding, it's more common with breastfeeding. It's normal infant behavior but can worry or confuse new parents.

When does cluster feeding start?

Babies often cluster feed during growth spurts. The most common times to start are:

  • Right after birth
  • At 2 weeks of age
  • At 1 month of age

Cluster feeding can also happen during later growth spurts, commonly at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months. Babies can also cluster feed for other reasons, such as teething or feeling fussy or tired, so it can happen at other times, too.

How long does cluster feeding last?

Cluster feeding linked to a growth spurt usually lasts just a couple of days.


If your baby is having a lot of short feeds over a few hours, that's cluster feeding. It's especially common during the early days of breastfeeding. Cluster feeding is more common in the late afternoon or early evening, but it can happen at any time of the day. A baby that typically nurses every 2-3 hours might nurse every 30 minutes to an hour for a few hours in a row.

If your milk supply is sufficient and your baby is cluster feeding, it's probably normal. There is generally no need to worry if your baby:

  • Is gaining reasonable weight.
  • Is having a lot of dirty and wet diapers.
  • Rests or sleeps between feedings.
  • Feeds for a few minutes, then pulls off and on the breast.

If you are concerned that your milk supply is inadequate for your baby’s needs, talk to your pediatrician.

Some babies do not cluster feed at all. But if you are wondering why your newborn or older baby is suddenly feeding every hour, here are some common explanations:

Growth spurts. If your baby is growing a lot, they will naturally need more nourishment. During these times, your baby may want to nurse every 30 minutes to an hour. In the first month alone, growth spurts can happen every few days or even weekly.

Growth spurts typically happen at 2-3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months, but every baby is different.

Developmental milestones. Babies go through a lot of changes in the first 6 months. When your child experiences physical and psychological changes, they may need extra nutrition. That can lead to cluster feeding.

Sleep changes. Some babies who are starting to sleep longer at night may cluster feed in the evening to fill up before a long snooze.

Missed feedings. If your baby skips a feeding session for any reason, they may cluster feed to make up for it.

Teething or illness: Some babies who don't feel well will nurse more often to soothe themselves.

Call your pediatrician if:

  • Your baby breastfeeds nonstop.
  • Your baby cries unless they are breastfeeding and continues to show signs of hunger.
  • Your baby appears jaundiced (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes), becomes lethargic (appearing tired and dull), or has tremors after long periods of nonstop nursing.
  • Your baby isn't gaining weight.
  • Your baby isn't producing wet and dirty diapers.

If you are breastfeeding, cluster feeding doesn't mean you won't have enough milk or that you'll run out. The more your baby drinks, the more you'll make. If you're still worried or struggling to deal with cluster-feeding episodes, try to:

  • Stay hydrated if you are breastfeeding.
  • Keep up with your own meals.
  • Ask a partner to bring you drinks and snacks and keep you entertained while nursing.
  • Take turns with feedings, if you use bottles.
  • Ask others for more help with other tasks, such as making dinner and changing diapers.
  • Relax, get comfortable, and follow your baby’s lead.

Is there a way to stop cluster feeding?

Cluster feeding is usually a normal behavior linked to your baby's needs for food or soothing. It comes and goes on its own.

But if you are unsure if a fussy baby is really hungry, look for hunger cues, such as lip smacking, moving their head from side to side, moving their hand to their mouth, or rooting (opening their mouth and making sucking motions while seeming to search for food). When your baby is clearly full but can’t seem to stop craving more, you can try to soothe them with something else. For instance, you can try using a pacifier or gently rocking and swaying with them.

If a baby still wakes up a lot to feed at 4 months, you might want to talk with your pediatrician about sleep training.

Some of the advantages of cluster feeding include:

  • Providing your baby the nourishment they need to grow
  • Helping to soothe your baby
  • Ensuring your baby gets enough sleep after a satisfying nursing session
  • Providing comfort, security, and reassurance that sustain your baby's emotional needs
  • Boosting your milk supply to fit the needs of your baby

Cluster feeding can be emotionally and physically draining for parents. Studies show that many parents get frustrated or fatigued when a baby wants to feed so frequently. Some lose confidence in their ability to breastfeed. Sleep deprivation takes a toll if parents have to get up repeatedly to feed the baby overnight.

If you're struggling to survive cluster feeding, you may find it helpful to talk with a lactation consultant or pediatrician. Your doctor may also recommend additional ways to care for your nursing baby.

When an infant suddenly seems to be feeding more frequently, parents might worry. But this is usually normal cluster feeding, tied to growth spurts and other changes your baby may be going through. These episodes can be exhausting for parents, but it may help to know that this is one way babies get the nourishment they need.