Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quick response: Feeding a 3-week-old

We just received a question for one of our readers about a 3-week-old who sometimes is feeding quite frequently the morning and in the evening. Since feeding is such an important concern for babies and parents, we wanted to respond right away to this question.

Frequent feedings only at certain times of the day are called "cluster feeds" by most lactation professionals. Typically, frequent feedings are not unusual, especially among older babies who are trying to deal with overstimulation or growth spurts. In older babies, you'll see patterns of cluster feeding (in the evening) or for a few days while the baby works to increase the milk supply to meet his rapidly increasing needs.

With a 3-week-old, there are a few other things to consider. For many moms, the milk supply is still being established in the first month, so early cluster feeding may be just fine OR an early indicator that mom and baby may need a little help getting things back on track. First and foremost, you need to know how much weight the baby has gained since birth. Most doctor's offices are fine with requests from moms to check their babies' weight. If the baby's weight gain has been slow, the cluster feedings may mean that there may be a glitch with the breastfeeding. Your doctor or a lactation consultant should be able to help with that. If the weight gain is fine and baby is looking and acting healthy, it may be that the baby just needs a little time to be able to nurse more efficiently, may be sleeping a little too long between the other feeds, or may be very sensitive to stimulation around him. Again, your doctor or a lactation consultant can figure out what might be happening. Nearly all of these early glitches can be fixed easily.

Bottom line: Frequent "cluster" feeds are not unusual and not necessarily something to be concerned about (except that they are hard on new moms!) but they are one of those things that babies do that should get checked out by a professional. A quick weight check and a few words with someone who knows about lactation can set everyone's mind at ease.

Let us know how things go.


  1. My 10 week old is eating 5 ounces every 2 to 2.5 hours. In an attempt to get him to eat more less frequently, I tried giving him 6 ounces, but he still wanted to eat 2 hours later. Is there any way to help him eat more less frequently? Or will he work that out on his own when his body is ready?

  2. Trying to give your baby more after he is full won't help stretch out feeds. It is important to feed him when he's giving you those hunger cues and to stop when he shows you he is done. That will help him eat appropriately when he is older. He will naturally start to stretch out feeds in the next few weeks. I know those first few months are hard on parents but every week that goes by will be easier. Hang in there and keep us posted!