Baby Growth Spurts 101
Just when you think you’ve settled into a doable breastfeeding schedule, your tot decides to nurse all the time. Before you panic and start worrying about your milk supply, take a breath. The good news is that this is completely normal.
Your tot’s ravenous appetite won’t last longer than a few days; all babies have sudden periods of growth in their first year and want to feed more often than usual. Understanding what happens during a growth spurt and knowing how to deal with the fussiness that comes along with it, can prepare you for this temporary nursing marathon before it begins.
What is a growth spurt?
Babies grow faster during their first 12 months than at any other stage in life; their increases in weight, length, and head circumference aren’t slow and steady. The most telling sign of a growth spurt is a sudden increase in appetite. If you are used to feeding every three hours, don’t be surprised if your tot suddenly wants to nurse twice as often and more vigorously. Other signs of a growth spurt are fussiness, most likely due to lack of sleep, since your tot will wake up hungry more frequently. The vigorous sucking is just your tot’s way of getting as much milk from you as possible.
When to expect it
Growth spurts can happen at any time, though some can take place at predictable ages. They tend to occur at around ten to fourteen days, then again at three to four weeks, six weeks, three months, six months and nine months. However, not all babies follow the same growth patterns, so don’t worry too much if yours does things a little differently.
How to handle it
Feed the baby! Growth spurts usually last between 1-3 days, but some may last up to one week. Most importantly, breastfeed on demand so that your supply can meet your tot’s growing needs. It may take a few days to catch up, but you will. It’s not recommended to supplement with expressed breast milk or formula since this would interfere with the natural supply and demand of your milk production. Lots of mothers report feeling more hungry and/or thirsty during these spurts, so be sure to listen to your body and eat and drink as much as you need to. Breastfeeding every hour can definitely be grueling, but hang in there and remember that this nonstop nursing won’t last forever. Before you know it you’ll be back to your regular schedule.
Don’t doubt your milk supply
If your baby is gaining weight appropriately and has good diaper output, there’s no need to doubt your milk supply. Many mothers assume they aren’t producing enough milk when their tot seems constantly hungry, but as long as you continue breastfeeding on demand, your milk supply will keep up with your tot’s appetite. Remember that the more frequently you breastfeed, the more milk you’ll produce.
Following your tot’s lead and nursing as frequently as needed will temporarily increase your milk supply. Once the spurt is over, your milk production will re-adjust within a day or two and you’ll be able to return to your regular feeding schedule… at least until the next growth spurt!