Is Your Baby Having a Growth Spurt?
You feel as though you have finally ‘nailed’ breastfeeding. Your baby is latching and sucking well, he’s having plenty of wet and poopy nappies and he’s been calm between feeds. Then, suddenly he wants to feed all day.
You know about cluster feeding, he’s been doing that in the evenings for a few hours and you are confident this is normal. In fact, after his evening feeding binge, he seems tanked up enough to have a few hours’ sleep so this suits you perfectly – you can sleep for a few undisturbed hours too!
This new feeding pattern is different. And it has you full of self-doubt. You worry, ‘am I losing my milk?’ Please be reassured, your milk won’t simply ‘dry up’, despite what unhelpful people might say. Chances are, your baby is most likely going through a ‘growth spurt.’
Just as older children suddenly grow out of their clothes within weeks, or teenagers constantly raid the fridge then shoot up taller than their parents almost overnight, little babies have growth spurts too and that constant cluster feeding that goes on all day is their way of filling up to accommodate a growth spurt.
Growth spurts typically happen at around 2 to 3 weeks, 6 weeks and at three and six months, but they can happen at other times too. And if your baby was born premature or low birth weight, they may appear very hungry in the early weeks as though they are trying to ‘catch up’. Babies can also feed more often if they have been exposed to a bug – the transfer of bugs from baby’s saliva to your breast will stimulate your own immune system to produce antibodies that will go through your milk and help your baby beat whatever illness he may be coming down with.
As your baby goes through a growth spurt, he will be very hungry, but this will only last a few days. By prioritising breastfeeding and following your baby’s lead, you will boost your milk supply and get through this time more quickly. Keep things simple – eat simply, order in takeaway, eat freezer meals and leave housework and unnecessary work for a few days. And please be reassured, as long as your baby is having plenty of wet nappies and is only drinking breast milk, this is a reliable sign that your milk supply is fine.
Getting through a growth spurt:
- Netflix and chill – this has a whole new meaning doesn’t it? Set yourself up with a basket of snacks (Boobie Bikkies are perfect!), water bottle, breast pads, nappies, wipes, a spare onesie and your phone and snuggle baby skin to skin as you ‘netflix and chill’. Snuggling baby skin to skin will enhance your milk making hormones and help your milk flow. Relaxing and feeding according to your baby’s cues, as well as nourishing yourself, will help you match your milk supply to meet your baby’s needs.
- Don’t wait for your breasts to ‘fill up’ – your breasts make milk continuously, they are never completely ‘empty’. Let your baby keep breastfeeding as long as he wants and switch sides if he seems frustrated that milk flow is slowing down
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- Don’t reach for the bottle - it may feel tempting to offer your baby a bottle of formula because your breasts may feel ‘empty’ when baby is constantly feeding, but this could compromise your milk supply. Remember the law of supply and demand – the more milk you remove from your breasts, the more milk they will be signalled to make. If you offer formula to fill up your baby, your breasts will miss the memo to step up production (unless you also express at this time), your baby will be hungrier as your supply reduces and so you will need to offer more formula ….. and so, the vicious cycle continues until, quite soon your baby is weaned. If you do give baby expressed milk in a bottle, you will need to express rather than miss that feed to stimulate your breasts to make more milk.
- Appreciate the positive – a typical growth spurt usually lasts just a few days and usually if you surrender and follow your baby’s lead, it can be resolved in around 48 hours as your milk supply meets your baby’s needs. Try and see this time as extra snuggles and bonding time with your baby. It’s also an opportunity for you to take things easy for a bit too.
- Check with a lactation consultant – if you are worried about your baby’s feeding behaviour or your milk supply at any time, check with a health professional such as an IBCLC Lactation Consultant, your child health nurse or GP. The sooner you rule out any problems, the more quickly you can relax and enjoy breastfeeding.