Breastfeeding Your Baby During a Growth Spurt

Smiling baby walking on bed

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Growth spurts are an essential part of your baby's physical maturation, and they're developmental milestones. Also called "frequency days," growth spurts happen to every baby. Still, breastfeeding parents often worry that they have a low breast milk supply during these times.

It can be confusing when a child who has been breastfeeding and sleeping well suddenly becomes fussy and starts breastfeeding constantly. While there are differences between a growth spurt and a decrease in your breast milk supply, they can be difficult to spot for first-time parents. Before you worry, learn what's normal at this stage in your child's life.

What to Expect

During a growth spurt, your baby will begin to breastfeed more often, perhaps for longer periods of time than before. They may also be fussy with sleep patterns that are unusual and/or inconsistent. Your baby may be sleeping much more or not sleeping at all.

The major growth spurts occur at approximately two weeks, three weeks, and six weeks, then at three months and six months.

Of course, there will be other times when you might notice frequency days as your child grows. These growth spurts will even continue into the teenage years.

Is It Really a Growth Spurt?

Many parents question whether their babies are breastfeeding more because they're hungry or simply because they find it comforting. If you feel that your baby has had an excellent feeding (you can hear gulping, your breast is much softer after having begun with a full breast, and your baby seems relaxed), and they still want to nurse, there are some things you can do.

First, you may want to put them back to the breast, preferably from the same side you just nursed from. Your baby might have nodded off before they finished. Sometimes it only takes another five minutes of breastfeeding for a baby to be fully satisfied.

If you feel confident that the feeding was a good one, try a walk around the block. Sometimes babies have a hard time settling in and when they start to become fussy, parents may think they're still hungry.

The best test is to see what happens when you put them in the stroller or in a sling and go outside. If they fall asleep immediately (most babies do once they get out into the fresh air), they aren't really hungry. If they scream their way around the block, they may want to continue breastfeeding.

If you're still wondering whether you're dealing with a growth spurt, look for signs of weight gain and pay attention to diapers. If your baby is gaining weight and soaking through the same or more diapers as previously, it's likely a growth spurt.

Common Issues for Parents

It's common for parents to feel anxious when their babies are fussy and breastfeeding so often. You may worry about whether your baby is getting enough with each feeding. You can tell the difference between an actual growth spurt and an issue with your breast milk supply by how long this stage lasts. Growth spurts only last a few days.

Growth spurts are temporary, often ending as fast as they began. However, a low breast milk supply will stick around until you take measures to increase it.

While your baby is going through a growth spurt, follow their lead and go with their cues. Breastfeed frequently, and take care of yourself, too. Some nursing parents have a larger appetite when their baby is experiencing a growth spurt.

Try to get some rest, eat as well as you can, and drink plenty of fluids. If your breasts feel softer and not as full as they typically do, this is normal. Soft breasts do not automatically mean your breast milk supply is low.

If your baby is constantly breastfeeding, they are just telling your body to make more milk. Your body will respond accordingly. If your supply does not seem to go up in a few days, you should take measures to increase it.

Common Issues for Babies

Fussiness is the most noticeable problem babies experience during a growth spurt. When a baby is fussy, a parent's gut response is often to breastfeed because they know that will have the most soothing effect. If the baby is frequently fed during this stage, the fussiness may subside.

Disrupted Sleep Patterns

If there is a disruption in the sleep pattern, your baby may be overtired, and it may be harder to get them to settle down. It may seem like an endless cycle at a certain point, but stay calm and focused on giving your baby what they need. Remember this will pass.

Increase in Sleep

Your child may sleep a lot during the growth spurt, and this is normal. Waking a sleeping baby to breastfeed is recommended only in the first few weeks to ensure they nurse about every 2-4 hours. Once they start gaining weight regularly, you can let them sleep longer between feedings.

The older your child is, the longer they can sleep between feedings as long as they're growing well and don't usually have difficulty nursing. 

When to Call the Doctor

Growth spurts can be frustrating and exhausting, but remember they are temporary and essential for the healthy growth and development of your child. However, if your baby doesn't settle back down into a normal breastfeeding routine in a few days, it may be something more than just a growth spurt.

In this case, it's best to call the pediatrician and have your child examined to find out what might be going on, especially if your child continues to appear hungry and irritable after feedings, or it seems like they aren't getting enough breast milk. 

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. USDA WIC Breastfeeding Support. Cluster feeding and growth spurts.

  3. Worobey J, Peña J, Ramos I, Espinosa C. Infant difficulty and early weight gain: does fussing promote overfeeding?Matern Child Nutr. 2014;10(2):295–303. doi:10.1111/j.1740-8709.2012.00410.x

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much and how often to breastfeed.

By Melissa Kotlen
Melissa Kotlen is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Registered Lactation Consultant.