Breastfeeding Your Baby During a Growth Spurt

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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 moms often worry that they have a low breast milk supply during these times.

It can be very confusing when a child who has been breastfeeding and sleeping well all of a sudden becomes fussy and starts breastfeeding all day long. How can you tell the difference between a growth spurt and a decrease in your breast milk supply? Before you start to worry, learn what's normal at this stage in your child's life.

What to Expect

During a growth spurt, your baby will suddenly begin to breastfeed more often, perhaps for longer periods of time than they had been previously. And, they may be very fussy. Their sleep patterns may also become very unusual and 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 three months, six months, and nine 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 mothers question whether their babies are breastfeeding more because they're hungry or simply because they find it comforting to breastfeed. 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 very full breast, and your baby seems generally relaxed), and they still seems to want to nurse, here's what you can do:

  • Put them back to the breast. Try to breastfeed again, preferably from the same side you just breastfed from. Your baby might have nodded off before they completely finished nursing. Sometimes it only takes another five minutes of breastfeeding for a baby to be fully satisfied.
  • Take a stroll. 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, most mothers 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 still be.

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 Moms

It's common for moms to feel anxious when their babies are fussy and breastfeeding so often. You may begin to worry about whether your baby is getting enough with each feed. 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 moms feel hungrier or thirstier when their baby is going through 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 you lost your breast milk supply.

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 mother's gut response is 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.

Also, 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.

If Your Baby Is Sleepy

Your child may sleep a lot during the growth spurt, and this is normal. Waking a sleeping baby to breastfeed is not recommended. Their little body is working very hard. If your baby is sleeping, you can let them sleep for a while.

Keep in mind that newborns and small infants should breastfeed at least every three hours. The older your child is, the longer you can let them sleep between feedings as long as they're growing well and don't usually have any trouble nursing. 

When to Call the Doctor

Growth spurts can be frustrating and exhausting, but keep in mind that 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.

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. 

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5 Sources
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