Just as new mothers begin to settle into a mode confidence after the sometimes challenging early days and weeks of breastfeeding, many mothers have that confidence shaken by growth spurts. Babies experience normal periods of fussiness as they grow, coupled with a need to feed more often and sometimes sleep less. While growth spurts are not particularly fun, they are also not a huge cause for concern.
Here’s what new mothers need to know about growth spurts:
-- Growth Spurts are Normal - Most babies experience growth spurts – fussiness, reduced sleep durations, desire to nurse more often (but sometimes for reduced lengths of time -- like a longer-than-normal cluster feed). While babies vary in their development, the most significant growth spurts seem to appear around 4 weeks and 8 weeks. Some babies will exhibit growth spurt behavior around 2 weeks or even 1 week of age, but this is sometimes less common to notice because growth spurt is most noticed as a break from routine, and there is often little routine established in these early days. There are also growth spurts around 3 and 6 months, but these often seem less significant as confidence levels around breastfeeding, growth and development are higher by that time.
-- Growth Spurts are NOT a Sign of Insufficient Milk Supply - When a 3-4 week old baby who has been nursing well suddenly fusses at the breast, sleeps less, cries more and seems unsatisfied after feeding, many mothers (and some pediatricians!) jump to the conclusion that the mother is not making enough milk. This is both true, and false. Growth spurts, which are basically a need to feed more often, are commonly believed by those in the lactation field to be the way a baby can signal the mother’s body to increase production as the baby grows.
This is not the same thing as insufficient milk supply – if the baby is given access to the breast, the supply will generally respond fairly quickly as nature intends. Growth spurt behavior is NOT a reason to supplement with formula – in fact, doing so will interfere with the very demand-supply cycle a growth spurt is meant to trigger. In the absence of any other signals of insufficient supply – reduced weight gain, lethargy, reduced bowel movements or urination, growth spurt behavior is a signal to offer the breast more often, not to supplement. As long as other signs of growth and health remain steady and growth spurt symptoms settle back into some sort of equilibrium (not necessarily the same patterns as before the spurt) within 2 days to a week, there is no likely cause for concern, or for supplementation.
Growth Spurts are Temporary -- Like many things about infancy, this too shall pass. While the 2-7 days of a growth spurt may feel endless, your adorable, happy, satisfied baby will return! See my related article, “Growth Spurt Survival Tips,” linked below.
For more about normal infant development and breastfeeding:
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