Just when you think you’ve got this breastfeeding thing under control, along comes baby’s first growth spurt! Often occurring at approximately 3-4 weeks and again at 6-8 weeks (some mothers may notice them earlier at 2 or even 1 week if the baby has an established eating/sleeping pattern by then), growth spurts are not a sign of insufficient milk supply – see my article “Breastfeeding and Growth Spurts,” linked below. There are several ways to make growth spurts easier to handle, and possible make them go by faster.
Here are some tips for surviving growth spurts:
Offer the breast more often -- Free access to the breast is the best way to let a growth spurt run its course. For first-time moms in particular, who don’t have to chase after older children or toddlers, take this opportunity to lay down with your baby skin-to-skin and let the baby nurse at will, being sure to switch sides as needed or at least every couple hours. If you haven’t already learned to nurse side-lying (nursing while lying down -- see my article on this in related links below), give it a try – by 4 weeks most babies have enough head control and mothers enough confidence and experience to establish a good latch to make this work.
Be a hermit -- Once you realize your baby is in a growth spurt, cancel plans you may have made and sack out at home. I realize this isn’t always possible, but when it is, do it! The more you are able to give your body contact and make the breast available, the quicker your body will get the message to ratchet up milk production, which is commonly understood to be the whole point of the growth spurt behavior. The quicker you give into this need, the happier you and your baby will be, and I suspect, the quicker the need will be met and the growth spurt over.
Relax, Eat and Drink -- Before stressing out over all the possible things that might be wrong with you or your baby (and especially before assuming you aren’t making enough milk), assume that sudden fussiness and pattern changes of feeding and sleeping may be a growth spurt and respond with offering the breast more often. The more you relax, and be sure that you are noticing your own thirst and hunger cues (which can increase as milk production kicks up), the more easily your body can respond. If after 2-7 days, things aren’t getting better or if during that time you notice any other signals from the baby that nutrition needs are not being met – reduced weight gain, lethargy, unusual reduction in wet or dirty diapers, or odd rashes or other signs of allergy or illness – be sure to discuss this with your pediatrician or health care provider. But growth spurt behavior in the absence of this sort of issue will likely resolve by meeting feeding needs.
Growth spurts aren’t always pleasant, but can be seen as an opportunity to step back from the chaos that sometimes surrounds the arrival of a new baby, reconnect and nurse, nurse, nurse!
For more about normal infant development and breastfeeding:
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