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Breastfeeding During a Baby's Growth Spurt

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Updated June 02, 2014

Growth spurts are essential parts of physical maturation and they are developmental milestones. Also called "frequency days," growth spurts are inevitable in every baby. Still, breastfeeding mothers often become concerned that they have low milk supply during these times. It can be very confusing when a baby has been feeding and sleeping well and, all of a sudden, patterns reverse and the baby starts feeding all day long and is fussy.

How can you distinguish a true growth spurt from a decrease in milk supply? Before you start to worry, it's important to learn what is truly normal at this time in a baby's life.

What to Generally Expect at This Stage

During a growth spurt, a baby will suddenly begin to feed more frequently, perhaps for longer periods of time than she had been, and may be very fussy. Her sleep patterns may also become very erratic (sleeping much more or not sleeping at all). Generally, the major growth spurts occur at 2, 3, and 6 weeks, then 3 and 6 months. Of course, there will be other times where you might notice other frequency days, and this will actually continue into the teenage years.

Many mothers question whether their babies are feeding more because they're truly hungry or simply because they find the nipple soothing.

If you feel that your baby has had an excellent feed (you can hear gulping; your breast is much softer after having begun with a very full breast; your baby seems generally relaxed), here's what to do:

  • Put her back to the breast, preferably the same one you just used. She might have nodded off before being completely finished nursing. (Sometimes it only takes another 5 minutes of a feeding for a baby to be fully satisfied.)

  • Take a stroll. If you feel confident that the feeding was sufficient, 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 her in the stroller or in a sling and go outside. If she falls asleep immediately (most babies do once they get into fresh air), she isn't really hungry. If she screams her way around the block, she is.

Common Issues for Mom at This Stage

Quite often, moms feel anxious that their babies are feeding frequently and are fussy because they have a low milk supply. You can distinguish a true growth spurt from an issue with your milk supply by the duration of time this goes on. Growth spurts are temporary, often ending as fast as they began; low milk supply will stick around until you take measures to increase it.

Go with your baby's cues. Nurse frequently. If your breasts feel softer and not as full as they typically do, this is normal. Soft breasts does not equate to lost milk supply. If the baby is feeding frequently, he is teaching your body to produce more milk. Your body will respond accordingly. If your supply remains low, take measures to increase it immediately.

Common Issues for Baby at This Stage

Fussiness is the most noticeable issue. A mom's gut response is to feed because she knows that will have the most soothing effect. If the baby is fed frequently during this stage, the fussiness may subside. In addition, if sleep patterns are disrupted, the baby may be harder to relax or settle because she's overtired. It may seem like an endless cycle at a certain point, but stay calm and focused on giving the baby what she needs and this stage.

Waking Up A Sleepy Baby

Your baby may sleep a lot during the growth spurt, and this is normal. Waking a sleeping baby during this time is not recommended. Her little body is working very hard -- if she's sleeping, let her sleep.

Growth spurts can be frustrating and exhausting, but keep in mind that they are temporary and essential.

Source:

American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding "10 Steps to Support Parents Choice to Breastfeed Their Baby", 1999.

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