Growth spurts happen a lot with your baby. I get a lot of questions about growth spurts and what to expect or symptoms that baby is showing that are very common with growth spurts. Often, breastfeeding professionals and mother-to-mother support group leaders will refer to these times as “frequency days” or sometimes even “fussy days.”
While a growth spurt can occur at any time they typically occur at about 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, and really any other time. They continue to happen about every 2-3 months through toddlerhood and periodically through to teenage years. Your baby’s only way to communicate is through crying and baby will often communicate that something is wrong. Growth spurts can be painful for baby (breast milk has pain relieving properties for babies and the oxytocin released when you breastfeed helps calm you both). They can just be a confusing time or a time that baby’s brain is growing and not necessarily their body as much. One nice thing about a growth spurt is if baby is having a fussy day and you’d rather stay home and relax together you can always blame a growth spurt!
Quite often mom will recognize something is different about baby but not quite pin point it to being a growth spurt. Here are some signs that baby may be having a growth spurt:
- Baby is nursing more frequently than usual (Do note though that it’s common to have a growth spurt at around 4-6 weeks and this is around the time that mothers will notice their breasts feeling much less full. This is usually not an indicator that you’re not producing enough milk but this is a concern many mothers have).
- Baby is fussy even after nursing.
- Baby seems inconsolable.
While all of these can be signs of other issues, if your baby is gaining weight and has plenty of wet and poopy diapers it is very often a growth spurt. Another possibility is over-stimulation if the crankiness is happening after being around a lot of new people or things, in the evening, or after being outside for a while. If baby is about 3-4 months or older it could be teething causing these issues. More on this in a later post.
Please also remember that your breast milk is usually enough. If you have any doubts about your supply please be sure to check out this post. Baby will start nursing more frequently on these days because baby is putting in an order for more milk later. Imagine that it’s a Friday night and you know you want to have a pizza delivered at 6 PM. Friday nights are really busy at the pizza delivery restaurant. If you wait until 5:30 to order they might not be able to deliver or even have a pizza ready for you to pick up until 7 or 8! Since you’ve probably had that experience before you know that you need to call in earlier so your food arrives when you’re ready for it (and hungry!). When baby starts nursing more frequently they are phoning in their order for more milk later.
So how do you survive when baby can’t seem to get enough? Here are some ideas to try:
A little more about the “nest.” I help mothers that attend my breastfeeding classes prepare what I call their “nest” before baby arrives so that they can have everything easily at hand whenever baby wants to nurse. Many mothers find that having everything close at hand (and having a little box or container to carry everything room to room as needed) helps to be able to sit down and nurse comfortably whenever baby shows early cues rather than going through the house to hurry and grab a snack, the remote, water bottle, etc. By the time all of those items are gathered baby may be crying and harder to get to latch well and begin nursing.
Something else that you may find helpful is to have a good breastfeeding book. I really love the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding Made Simple. A lot of parents also enjoy The Wonder Weeks because it helps predict when baby may be going through a growth spurt or another developmental leap. Remember that babies haven’t read the instruction manuals so not every baby follows the books exactly as they’re written but they can be reassuring even still.
One last thing I want to note is on dinner and snacks. It’s so important to take care of YOU during a growth spurt. Having easy snacks and maybe an easy meal that you can eat one handed while nursing can be very helpful. It’s very common for babies to be crankier at night during growth spurts so having dinner taken care of is helpful. You can always call in a favor to a friend that offered help, have some freezer meals on hand that just need to be heated up or baked, or have some crockpot meals on hand that you just need to throw in the crock pot the day of. We really enjoyed having a couple of whole chickens in the freezer so we could throw one in our crock pot all day with some baby carrots and some other veggies we had on hand with salt and pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and whatever other seasonings we had on hand that we like. It would take me about 5 minutes to throw it all in and I didn’t have to worry about dinner.
What do you do to survive growth spurts?