Growth Spurts

“Normal” Behavior During Growth Spurts.

Is your baby…

  • Inexplicably fussy?
  • Nursing around the clock?
  • Waking more often at night?
  • Slapping, head-butting, unlatching and relatching, pinching the breast?
You may be experiencing what is known to many mothers as a “growth spurt” or a collection of “frequency days”. Rest assured that this is a very normal part of a having a rapidly growing baby! Growth spurts typically last anywhere from 2-3 days to a week and often are gone as suddenly as they appeared.

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Why does baby ask to nurse more during a growth spurt?

Breastfeeding works on a demand, supply system. Babies communicate with your breasts by nursing more frequently, fussing at the breast, latching/unlatching repeatedly, head-butting the breast, etc. Frequent emptying and additional stimulation of the breasts creates a “demand” that your breasts fill with a greater “supply” of breastmilk.

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When do growth spurts occur?

Growth spurts often occur a pattern, though it can vary from baby to baby and remember that babies don’t keep track of calendars. Growth spurts often occur at weeks 1, 2, 4 and months 2, 4, 8 and 12. Growth spurts can be early OR late. Remember that baby’s growth may not be entirely physical and that babies need fuel for developmental leaps, emotional growth and just for comfort during these tumultuous times of their young lives.

How can I best cope with growth spurts

Make nursing comfortable, don’t watch the clock
Many mothers find that creating a “nursing nest” and making a plan to hunker down and nurse on demand helps to pass the growth spurt as smoothly as possible. Gather water, snacks and good books for yourself and spend time with baby skin to skin with unlimited nursing and throw out the clocks. For mothers with older children, preparing “busy bags” (little kits of simple toys, books, something that can keep them happy for a while), temporarily borrowing a “mother’s helper” (pre-teen, auntie, grandma, etc. that can offer a separate set of eyes on the older children) or nursing baby in a sling or baby carrier can keep things running smoothly.

Accept help!
Remember all of those well meaning friends and relatives who said, “I’ll do anything you need! Just ask!” Assign them a task. Something as simple as picking up dinner and dropping it off at your door can be a huge help when baby is feasting at the breast buffet.
Turn to other nursing mothers for support.
Every nursing dyad experiences growth spurts. Talk with mothers who have had the same experiences who you know will offer support and commiseration instead of judgment and suggestions that can sabotage a breastfeeding relationship. Lean on your fellow Milky Mommas, check out a local La Leche League meeting or call a LLL leader (http://www.llli.org/webus.html?gclid=CMeDhpn6wbgCFSdp7AodlScAbg). Scan the board and read up on some other mothers who are dealing with the same frustrations.
Remember that this too shall pass
Growth spurts often are over within a week. The round the clock nursing sessions often give way to a few days of sound sleep for younger babies. Enjoy the reprieve!
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The Wonder Weeks

Babies have developmental leaps. These leaps are basically periods when your baby learns new skills or figures out something about the world suddenly. They can cause behavior similar to what a baby does during a growth spurt; such as being cranky/fussy, clingy (wanting to nurse a lot), and crying. Disruption to sleep habits is pretty normal.
The authors of Wonder Weeks found that they tend to happen on a pretty average schedule, give or take a few days. How it starts varies. For some babies it is based on due date and for some it is based on actual delivery date. For premies it can be a little more difficult to figure out.
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Once you figure out the start date, it tends to be pretty accurate for most babies though. It goes up to week 75 and 10 leaps. This isn’t necessarily when these major leaps stop, but this is where the book stops. The 10 leaps happen at weeks 5, 8, 12, 19, 26, 37, 46, 55, 64, and 75. Some are bigger than others and may last longer. A common difficult leap is around 9 months, or the 37th week leap. That one seems particularly annoying for many parents.
The book/app also gives some ideas for how to engage your babies new skills. This was particularly helpful for me as it gave me a way to let my son figure things out better and develop his new skills or perceptions of the world. That led to a less angry baby because he got to use what he was figuring out.
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This is the link to the site for Wonder Weeks. There is a book and an app. The app can be helpful as it alerts you to stormy periods when you enter your baby’s informations. Neither is really a necessity but they both have lots of great info.
If you do not want to or can’t get the book or app, this site is pretty thorough in explaining the leaps and what to expect during each.