Growth spurts are probably one of the main triggers of women stopping nursing. Not because they are unmanageable or impossible to deal with, but because often women don’t know what to expect when it happens.
Growth spurts happen in babies at certain times; obviously all babies vary in their rates of growth and development but the growth spurts usually happen at around 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months of age. They usually last just a couple of days, although sometimes they can be a week long!
During a growth spurt, your baby will feed more frequently. Babies who previously fed once every 2-3 hours may decide that they will feed as often as every hour, and they will feed for longer periods of time too.
So why do women panic and stop breastfeeding at a growth spurt?
It’s usually because they mistakenly believe that the increase in the volume and intensity of feeds is due to them not producing enough milk. The truth of the matter is that the baby is letting the mother’s body know about their new requirements as they are growing. Therefore, supplementing with formula at this time is highly unfavourable. Trust your body; it will keep up with the demands of your growing baby! Mother Nature has been perfecting the art of breastfeeding for millions of years; very rarely will she let us down.
Dealing with a growth spurt can be difficult, especially if you have older children to look after. You may feel like you are permanently cemented to the sofa or that you have unwillingly been transformed into a walking binky with legs. Take heart; it won’t last forever! Here are some tips to get you through those exhausting days (and nights) with a growth-spurting baby!
Rest as Much as Possible
Your body is having to work pretty darned hard to make all of that lovely breast milk. A growth spurt is a fantastic excuse to park yourself on a comfy chair and relax with your baby. It may be frustrating at the time but in the future you will look back and miss those lazy days with your baby (you will, I swear!).
Get Plenty of Food and Drink
Make sure you are putting enough fuel in; you will feel better if you are receiving adequate nutrition. Before you sit down to feed your baby, grab yourself a big glass of water and a couple slices of toast or some crackers.
Trust me — all of that extra feeding really doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of producing enough milk. The increased volume of feeds is simply your baby’s way of ‘putting an order in’, as it were. Sometimes babies can become fussy at the breast or unsettled in between feeds during a growth spurt. Sometimes, they will just want to sleep all of the time that they don’t spend feeding. Every baby is different! Whatever happens, there is no need to make rash decisions. Topping up your baby with formula milk, especially during growth spurts, means that your body won’t be getting the message it needs to produce more milk for your baby. Of course, it is entirely possible to increase supply later on (hell, women who have never even been pregnant have been able to successfully lactate for their adopted babies!) but it is easier in the long run to just let your baby and your body work together at the right time.