Amy's Corner. our lactation consultant answers your questions about nursing.

Growth Spurts: Not a Reason to Stop Breastfeeding

The following is a guest post by Emily Dickey, a mom, breastfeeding champion, blogger at BabyDickey.com and Leading Lady fan.

Working online as a blogger, I’m surrounded by other mamas and I hear all kinds of nursing stories. There’s something that seems to keep coming up over and over and it breaks my heart. All too often, I hear mamas upset by the fact that they can’t keep their baby full. They think maybe they aren’t producing enough milk, they have no idea how much milk their baby is getting because you can’t measure breastmilk (unless you’re pumping), and they aren’t sure how to keep their babies full….

A common phrase I hear: “I nursed until I was empty, but my baby was still crying for more! I wasn’t making enough to keep him full, so we’re supplementing.”

Ohhhh, this hurts my heart. I truly think that most of the time, mamas want to continue breastfeeding and they’re heartbroken themselves that they need to add formula to the mix.

When Ryan was born, I had taken a newborn care class that talked a little bit about breastfeeding, but not enough. I didn’t take any separate breastfeeding class and I didn’t read any books about it. I thought… breastfeeding is natural! It just… happens! Yes, that is true, but there is so.so.so much to learn. More importantly, there is so much misinformation out there about nursing that you need to arm yourself with knowledge against it!

I remember when Ryan was a newborn and I felt this same way. As a blogger, I was active on twitter and was lucky enough to have an incredible support system at my fingertips. I am afraid that without them (these wonderful, caring strangers on the internet) I may have broken to the pressures as well. When I complained on twitter that Ryan wouldn’t stop nursing and that I couldn’t keep him full, everyone told me about GROWTH SPURTS!

OH!!!! Well, yea, that makes sense! Of course, babies are constantly growing! But there are certain times when they’re really growing and that can lead to what feels like constant nursing. Your baby will “empty” you (no, you are never actually “empty” of milk!!! Another phrase that hurts my ears!) and still want more. I know, believe me I know, how frustrating and hard it can be to feel like you aren’t feeding your baby enough and to feel like you have no milk left.

But you do.

Leave that baby at your breast, get them to continue suckling, and I promise you’ll have another letdown with more milk. This also gives your body a cue that, HEY! We need more milk! And your body will start producing more! It really is simply amazing. Almost like magic.

If you supplement with formula instead? You’re giving your body a cue that it doesn’t need to produce as much milk and you will actually start making less.

Another way to boost supply to help during growth spurts? Pump! You can pump after a feeding or between nursing sessions. You may not get much, but that’s okay, just remember that it’s not a signal to how much your baby is getting, so don’t worry!

Another super important thing to know: these growth spurts occur so often during a newborn’s life, it may feel like you’re going through this issue constantly. But your baby is growing and developing! And trust me, it goes so quickly, try to cherish those cuddles. Growth spurts (and feedings) grow farther and farther apart.

Average ages for growth spurts: the first few days, 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 9 months. Additional information from Leading Lady’s IBCLC is also below.

These spurts can last from a couple days to a week… so if you look at that timeline and imagine it lasting for a week, you don’t get much of a break before the next spurt starts! But don’t fret, mama, this too shall pass. Find a support group, find other moms to chat with (in person or in a mom’s group online!), and pick up that book you’ve always wanted to read–it’s a great way to pass the time during those marathon nursing periods :)

An editor’s note from Leading Lady’s Ask Amy: Amy Berry, IBCLC

As a lactation consultant, I have had many phone calls regarding growth spurts. Most babies will have a growth spurt around 4-6 weeks of age.  During this time the baby may want to feed more frequently.  It is also during this time that many moms milk supply levels off.

A mom whose breasts felt really full at feeding time may now have soft breasts and may not have any leaking.  So now mom has a baby fussing frequently to nurse, soft breasts and no leaking.  One of the first things they think of is that they don’t have enough milk.  Actually, it is a rare mom who doesn’t have enough milk.  All of this that is going on is quite normal.  It is normal for breasts to be soft between feeds by 6 weeks.  It is normal for babies to go through growth spurts and it is normal for breasts not to be leaking by 6 weeks.  Many moms at this point get worried that they don’t have enough milk.

More often than not, they have plenty of milk.  If, at any time, a mother feels that she doesn’t have enough milk, I encourage her to seek out the assistance of a lactation consultant or her baby’s pediatrician.

About Emily Dickey

Emily is a mom of two with a combined total of 3 years breastfeeding! You can find her blogging about breastfeeding, birth advocacy (she had a homebirth VBAC this year!), and other parenting stories at babydickey.com.  And if you need some instant breastfeeding support, find her on twitter (@babydickey) where she’s always happy to listen!

3 Responses to Growth Spurts: Not a Reason to Stop Breastfeeding

  1. Laura Dyson says:

    I absolutely have to say that this post was just what I need for the way things have been going with breastfeeding my daughter. She is only 12 days old and constantly wanting to feed. Granted, we are working on a latching issue but things will work out. The only other problem we have has to do with her sleeping for long periods at a time regardless of what I do to try to wake her. I have done everything that I can think of to wake her except shake her to death, which I absolutely will not do.

    Should I worry? What can I do?

    As of right now, I am pumping milk to keep up the supply in the day, and end up getting engorged over night within 3 – 4 hours after last feeding. I just started to get let down because of the pumping and emptying myself.

    Laura

    • leadinglady says:

      Hi Laura!

      Sometimes babies with latching issues tend to bunch feed because they don’t get deep enough onto the breast and they don’t get a lot of milk at a feed. How is your baby’s weight gain? If she’s gaining at least 4 to 7 ounces a week then she’s doing fine. If she sleeps long stretches at a time she will more than likely bunch feed to make up for the feedings she has missed. Not every baby is alike. Some babies are like clock work and feed every three hours. It’s okay if your baby feeds differently as long as she is gaining and growing. As gar as the pumping goes, your body will adapt to her schedule. If you feel engorged between feeds then pump to comfort. If you overpump you may end up staying overly full.

      Amy

  2. Amanda says:

    My 3 week old baby is going thru a growth spurt and needs more milk now. she nurses every 1.5 hours instead of 2-3 and my body hasnt caught up so when she is ready for her next feeding my breast isnt as full as she is used to. what is happening is she latches and nurses for several minutes but then gets upset when she isn’t getting enough milk fast enough and stops nursing and cries. I try to get her to latch back on, she does for a minute or two and stops again frustrated and crying…I am worried that my body will not produce more milk to match her growth spurt since she gets so frustrated and won’t continue sucking to send the signal to produce more milk. What should I do?

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