Ahh, life with a new baby. What would any new mom not give for some sort of user-manual to help her make sense of the seemingly ever-changing needs of a newborn. Humans have been having babies for thousands of years. And yet, it is you and your baby’s first time, and it may seem to you that there simply is not a recipe that works. Some days are simply tougher than others, and your baby (who seemed to finally be settling into some routine) is suddenly fussy and difficult, and none of your usual coping skills seems to work. Could this be one those growth spurts everyone talks about?
Of course, there are many, many factors involved and angles to consider. But one cause for these challenging days is growth spurts. Perhaps you have read about these on the internet, or perhaps your paediatrician or clinic sister offered this insight when you consulted about baby’s woes. And although you may have a name and diagnosis, you are still no closer to finding some solutions.
Most importantly, when will they pass and can you speed up this process.
What are growth spurts?
It is unrealistic to expect a baby to grow from a tiny, wailing little newborn, to a busy toddler running around and babbling sentences without their needs and routines changing along the way. Babies grow at a rapid rate, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Millions of new brain cells form every day, and these are learning, learning, learning.
Growth spurts (or frequency days) refer to periods of faster growth in the first year of life. They will also have growth spurts after that, and many moms with much older children will note periods where their appetites are insatiable, and they outgrow their clothes in a matter of weeks. But generally, these changes are easier to manage in older toddlers and children.
READ MORE: Five basic tips for breastfeeding
A baby going through a growth spurt is typically fussier and wants to feed more often. The rapid growth may also affect baby’s nap times and sleep routine. Sometimes a growth spurt is accompanied by a new milestone.
How long does it last?
Typically, a growth spurt will last 2-3 days, though some can take a week or longer to resolve, especially as baby grows a bit older.
Will growth spurts come at specific times?
Growth spurts can happen at any time (as all babies grow at an individual rate). But there are some times in the first year of life where growth spurts are common and well-documented:
- 7-10 days after birth (for some babies at 10-14 days)
- Between 3-6 wees
- 3 months
- 4 months (often accompanied by a sleep regression)
- 6 months (when they start sitting and eating solid foods)
- 9 months (when they start crawling)
Remember that some babies may not show obvious growth spurts. This is also fine; your clinic sister will record baby’s weight, height, and head circumference measurements, and will be able to alert you if there are any growth problems.
Are growth spurts linked to breastfeeding only?
No, they are not; all babies will experience growth spurts. However, as mom’s body makes milk on demand, she may need to practice a bit more patience during the process. It will take a day or two for her system to speed up milk production to fulfil baby’s new requirements. During this time baby will want to feed more frequently.
If a baby is formula feeding mom may notice that baby seems to want more milk once a bottle is finished.
So, how should you handle this change?
Follow baby’s queues. And the matter of growth spurts really explains why so many books and parenting theories that teach set routines for babies of certain ages simply doesn’t work. Because not only are all babies different, but different babies will go through periods where they have different needs.
If you are breastfeeding, allow your baby to feed on demand. Throw the clock out of the room and clear your diary of other obligations. By doing this your own supply will increase and things should settle in a few days.
What should you not do?
Many mothers interpret growth spurts as their breastmilk lacking nutrition or think that their milk supply us busy drying up. For this reason, they may choose to start topping baby up with formula milk. And sadly, this often is the beginning of the end of breastfeeding. By giving extra formula to a breastfed baby your own body will never get queues to produce more milk, and your own supply will truly be affected.
A last word of advice – trust your body and trust the process of breastfeeding. There will be days where it feels like you are not getting anything done. But remember that you are busy with your biggest and most important job ever, which is raising a child. And any mom will tell you that this is a full-time position, with a fair amount of (unpaid) overtime required. Once again, hang in there mama. As with so many other parenting problems this, too, shall pass.