Several moms have asked me questions on this topic, so I thought it would be a good topic to address here. Some nursing moms will come to a crossroads where it seems like their baby is wanting to nurse EVERY.SINGLE.MINUTE, and, understandably, they start to worry.
Is he getting enough milk?
Is she latched on well enough?
Is my milk too low in calories for him?
Is she in pain and nursing for comfort?
It can be a moment of sincere panic for a mom who has been nursing every 2-3 hours and all of a sudden her little nursling never wants to unlatch. But the great news for moms in this situation is that, for the most part, it is TOTALLY NORMAL. Even better, it’s TOTALLY TEMPORARY.
I’m sure everyone has heard the term “growth spurt,” but a lot of us don’t have any context for what that means until we get to a critical breaking point when it seems like all of a sudden, our babies want to eat every 30-60 minutes, not sleep, nurse longer than normal. And this might come with fussiness, frustration, less sleep, squirminess, and just in general a tough few days.
But there’s the beauty of it. A few days. 2-3 days in most cases, a week at most. Babies need to grow rapidly sometimes to help with their development. You can expect a growth spurt to happen at predictable intervals – 3 weeks or so, 6 weeks or so, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 9 months. When these growth spurts happen, your baby is sending very important signals to your body. Baby nursing all the time = “HEY BODY – SEND MORE MILK! WE’RE GROWING HERE!!!” The quantity and type of milk will develop to meet your baby’s developing needs, and that’s pretty amazing. Don’t set your watch by these guidelines – every baby is different – but in general, these are about when you can expect the growth spurts to occur. And as frustrating as they are, they are important and very helpful to furthering your breastfeeding relationship.
A lot of moms are tempted to supplement at the 3 week mark or the 6 week mark when this comes up because they feel like their baby must not be getting enough to eat. TRY TO RESIST THIS URGE. Every feeding you skip is a missed signal to your body to make more. If you absolutely can’t stand it and you just have to take a break, make sure you pump or hand express milk for EVERY MISSED FEEDING. Pumping is not as effective as your baby, but it’s better than a completely missed feeding.
So, how do you know if your baby is truly having a growth spurt and that you really are providing plenty of milk? There are a few important clues to look for. First, output means input. If your baby is peeing and pooping enough, then he is most likely getting plenty of milk. Second, moisture. If she has a moist mouth, tongue, lips, etc., she is likely plenty hydrated. If nothing in these two areas seems amiss, things are probably just fine.
Still not convinced? So, you have ready about growth spurts, but you are still freaking out just a little bit? Call Megan, another breastfeeding counselor in your area, a lactation consultant, an OB or midwife, or a trusted breastfeeding-friendly medical professional. They can talk you through what is happening and help you figure out if everything is ok as it ought to be. And I promise, they would rather you call and feel better about it being nothing than not call and be panicked. They are there for a reason!