Growth Spurts - understanding them and coping with them!
You new baby grows at an incredible rate. They are gaining around 1.5-2lbs (up to 1kg) and growing 2.5-4cm per month. Add to this their brain development, it doubles in size the first year and they are creating millions of new neural connections every day!
In order to do all this your baby needs a lot of energy and nutrients, and that means lots of feeding.
Growth spurts are a natural part of development occurring surprisingly frequently and ensuring your baby’s physical and mental development is on track with short, intense bursts of growth. But if you aren’t prepared and aware of them it can send you into a bit of a panic.
When to expect a growth spurt?
Well, of course all babies are different but newborns are reasonably predictable so we can estimate when you might see some growth spurt signs. If you don’t, don’t worry your baby might be a little different in their timing or maybe they managed it in a way that you didn’t need to notice.
Typically growth spurts are noticed around 3, 6, 9 and 12 weeks. Then around 4, 6 and 9 months. But you won’t be done! Growth spurts continue through childhood as your little one asks for more and more food at times.
Your baby will be hungrier than usual, so you can expect an increase in the number of feeds, don’t panic this isn’t a long term change! Your baby just wants more calories and nutrients to help this little burst of growth happen.
If you aren’t expecting a growth spurt or don’t know that your baby will feed more frequently it can be a little worrying, especially if you are breastfeeding. In those early weeks and months lots of mums worry about whether their baby is getting enough milk and gaining weight so if your baby suddenly seems really hungry, wants more feeds and is getting impatient then it is natural to start doubting yourself and your milk production.
Fear not! Chances are if you are doing ok up to now with feeding this is a growth spurt and you will ride it out.
The increase in feeds will likely mean your baby waking more frequently in the night (sorry!) and they might seem a bit fussier or more clingy than normal. If there is lots going on in their development (learning skills, more awareness of the world) it is normal for them to be a bit unsettled and need you more. Their brains are processing so much new information and just like when we have a lot on our minds, sleep can be more disrupted.
Typically a growth spurt only lasts for a few days. Some of the later ones might be a week or so. I know when you are in the midst of lots of feeds and less sleep it is hard to see a way out but honestly, this will not be your new reality. Things will settle and this new little unsettled person will go back to their happy self again.
How do I know what is going on?
Honestly when it comes to babies we can never be 100% certain we get it right! If your baby seems to want more milk and is unsettled then there is a good chance it is a growth spurt. Babies do also get fussier when they are experiencing a developmental leap – big changes in their awareness or skills. This can appear much the same in that your baby wakes more, needs you more and wants to feed more. Babies love sucking, it calms and settles them so if they are unsettled sucking can help. Plus if you are breastfeeding that extra time at the breast will help them connect with you and feel reassured. If you are bottle feeding the closeness of feed times will again help your baby calm and settle.
If you are unsure or are concerned about your baby’s feeds and weight gain do seek advice. You can contact your health visitor, local feeding group (breastfeeding groups will still see if you are bottle feeding), lactation consultant or the National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212.
What can I do?
The answer is easy but the practicality of it might not be so!
Go with it and follow your baby’s lead. Feed responsively when they want to, trust your baby. Breastfed babies cannot overfeed, they know when to stop and when they need more but also that time at the breast offers so much more than just milk.
If you bottle feed try and do paced feeding where you let baby take the lead with baby upright and the bottle horizontal so they need to work a little to get the milk. You can also take regular pauses to see if they want more milk or are done.
Look after yourself. If you are finding it tough to feed more and sleep less (who doesn’t??) maybe think about calling in some help for a few days. It can be exhausting and overwhelming when you struggle to put your baby down and need to feed often. You might be out of the newborn phase and getting out and about and on with your life so you might need to slow down for a few days and get back to the mindset of time on the sofa with your baby.
If someone can give you a hand, prep some meals or help around the house it will take the pressure off. Hopefully they could also give you chance to nap or rest!
And remember you are doing a brilliant job caring for your baby. There will be tough days and days where you wonder what on earth you are doing and how, but you are just the person your baby needs to be caring for them and there will also be days of joy and fun to balance out the hard ones.
If you want some company check out the baby classes I offer