Just when you thought you had settled into a good eat, poop, sleep rhythm with your babe, she suddenly seems to be hungry all the damn time. Cue the worrying: Am I not feeding her enough? Is there something wrong with my supply? Good news, mama: Your baby is probably just going through a growth spurt. And while there’s nothing fun about waking up at 3 a.m. to feed a child who had a very big drink just 45 minutes prior, infant growth spurts are a perfectly normal (and healthy) development. Read on for how to spot the signs your kid is going through one, plus how to cope.
How to Recognize Growth Spurts
You’re used to feeding every two to three hours (or three to four for formula-fed babies) and then out of the blue, your infant totally changes her rhythm. Babies going through a growth spurt will be especially hungry (think: ravenous), and may also exhibit disrupted sleep patterns and extra fussiness, too. (Lucky parents.) They shouldn’t, however, have any signs of illness like fever or vomiting. Infants experiencing a growth spurt may cry whenever the food source is removed from their mouth—a phenomenon known as cluster feeding. Whether you have a baby latched on to your boob for hours at a time or just fear you might develop carpal tunnel from holding a bottle for extended periods—growth spurt feeding can be a real drag. Fortunately, the baby whisperers over at La Leche League say these periods of rapid growth, marked by an insatiable appetite, typically only last for 48 to 72 hours. So hang in there—you will be able to resume your normal schedule soon enough.
When Do Babies Have Growth Spurts?
Good question. Growth spurts happen at fairly predictable intervals, which is great news for anyone (read, everyone) who doesn’t enjoy being blindsided by a rough day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), infants tend to enter growth spurts at the beginning of the second week (roughly 10 days) and then again at three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months. Growth spurts can be disruptive and exhausting, but hopefully, you’ll find some comfort in knowing when one is likely on the horizon and being able to identify it when it begins.
How to Handle Growth Spurts
It might be tempting to stand your ground and refuse to feed a baby that was just guzzling at your breast for what felt like an eternity, but experts say it’s ill-advised. Your baby is crying like a banshee for a crazy amount of food because she actually needs it to support her rapidly growing brain and body. Follow your baby’s feeding cues no matter how onerous they may seem because, per the AAP, “even if you don’t notice any outward growth, her body is changing in important ways and needs extra calories during these times.”
On-demand feeding is particularly important for breastfeeding mothers, whose milk supply changes in both quantity and content based on the needs and nursing patterns of the child. However, the same principle applies to formula and bottle-feeding mothers, with one caveat: While overfeeding is not a risk associated with breastfeeding, which relies on a self-regulating mechanism, it is possible for formula and bottle-fed babies. For this reason, the AAP suggests that mothers who feed their infants from a bottle take a more gradual approach during growth spurts by offering only slightly more than a typical amount of milk or formula whenever the infant demands to be fed.
Worried that your baby isn’t getting enough to eat? The proof is in the diapers. Once your baby is five days old, you should see five to six soaking wet diapers every day, says the AAP. Your pediatrician will also keep track of your infant’s weight gain, another sign that your baby’s growth is on track.