Managing Growth Spurts

All babies grow and develop at different paces but you can identify when there are trends of growth happening. We can predict when these are likely to occur but as each mum and baby partnership are unique not all babies have read the instruction book and sometimes babies will have a spurt that is unexplainable. Here are a few that we know about to help you along the way.

What is known

Babies lose weight after birth – part of this is extra fluid from mum’s circulation that was transferred during delivery and placenta. From your baby’s point they are adapting to life outside the womb, start to use up calories and fat stores to keep warm, breathe, metabolise milk to meet the brain and body energy demands. For the first time their body and organs need to function independently of mum.

In the first few days the milk that baby receives is colostrum which is high in immunological factors dense in energy and babies have to fall back and use their fat stores laid down during pregnancy until mums milk comes to volume. This is all that is needed for the healthy term breastfeeding baby.


Day 3 growth spurt

Coming to volume occurs around 3 – 5 days after birth and around the 3rd day this is often the first growth spurt when babies start to feed and receive greater quantities of milk. They may cluster feed and it is normal to feed for up to an hour and frequently every couple of hours. It’s an opportunity to gets lots of breastfeeding practice so if you are not sure then chat to your midwife, to reassure you that you have baby latched on well, feeding is comfortable and that the signs of lots of milk are monitored in the baby’s nappy, with the amount and wetness of urine and how the stool changes from meconium to changing stool to a soft mustard coloured breastfeeding stool.


Baby’s weight loss in first two weeks

It is normal for babies to lose less than 10% of their birth weight but occasionally they lose more. Your midwife will have done a feeding assessment around 3- 5 days of age and weigh your baby, she may call again and repeat a few days later. At the later feeding assessment your baby will have started to gain weight – if they are not feeding well, jaundiced this may change this pace and your midwife will advise you, giving you tips to feed more frequently, what to check for in the nappies and how to support you nursing.


3 week growth spurt

The second more substantial growth spurt occurs around your bay’s 3rd week post birth. Your milk supply is establishing and you have a copious amount as it is still adapting on a supply and demand in accordance with your baby’s needs.

You may find that you feel positive with nursing, your baby had established frequent but regular feeds, you felt more confident with the positioning and latching on and the tender nipples resolving and all of a sudden your baby just wants to feed and is rooting all the time and feeding from both breasts.

This doesn’t mean that your milk supply has dipped or that you cannot satisfy your baby it’s just a huge developmental growth spurt.

It may last a few days, a week or two so just go with the flow.

The other main growth phases occur around 3 months of age and this is when they go through a brain development surge as well as physical growth.

This growth spurt at 3 months is the one that many mums feel insecure with. The breasts have adapted to produce milk in response to their baby’s needs, and the fullness associated with the early few weeks has now resolved with the breasts softer and only feeling full if mum has had extended times between feeds, or missed a feed. From 5-6 weeks after birth the breasts soften but still produce the same milk volume, this is individual to each mum but your milk cells work now by hormone regulation alongside supply and demand.

It is normal for babies to appear hungry and want feeding more frequently and it is not a sign that you don’t have enough milk for your baby or that you should start looking at introducing solids. This should be only after 6 months of age – until then all your baby needs is breastmilk.

It may also coincide with your baby’s 2nd immunisations. Whilst your baby will not have symptoms of the vaccines some babies are just out of sorts, have a mild fever or tenderness at the vaccine site, they will want to nurse more frequently and maybe for shorter burst. This is because breastfeeding is so much more than food – it’s a time of reassurance, being close to mum, feeling safe and secure, taking the pain and soreness away.

It may also be the tooth buds moving under the gums – leading to teething and gum and ear tenderness.


How to manage the growth spurts.

  • Be prepared – especially after you are discharged from hospital, you both need time to get to know each other, so ask family to help out with taking siblings for a few hours, with the ironing, prepare a few easy meals for the freezer
  • Be realistic – don’t plan a vacation, family gathering , christening, spring clean etc.
    • All you are going to do is nurse and be available 24 x7 for a few days
    • It is tough and tiring, but it does get better.
    • Rest and put your feet up where you can – look at taking a feeding moon – cat napping when your baby rest and sleep
    • It is only for a few days and then it settles down again.
    • You will have enough milk for your baby – the more you nurse the more milk you make
    • Get the family to support you, and be positive, explain to family members what is happening so that they know what to expect so that they don’t give you conflicting advice, things have changed and there are great resources around weaning for the extended family.

If you are not to sure you can always call upon your health visitor, peer support or national breastfeeding helplines to chat about any concerns or questions you may have. Do also remember we are here to answer your breastfeeding questions at our weekly drop-in-clinic on Facebook.