See if this scenario sounds at all familiar: You’ve delivered your baby and are at home, and successfully breastfeeding.Though you may have had a bumpy start, some weeks have passed and things are beginning to settle down. You and your baby are both getting the hang of it.
Suddenly, with no warning when your baby is about three weeks old, all holy breastfeeding hell seems to break loose.
Your previously happy, contented baby seems insatiable. He wants to eat constantly, all day and night, for a day or two. Or every afternoon, all afternoon, for days on end. You are exhausted and worried. And to top things off, now your baby is fussing more. Or she seems so sleepy you can hardly wake her to maintain a routine. You feed her, she drifts off to sleep and 30 or 20 or even 15 minutes later ….. waaaaaaaaa.
“Well, she can’t be hungry. I just fed her,” you tell your spouse, partner, mother, mother-in-law or friend, who’s anxiously worrying beside you. But lo and behold, you offer the breast and she nurses again for another 20 minutes.
UH OH. What’s going on here?
Your new baby is experiencing his first growth spurt.
If you’re like most concerned new mothers your first thought is likely to be “There must be something wrong with my milk? “Maybe my milk is dried up? Maybe I’m not making enough milk.” You wonder out loud “Why is he crying when I just fed him. He didn’t do this last week.”
“Maybe I should give him some formula?”
Noooooooo I’m shouting. (Can you hear me from way over here?) Please don’t substitute, or even supplement your baby, with artificial milk. If you do you will be shortcutting your baby’s first growth spurt and an ingrained, biological way to tell your body “Mommy, I need more milk,” and potentially putting your milk supply, and your nursing career, in jeopardy.
Your baby’s frequent nursing is completely normal and has all the marks of her first growth spurt. In fact, she’ll experience this seemingly insatiable demand several times in her first year –at roughly week 3, again at week 6 and then at 3 months and 6 months. ( Mark a calendar NOW to remind you.) Without words and very insistently, your baby is telling your body to increase the milk supply to meet the needs of her growing body and brain. Pretty amazing, right?
So, don’t be temped to reach for the formula. Ride out the growth spurt. Accept help from a postpartum doula, family member or friend this week. Limit activities for a few days so you can catch up on sleep when your baby sleeps. And remember that each feeding is helping your baby to grow with the goal of approximately tripling her birth weight by the end of year one.
Now go share this knowledge (and this blog) with another breastfeeding mom. And then take a nap.
Contact Elaine at 973-291-8200. Email Elaine@tendertimesdoula.com. Visit my website here.