What Do I Do with an Irritable Baby Who is Experiencing a Period of Rapid Growth?

baby crying

Question of the Day

My baby suddenly and frequently wants breast milk. I think my baby has already eaten enough, but they’re still irritable, looking for my chest, and pursing milk with their mouth. But if I continue to breastfeed, my baby might vomit... What should I do?

There are times when babies are particularly obsessed with milk.

This is the time when babies seek milk more often than usual to grow. This period is called the 'growth surge'. Growth spikes in babies can occur around 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months of age.

Of course, the specific timing may vary from baby to baby. If the baby was born before 37 weeks of age, the first growth spike can come at 3-4 weeks of age, and if the baby has been eating well since being a newborn, then their first growth spike may come later.

Depending on your baby's growth and weight at birth, keep in mind that the timing of your baby’s peak growth period can vary by one to two weeks.

The growth spurt at the 3rd and 6th weeks of life is maintained for a period as brief as 5 days, to as long as 10 days. Growth surges at 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months tend to pass more comfortably than the first and second growth surges at 3 weeks and 6 weeks.

 

How will my baby’s behaviour change during the growth period?

- My child has not slept for several hours.
- My baby is sleeping and looking for milk, sleeping and looking for milk, for over 6 hours.
- Suddenly my child becomes annoyed and latches tightly to my breast.

If the child is not sick, but their irritability increases, and they continue to eat and eat and eat and repeat (and potentially not sleeping well between feeding sessions), we can suspect your baby is experiencing a surge in growth. During this time, parents may consider a variety of concerns, such as 'I think it's because of a decrease in milk supply' or 'I think I made a mistake in forming attachments'. They might also think that ‘I blame myself'. But please remember! It is not the mother's fault that the child’s behaviour has suddenly changed.

 

How best to deal with rapid growth in breastfeeding babies?

If so, how should we respond to the baby's rapid growth?

If you are a full-grown mother, forget the lactation period for a while, and breastfeed as your child asks.

Your baby might still be hungry while you’re not able to produce enough milk. At the beginning, there might be an imbalance between the two. If you feed your baby frequently, your milk will naturally increase as well to match your baby’s demands.

After a period of rapid growth, a period of growth stagnation comes. During this process, the breastfeeding demands of your baby and the amount of breast milk you produce naturally match, so don't worry too much, and feed your baby often.

 

How best to deal with the rapid growth of formula-fed babies?

Question:
I gave my baby as much milk as I normally do, but my child asks for more. It’s usually 3 hours between feedings, but after 1 or 2 hours, I have to look for formula. What should I do in this case?

Babies who are breastfed can breastfeed at any time, but for babies who are formula-fed, please follow a set feeding period. Breast milk is digested and absorbed quickly, so even if a baby eats a lot, it will not cause issues for your baby. However, because formula stays in the stomach for a long time, it can make your baby feel very full.

baby sleeping

 

You need to determine if your child is really crying because they want more formula. Will the breastfeeding period be maintained with the amount of milk powder used? Did your child cry simply because of the urge to suck? If so, use a pacifier to satisfy your child's sucking needs while maintaining the same amount of formula.

If your child cries that so much that you suggest that they might need to consume more formula, increase the amount of formula by 10-20ml, making sure that any changes are made little by little. Therefore, the breastfeeding term is kept intact. The formula for calculating the amount of formula per serving is your baby’s weight (rounded up) x 20ml. This follows parenting advice from Director Hyang-Hwa Kwon.

 

My baby is growing rapidly and we need support

Your baby's growth surge is proof that your child is growing well. Of course, mothers will have a hard time with a sudden change in their child. This is because the breastfeeding period is different from the usual, often with reduced sleep, and the irritability of your baby increases.

In the end, time will have to solve this. Rather than overanalyzing what's wrong with you, you need a more relaxed attitude. If your child is urinating properly, it is a sign that they are growing well, so don't worry too much.

Actively ask your family for support and help. At a time like this, it becomes very difficult when someone next to you says something like, “Your baby is tired because you don’t have enough breast milk.” Recognize that there are times when it is inevitable and discuss with your family how to get through this time well. Remind people of exactly what you don't want to hear and think about people can support you through buying a meal or assisting with household chores.

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Author: Kwon Hyang-hwa
- Newborn Childcare Coach
- IBCLC International Breastfeeding Specialist
- Worked as the director of a postpartum care center for 10 years.

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