Baby Care Question: My 3 Week Old is Suddenly Irritable - Sunday Hug

Baby Care Question: My 3 Week Old is Suddenly Irritable

This is a relatively common scenario that many parents of a baby might face:

- The child has not slept for several hours.
- The baby is sleeping then looking for milk, sleeping then looking for milk... and this is all that they have done for over 6 hours.
- Suddenly, the child becomes annoyed and latches on to their mother’s breast.

baby crying
Your child is not sick, but their irritability has increased. Do they keep eating and eating and eating? If their sleeping pattern has also changed, this is likely down to a surge in growth. The period when babies seek milk more often than usual to grow is called the 'growth surge'.
Growth spikes in babies can occur at 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 fed well since they were a newborn, then they might experience their growth spikes earlier.
Tip: Depending on your baby's growth and weight at birth, keep in mind that the peak growth period can vary by one to two weeks. Also, the fact that there is a growth surge is evidence that your baby is growing well! It might be embarrassing or difficult to understanding this sudden change in your child, but with a bit of patience you can manage this growth spurt.

How long does the growth surge last for?

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

How can I deal with rapid growth in my breastfeeding baby?

If you are a full-time carer for your child, don’t worry about the lactation period for a while, and breastfeed as your child seems to require.

Your baby's belly has expanded, but the mother's production of milk may not have increased at the same speed, so for a while there may be an imbalance between the two. If you feed the baby frequently, the mother's milk will naturally increase as well.
After a period of rapid growth, a period of growth stagnation comes. During this process, the breastfeeding period and the amount of breast milk naturally match, so don't worry too much, and feed your baby often.

How can I deal with the rapid growth in my formula-fed baby?

You might have given as much milk as your baby normally eats, but your child still asks for more. It is usually 3 hours between feedings, but after 1 or 2 hours, you might be looking for formula. What should you do in this case?

Babies who are breastfed can breastfeed as often as possible, but babies who are formula-fed should follow the lactation period. Breast milk is digested and absorbed quickly, so even if your baby eats a lot, it does not cause much trouble. However, because formula stays in the stomach for a long time, it can make your child feel very full and uncomfortable.

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 you 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 using the same amount of formula as before. If your child cries and you determine that they are hungry and therefore need to eat more formula in 1-2 hours, increase the amount of formula by 10-20ml every few days, little by little.
The formula for calculating the amount of milk per serving is about your baby’s weight (rounded up) multiplied by 20ml. You should try and maintain the feeding periods to an extent.


Author: Kwon Hyang-hwa

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