Growth spurts

Is my baby having a growth spurt?

The baby may breastfeed more often than usual on one day and then less than usual on the next. They then go back to their usual breastfeeding pattern. This is normal. Such days are not predictable or related to a certain age of the baby. While possible, there is no evidence yet that such days are related to growth spurts. 

A) Describing frequency days

1) The frequency day

Most babies have the occasional day or two when they feed frequently and take in a lot of milk, leaving the breasts feeling soft. These have been described as frequency days and are an example of a normal breastfeeding pattern. Other than feeding more often, their behaviour does not change significantly on such days.

2) After the frequency day

The frequent feeding will increase the milk supply. After the frequency day is done, babies may feed less often for a day or two as there is more milk available in the breast. In addition, the babies might still be a little full after taking in a lot of milk on the frequency day. This may leave mothers feeling full.

There is no ideal name for these days; we will just call them infrequent days.

3) Return to the usual pattern 

After the infrequent day(s), babies will return to their usual breastfeeding patterns.

4) When it is not a frequency day

If babies continue to suddenly feed more often for more than two days, it is unlikely to be a frequency day. Rather there might be a change in the baby’s health or a decrease in the amount of milk available to the baby. In this situation, the baby is also likely to be less happy than normal.

B) The lack of evidence for growth spurts related to frequency

There is evidence that babies brains and bodies grow in jumps (growth spurts) and not slowly and steadily (Lampl 2011; Lampl 1993) and the timing of these spurts varies between babies (Lampl 2001).

While possible, these is no research showing that frequency days are related to growth spurts.

Mothers are often told to expect a growth spurt around a certain age. Growth charts, which show the growth patterns of normal, healthy, well-fed babies, do not show any predictable pattern of occasional sudden growth followed by slower growth.

References

Lampl M. Evidence of saltatory growth in infancy. Am J Hum Biol. 1993;5(6):641-652
 
Lampl M, Johnson ML. Infant head circumference growth is saltatory and coupled to length growth. Early Hum Dev. 2011 May;87(5):361-8
 
Lampl M, Johnson ML, Frongillo EA Jr. Mixed distribution analysis identifies saltation and stasis growth. Ann Hum Biol. 2001 Jul-Aug;28(4):403-11