Number 14—Your baby is having a growth spurt.
It can be overwhelming and nerve-racking for new parents when their baby seems to want to eat and eat and eat. But there are many reasons why your baby wants to nurse again, and all of them are okay, healthy and normal.
Breastfeeding is so much more than just giving your baby food to satisfy hunger. Breastfeeding patterns and length of time at the breast change with your growing child, from day to day and month to month, so hang tight!
The best thing you can do as a new mama is respond to your little squirming babe the way your instincts tell you, and stick them back on the breast.
Here are 16 reasons why your baby may want to nurse again:
1. Your baby is learning
As natural as breastfeeding is, you and your baby have some things to learn, and the more practice you both have, the better you will both get at this.
2. Your baby is adjusting to extrauterine life
Infants have immature nervous systems, and after a full day of taking in new sounds, smells, and sights, they’ve seriously had enough, and just start to cry (this is sometimes referred to as the “witching hour”).
This doesn’t mean you have less milk (you typically have more fatty milk later on in the day), but you may have less of a flow. Nursing and suckling is what will help calm him. He needs his mama (and her breasts) to help him adjust.
3. Your breast storage capacity
Almost all mothers can make enough milk for their babies, but the amount we can store varies. If you are a small breasted woman, your baby may need to feed more frequently throughout the day and your child may empty both of your breasts at each feeding. Small breasts may be able to hold a smaller capacity of milk, but they do make the same amount as larger breasts.
4. Your baby is not latching well
It is possible your baby has a lip and/or tongue tie, or just a shallow latch. If you are in pain, if the baby seems to slip off the breast, if your nipple comes out flattened like the top of a lipstick, if the baby has slow weight gain, and you have very very long feedings, you may want to reach out to a lactation consultant and pediatrician to have his latch and mouth checked.
5. Your baby is setting the pace
Your baby decides how much and how long he wants to nurse. By feeding more frequently, your baby is boosting your supply, and also increasing the fat content in the breastmilk. The longer you wait in between feeds, the lower the fat content. If your baby wants to feed again, follow his lead, and know he is setting his own pace.
6. Your baby’s stomach size
When your baby is born, his stomach is the size of a marble, and he needs to feed small amounts ALL THE TIME. As he and his stomach grow, this will affect how much milk he takes in and how many times a day he will need to feed.
7. Your baby wants comfort
There is nothing more comforting to a baby than to be close to her mama. Any stress, changes in life or routine, new developmental stage, etc. are all reasons to need mama and her boobs for love, reassurance and security.
8. Your baby is in pain
Any sort of discomfort or pain, your baby will want you, and will feel the most relaxed and calm on your breast. Oxytocin—the hormone produced when you breastfeed (otherwise know as the “love hormone)”—is the best.
9. Your baby is tired
Breastmilk has components that help babies feel calm, full, and fall asleep. Often your baby will ask to nurse because he is sleepy and needs some of his mama milk to help him get there. Sleep for your baby happens most easily right on you.
10. Your baby is thirsty
As your kiddo starts to move around and become more of a big kid than a newborn, they get thirsty. Nursing for thirst is a-ok.
11. Your baby is getting sick or is already sick.
An increase in frequency can precede a sickness for your little one. This will provide your baby with immunity and antibodies to fight it off. Or, once your child is sick, he may want to spend the whole day on your breast. Nothing makes him feel better than warm milk and his mama’s warm body.
The best part is that bacteria from your baby’s mouth actually goes into your breast and changes your milk to fight off exactly what he has. Plus, hydration is always best when your baby is sick.
12. Your baby wants to suck.
This does not mean he is “using you as a pacifier.” As stated in Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice by , “Breastfeeding is the natural outlet for a child’s sucking urge until this urge is outgrown.” Plus, having your baby suckle releases oxytocin for you and for baby so you both feel totally awesome and creates the best mama and infant attachment.
13. Your milk supply needs a boost.
If your supply has decreased for whatever reason, you may find your baby doing more frequent feeds. To make more milk, you need to empty your breasts more. It is supply and demand, and your babe is a smart cookie.
14. Your baby is having a growth spurt.
When your baby is going through a growth spurt, they feed more frequently, which will adjust your supply to give them what they need. Expect a few along your breastfeeding journey, typically around 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and around 3 months.
15. Your baby is catching up.
If you had a super sleepy baby or medicated birth, you may find it’s difficult to get the baby to nurse at first. Then they start to wake up, and you can’t seem to get him to STOP nursing. He is probably just catching up!
When your babe is a bit older, typically around three months, he will be distracted by everything around him in life where you may have a VERY long feeding or a few of them to catch up after what he missed all day.
16. Your milk tastes good! Simple as that.
Trust yourself and trust your baby. As long as your baby continues to have good output (lots of poops and pees), is healthy and generally happy, does not seem to be in pain, and gains weight appropriately, frequent feedings do not mean low supply.
Try to adjust the expectations you have heard from friends, your mother-in-law, or modern western culture so you do not put any extra pressure on yourself. Don’t watch the clock and don’t compare your breastfeeding journey to your best bud’s.
Keep in mind the important facts: healthy babies nurse at a minimum of 8-12 times in 24-hours. Remember that in order to make milk you need to fully and frequently empty your breasts, and setting a schedule or limiting feedings will actually be harmful to your supply and your growing baby.
When you nurse your baby when he’s telling you he wants to, you are fulfilling his emotional and physical needs—remind yourself that YOU ARE AMAZING.
You are doing exactly what your baby needs and wants. You’re a great mama.