Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to Survive a Growth Spurt in 4 Easy Steps

Ah, growth spurts. Those few days that feel like a few years, when you have to double-check to make sure you're nursing a baby and not a piranha, when you forget if you've had a shower in the last week and you KNOW you haven't slept.... Yep, fun times.

But have hope! Growth spurts don't last forever (THANK. GOD.), and in the 21st Century, there are all kinds of resources that can help you come out the other side more or less in one piece, with a slightly fatter baby than you had before. Just follow these steps.....

1. Know what to expect!

Forget the What to Expect books; you're a modern woman and you need the latest information delivered electronically to carry you through this 48-hour hell! There are two resources that will be indispensable to you during these spurts: One is the wonderful Kellymom, with all the answers to the desperate questions that will come up at 3am when you're trying to latch that screaming infant and she's just not having it.

The other is the Wonder Weeks app. This magnificent tool gives insight into what is happening, biologically and developmentally, to that adorable, squishy, screaming, voracious infant of yours. It will tell you when to expect growth spurts so that they don't catch you by surprise!

Pro Tip: Keep a phone charger next to your nursing station so that you can access these lovely resources any time you need to without having to relocate.

2. Keep water and snacks within reach

It always happens: you sit down to nurse the baby and as soon as he's latched, you feel hungry and thirsty. But alas! There is no food or drink in sight and you just KNOW this is going to be one of those 45min sessions.... So make sure you have several gallons of bottled water scattered within arm's reach of all your favorite nursing spots. You need to keep replenishing your body's fluids both for your milk supply and for your own health, so drink up! Also consider the type of bottle that you can open with only one hand, in case the other is occupied with baby.

And as for food, it's whatever you want, mama! A little indulgence never hurt anyone, but that said, it's best to pack as much of a nutritional punch as you can into your snacks, since your little bundle of joy is getting all his nutrients from you right now. I always found I felt best when I ate something with protein, which usually meant cheese, nuts, something with nut butter. Trail mix or a good old-fashioned granola bar worked best, although the bars tended to make less mess since they came wrapped and all in one piece! Again, pile those suckers up right next to your nursing station: you don't want to run out!

3. Fire up that Netflix queue!

This is hands-down the best advice I got from another mommy-friend during those early weeks. Seriously, if your baby is going to be nursing non-stop for several days, this is the time for a marathon. Never seen Scrubs? Well, there are 9 seasons, so now is the time. How I Met Your Mother? The Tudors? Battlestar Galactica? Doctor Who? (Whoops, sorry, my geek is showing....) Queue up those guilty pleasure shows (sorry, anyone who did not recently give birth doesn't get a vote), plunk your butt down on the couch and just nurse the baby. Forget the dishes that need washing, the inlaws that need entertaining, and the pile of mail that needs sorting. Enjoy your show and don't worry about anything, unless of course your 3-year-old appears to be attempting to burn down the house.

4. Get your support system in place

Husbands, boyfriends, mothers, sisters, friends, and assorted other helpmates are indispensable during a growth spurt. As mentioned above, you will have neither the free hands nor the time to be dealing with chores or unruly older siblings, so someone else needs to be prepared to step in and take care of these things for you. They will also need to refill your food and water as needed (it does sound a little bit like caring for a pet, doesn't it?), bring you the remote control, change the baby, hold the baby while you take a few minutes to pee or even (GASP) take a shower, and say "Yes, dear" as you wax poetical about what damned liars everyone was to tell you that this breastfeeding thing was natural and easy.

This helper should also become an expert feeding pillow-adjuster, amateur psychiatrist, and foot-massager. Make sure they understand that payment is to be rendered in baby snuggles and a few screams as a bonus. DO NOT HESITATE to ask for help when you need it, no matter how silly the request may seem. If you don't have access to someone to help you in your home, make sure you have people on speed-dial who don't mind you calling at any time for a little venting session. Oh, and don't forget to include your lactation consultant in that call list!

.... and two big DON'Ts to keep in mind during these spurts, too: DON'T supplement without express direction from a knowledgable pediatrician, and DON'T try to put your growing baby on a feeding schedule. Both of these actions can harm your supply and negatively impact your baby's growth. Trust your body to feed your baby by nursing on demand!

These are the growth spurt survival tips that worked for me, but maybe you have some I didn't mention. Share your ideas here or on our Facebook page, and nurse on, mamas!

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