Question: My seven week old baby girl wants to nurse constantly from the hours of 5:00 pm until she goes to bed, which is normally around 11:00 pm. What is causing the constant eating? Is she getting enough from me to satisfy her? She wants to nurse again 45 minutes to an hour after she finishes eating. Please help!
Answer: It is completely normal for a baby this age to still nurse frequently. Your baby will double her birth weight by the time she is five or six months old, and triple it by a year. That’s a lot of growing to do in these early months!
Breastfed babies do tend to nurse more often because human milk is more easily digested than formula, and empties from their stomachs faster. This means more frequent feedings, but less colic, illness, constipation, and allergies.
All babies will start going longer stretches between feedings as they get older, but the timetable is different for each baby. Is your baby gaining weight adequately? That’s really the most important thing at this point.
Babies will periodically go on “growth spurts” during the early months of nursing. This means that they are growing so quickly that your milk supply needs to increase to meet their demands. The most common time for growth spurts is around 10 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months. The best way to boost your milk production is by nursing more often for a few days (“Cluster Feeding”) until the supply catches up. She may be going through one of these growth spurts now.
It is also a very common pattern for babies to have their fussiest period of the day during the hours from dinnertime til bedtime. For some reason, they will fight sleep even when their eyelids are drooping and you KNOW they must be exhausted. This nightly period of cluster feeding and fighting sleep also coincides with the time of day when you are the most tired, your milk supply is lowest, and you are trying to cook dinner and spend some time with your partner. I know that is is a frustrating situation for you, but maybe knowing how common is it and that it won’t last forever will make you feel a little bit better. Eventually your baby will be on more of a predictable schedule, I promise.
Anne Smith, IBCLC