You turned six weeks old on Friday. This means many things, but the most all-consuming thing of the sixth week of life is your six-week growth spurt. I lovingly refer to this as the “growth spurt from hell” as it seems to be the most difficult one of all. In happier news, once this growth spurt has passed we move on to the second stage of breastfeeding that I like to call “SUCCESS!”
First, though, we must get through this growth spurt. It is the one where many moms decide that their milk supply is vanishing, that their baby actually hates them (but not as much as baby hates anyone who attempts to hold them without a breast for them to latch onto). You are divinely unpleasant, fussy, and do not believe at all in the idea of sleep. You switch sides constantly and are vocal about your annoyance when there is not enough milk or when there is too much milk. You flail your little limbs in displeasure, and pummel me with your fists while you tsk at me like an angry squirrel.
I know exactly what this is, and exactly how we will pass through it. I know the best practices. I know the reasons. I know that you are getting enough. I know that the contents of my milk adjust across time to meet your needs, and that your fussiness is not because you’re starving but because your body and mine are communicating and modifying my supply to meet your needs. I know that the way that I make this easier for both you and for me is to listen, to go through the motions, to switch you from side to side, to talk to you, to soothe you in all the ways I can, and to soldier on through trusting both your body and mine to do what needs to be done. I know from the poopy and wet diapers that you are putting out that not only are you getting enough, you’re practically drowning in milk. I know that the frequency of your nursing is making sure that you get the highest fat milk from my body.
I know that how you are acting is not an indicator of my supply, nor is it a judgement of my ability to provide for you. It is how breastfeeding works. It is an indication that things are perfect and as nature designed. You nurse frequently to keep me there with you. You nurse frequently to keep my breasts empty so that my body will produce more milk rather than releasing a protein that decreases lactation. You nurse frequently so that the milk you drink is all high fat, not foremilk.You nurse frequently so that your belly will fill more slowly from a less full breast, so that you will digest more slowly and use every iota of what my milk provides for you, rather than gulping it down only to poop it out as quickly as you can eat.
This is communication, not indictment. Success, not failure. Provision, not starvation. I have been through this with each of your brothers, I have read the studies, the information, talked to lactation consultants and can recite all of this backwards in my sleep while you nurse. I’ve read enough about how lactation works to visualize everything that happens as it happens like a 3D medical animation on youtube complete with monotonous droning narration.
None of this makes it any easier. You and I are deeply loved by people that care a tremendous deal about us. No one likes to hear you whimper while you nurse. Your displeasure is obvious. No one likes to see me exhausted with bags under my eyes. No one likes offering to hold you to give me a break and to have you cry moments later because you need to nurse again. Out of love they ask if maybe my milk supply is low. I refer them to the hundred-some ounces of oversupply that fill the basement freezer. To the stack of diapers that disappears so quickly across the day that your growth spurt means we’re turning to disposables as the 27 cloth newborn diapers no longer last even a day. You are eating so much, pooping and peeing so much. You are getting enough. My supply is fine.
This is not starvation. This is growth. I could give you a bottle but you are not the only thing growing and changing. Your milk supply is, too. A bottle might fill up your belly and ease your fussing for a short time, but it just slows the job that needs to be done.
You don’t need a bottle right now. A change in amount is not what you need. You need for the composition of my milk to change and better meet your needs as you make the move from newborn to infant. That is the purpose of this. Your fussiness and my sleep deprivation are the doing of the job that needs to be done.
I can see why so many women give bottles, convinced that their supply is low. When you hear the question once, you can dismiss the idea. When you hear it twice, three times, four times, every day from everyone that loves you and everyone that loves your baby… You start to question everything that you know.
You may wonder why I’m telling you this. It is simple. One day you will have your first baby. One day your first baby will be doing exactly what you are doing now and exactly what nearly every baby throughout time has always done. I want you to know that questioning yourself is normal. This is the third time I’ve been through this. I know more now than I ever have before. I still question myself every step of the way.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that questioning is normal. And that often the answer is that everything is fine. The fussiness will pass. The sleep will return. Your baby will grow. This will pass. Trust yourself. I trust you now in your distant past, at six weeks old. Trust yourself now in your present with your own child as you go through the same dance. Listen to me when I tell you exactly the same thing that I tell you now: You’re doing great, beautiful girl.
You’re doing great.