Baby Growth Spurts: When They Happen And Signs To Watch For
You’ve probably heard of baby growth spurts. But when should they happen and what should you do about them?
This article will help you understand what’s really going on in your little one during a growth spurt, how to anticipate these phases, and how best to deal with them.
Table Of Contents
- What Are Growth Spurts?
- When To Expect Growth Spurts
- 4 Signs Of An Imminent Growth Spurt
- How To Deal With Baby Growth Spurts
- How Long Will Growth Spurts Continue?
What Are Growth Spurts?
Baby growth spurts are natural, concentrated periods of rapid growth when an infant gains weight and increases in length. But to do that, your little one will need to fuel that growth by eating more and giving their body downtime to focus on it.
Think of what your baby is accomplishing in a short period of time:
- Their muscles are taking shape and enlarging.
- Their bones are developing and lengthening.
- They’re laying down stores of fat that will help fuel more future rapid growth.
Growth spurts appear to depend on genetics. The same genes that dictate how tall your little one will eventually be also seem to trigger how quickly — and when — they will get there. Of course, it’s not their genes alone that control intense bursts of growth.
Diet, nutrition, general health, and exposure to or avoidance of toxins, such as lead, can affect a baby’s growth. So while growth spurts are normal and pretty much unavoidable, you can help your little one make the most of them and continue to develop in a healthy manner.
But when should you expect them?
When To Expect Growth Spurts
Your baby’s unique. So your experience with growth spurts will also be unique. And it’s good to keep in mind that there’s a difference between growth spurts and developmental milestones, even if they are related.
For example, weight and length increases characterize growth spurts. They are signs of physical development, but they also lay a solid foundation for the motor and cognitive skills your baby will achieve.
Head growth is super fast in infancy as the brain grows rapidly. With that comes brain growth and cognitive advancement, as your baby learns to interpret the world and interact with it. Developmental milestones focus on your little one’s ability to think, move, and play.
So the two types of advancement — growth and skills — are related but don’t necessarily occur at the same time. That said, there are some general time periods where you can be on the lookout for a baby to experience a growth spurt.
Basically, expect a lot to happen in year one. An average baby will grow almost a foot and triple their birth weight! In that year, the first period to watch out for is the most obvious: the first seven to 10 days.
Your little one will be coming off the growth pause they hit as they entered the world and switched from steady placental nutrition to a new method of nourishing their body.
Babies normally lose weight in the first five days, then quickly make up for it by putting weight on quickly in the next five or so.
Other periods to expect a growth spurt:
- 3 weeks
- 6 to 8 weeks
- 3 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
Keep in mind that these are approximate ranges that your baby may totally ignore. So don’t be upset if nothing immediately happens when your little one reaches these ages without suddenly sprouting up. Instead, be alert to signs that a growth spurt’s imminent.
4 Signs Of An Imminent Growth Spurt
One sign of an imminent growth spurt is when your baby goes from having a modest appetite to being ravenous. Some babies seem to want to eat constantly.
If your baby is nursing, this increased feeding will stimulate more milk production. If your baby is older and taking solid foods, they may demand more of them, too.
Though your baby’s body will generally need more sleep during a growth spurt, often sleep interruptions indicate your baby is in super growth mode. This may be due to increased appetite and wanting to feed in the middle of the night or during nap time instead of sleeping.
However, some babies seem to have received their body’s “need more sleep to grow bone and muscle” memo. So you may notice your little one taking longer naps or sleeping longer in the morning. Each child is different, though the root cause is the same.
Expect your baby to have a lot more feelings during a growth spurt.
It might seem odd for an infant to be emotional, but your little one is experiencing some tough stuff for the first time: hunger, sleep interruptions, and perhaps even physical discomfort as their body quickly changes.
No wonder they might be grumpy!
This may also happen while they are eating. Nursing babies will often latch and unlatch, trying to get extra milk that may not be immediately available.
As your baby gets older, growth spurts may coincide with teething, generating another set of indicators or exaggerating existing ones. Teething symptoms can include irritability, slight fever, constant gnawing, and lots of drooling.
How To Deal With Baby Growth Spurts
If you notice a growth spurt coming on, there are a few ways to help your baby through it.
1) Feed Your Baby
It sounds obvious, but if your baby is extra hungry, feed them! Don’t worry at this stage about them taking in too much. They’re fueling a tremendous building project.
If you’re breastfeeding, feed on demand. You may hear this described as cluster feeding, which is when your baby suddenly seeks many feedings over a short period of time. Your body will quickly adjust your milk supply to compensate.
If you’re using formula, offer a little extra if they seem hungry. This insatiable appetite stage usually only lasts a few days.
2) Help Them Sleep
Sleep can be a challenge. As we mentioned, during a growth spurt, they’ll need more of it, but they’ll also be less likely to sleep well.
Try to keep good nighttime and nap rituals. It may take longer to get them to sleep or to get them back to sleep once they’ve woken for that extra snack.
To help, make sure your baby has the best possible sleep environment. This includes a breathable, washable mattress, like the Newton Baby Crib Mattress.
You can even think ahead and make plans for where their growth will take them by considering convertible cribs that can keep them sleeping soundly as their body stretches and outgrows a crib.
3) Patiently Ride The Emotional Rollercoaster
Once you have a context for understanding your baby’s sudden personality change, you can focus on how to help them through it. They have no idea what they’re going through or why, so your reassurance can really help.
Set aside extra time to soothe and cuddle them. Singing, rocking, rhythmic back pats, outdoor excursions — experiment to find which best helps your little one settle down and make it through their body’s sudden development sprints.
How Long Do Growth Spurts Last?
Each growth spurt your baby experiences won’t last that long — usually a period of days to a week. But the phenomena of growth spurts will be with you for a while.
Keep in mind your baby will have completed a ton of growth in year one, so they won’t grow as fast or enter as many growth spurts in as short a period of time after those first 12 months. By the time they are two years old, most children are joining the slow and steady school of growth.
They do still have episodes where growth is more rapid. These may last for a few weeks or even months. Strangely enough, these spurts often happen more in the spring than at other times of the year.
This continues until the big one hits — puberty. Between eight and 13 in girls and 10 and 15 in boys, the mega growth spurt adds weight, height, and body transformation to the mix. But that’s a long way off for your little one!
Making Your Baby’s Growth Spurts Count
Growth spurts are a totally normal and healthy part of your little one’s development. So, be prepared to recognize the signals — increased hunger, fussiness, disrupted sleep, etc. — to help your baby navigate these challenging periods.
As they are experiencing a growth spurt, give them ample food, keep up their sleep routine, and patiently soothe them as they go through the ups and downs of growing.
Providing them with a solid foundation for sleep, like Newton Baby mattresses and beds, will be a big help. With better rest, they’ll get through the few days of discomfort and be back to their normal selves in no time.
With a little extra love and care, your little one will be not-so-little before you know it!