All About Baby Growth Spurts
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Remember that out-of-nowhere surge in growth you experienced during your teen years, when all of a sudden, your pants were too short and there was never enough food in the refrigerator? Well, infants go through the same thing—over and over again during their first year! Learn what baby growth spurts are, how they affect your baby, and what you can do to ride the storm—and settle the rocky seas!
Ages of Baby Growth Spurts
Your little one will go through many growth spurts during their first year. In fact, your baby will grow about 10 inches and triple their weight by their first birthday! But don’t confuse these growth spurts with developmental milestones. While they can sometimes overlap—and result in sleep-loss—developmental milestones revolve around acquiring cognitive, language, social/emotional, and motor skills. But a growth spurt is all about quickly occurring physical changes. Growth spurts can happen at almost any time, but infants generally experience their very first growth spurt at around seven to 10 days old. The next one usually strikes between 3 weeks and 6 weeks, followed by another at 8 weeks. After that, many babies follow an every-three-month pattern of a growth spurt at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months.
First Year Growth Spurt Cheat Sheet
While every precious baby is a bit different, this is generally when baby growth spurts occur:
- 7 to 10 days old
- 3 to 6 weeks old
- 8 weeks
- 3 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months
How long do growth spurts last?
While your baby’s growth spurts may feel like they stretch on for an eternity, they don’t last very long at all! For babies, you’re looking at maybe three days per growth spurt. And for toddlers, a growth spurt can continue for up to a week.
Signs Your Baby is Going Through a Growth Spurt
Some of the biggest telltales that your baby is going through a growth spurt are changes in their appetite, fussiness, and sleep patterns. Here are some growth spurt signs to look for:
Hunger: When your baby is going through a growth spurt, you can expect an increase in hunger cues, like rooting. (Rooting is when your little one turns their head and opens their mouth when you touch their cheek near their mouth.) Right along with hunger cues, is an uptick in appetite…which may show up as two to four days of—what feels like—non-stop nursing sessions! (Learn more signs your little one is hungry.) When infants are super-hungry, breastfeeding parents often worry that they’re not making enough breast milk. If you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant for reassurance or help.
Sleep changes: Some parents notice that their baby is especially snoozy during a growth spurt. In fact, research has shown that growth spurts often occur within two days of the increased sleep. But since nothing involving parenting is 100% predictable, other parents notice that their little ones sleep less during a growth spurt! This may mean your baby wakes more during the night because they’re so hungry. You may also notice that your bub temporarily resists naps or takes shorter daytime snoozes than usual.
A bit more fussing: You may also notice that your normally smiley baby is suddenly Little Miss/Mr. Grouchy Pants. The change in mood could be a reaction to their body stretching and growing…or maybe it’s because they’re extra hungry or extra tired! (More on how to calm an extremely fussy newborn.)
Feeding Strategies and Growth Spurts
Just like the hungry teenagers they will become, infants have massive appetites when they’re going through a growth spurt. Here are a few strategies for satisfying your baby’s ravenous appetite:
Alternate often: Cluster feedings, which are back-to-back nursing sessions, normally peak during your baby’s first growth spurt, between 3 and 6 weeks old. While this seemingly nonstop chow-down often prompts new parents to worry that they’re not making enough breast milk, rest assured that babies demand cluster feedings during growth spurts to help ensure there’s enough breast milk to support their rapid growth. To help, try alternating breasts every 5 to 7 minutes during a feeding. This practice can often fill hungry babies better. (Infant formula tends to be more slowly digested than breast milk, so your formula-fed baby may not cluster feed.)
Increase daytime feeds: One of the best ways to help a baby who’s losing sleep because of a growth spurt is to encourage more daytime eating. Try giving your sweet baby a series of quick milky meals every 1 to 2 hours to help load their system with the calories they need to help keep them well-stocked with nutrition through the night.
Consider a dream feed: Dream feeding is when you gently rouse your baby—without fully waking them up—to feed them one more time before you turn in for the night. Research shows that sneaking in an extra feed between 10pm and midnight can reduce night wakings, which is especially helpful during a growth spurt.
How the 5 S’s Help with Growth Spurts
The 5 S’s—swaddling, shushing (white noise), swinging, sucking, and holding Baby in the side/stomach positions—are proven ways to activate a young baby’s natural calming reflex, which is a primal neurological response deep in the brain that acts like an “off switch” for fussing and an “on switch” for sweet slumber. These simple helpers work like magic…even during a growth spurt! In fact, regularly using the 5 S’s from the start can help prevent sleep problems triggered by growth spurts. While it’s true that a newborn’s innate calming reflex fades about four months after birth, older babies continue to respond to the sleep- and calm-inducing lull of the 5 S’s due to something called “learned expectations.” So, your baby now expects to feel calm or sleepy when they, say, get rocked or listen to white noise. That means when your baby—who is no longer swaddled—goes through their 9-month growth spurt, low, rumbly white noise will become your child’s key calming and sleepytime cue to help little ones (and you!) weather any sleep disruption, including growth spurts.
Is sleep regression and a growth spurt the same?
Growth spurts can often bring about sleep issues, but sleep regression and growth spurts are not exactly the same thing. While growth spurts are centered around physical growth, sleep regression is about cognitive and mental growth. Learn more about the common 3- or 4-month sleep regression, the 8- or 9-month sleep regression, and even toddler sleep regression.
More on Baby Growth & Development
- The Developmental Leap From 4 Days to 4 Months Old
- Low-Fuss Cognitive Activities for Toddlers
- Help Your Toddler Express Their Feelings
- Your Baby’s Vision Development (and How to Spot Problems)
- How Kids Learn to Play
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.