If you find that your baby is nursing very often or almost nonstop, if they previously slept through the night but are now waking several times or if they start fussing in between feeds by latching and unlatching from the breast or bottle then the chances are that your baby is experiencing a growth spurt and this is their body’s way of preparing for it.
Growth spurts can be a frustrating time for parents, especially when they cause a change to established feeding and sleeping routines, so by gaining a better understanding of what your little one is experiencing, hopefully you will be able to support them through the process and make the transition a little easier for everyone.
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What is a growth spurt?
- What is a growth spurt?
- When do babies get growth spurts?
- Why are babies fussy during growth spurt?
- What are the signs of a growth spurt?
- How long do growth spurts last?
- Is there a difference between bottle fed and breastfed growth spurts?
- 5 tips on how to cope with a growth spurt.
Most commonly, a growth spurt is a rapid rise in height and weight. They are most noticeable during a baby’s first year and then later in the teenage years due to puberty. Growth spurts will continue to take place in between these ages but will be less obvious. Most commonly, a growth spurt will lead to a baby gaining weight but can also involve a developmental leap and by the end of a growth spurt your baby will not only be bigger but may have also learned a new skill to surprise you with.
When do babies get growth spurts?
Growth spurts can be expected during their first few days, 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months. Of course this won’t be exact and factors such as baby’s due date and their development can impact when your baby will actually experience their growth spurt. Growth spurts don’t stop at 9 months- toddlers, children and teenagers continue to have spurts in their growth every few months periodically. However, due to their heavy reliance on caregivers and the rate of growth, it is the stages outlined above that are likely to be the most demanding on you to fulfil their needs.
Why are babies fussy during growth spurt?
The main reason for baby’s fussiness during a growth spurt is their increased appetite. Their little bodies will be trying to get all of the nutrients and energy they can to allow them to transition into the next phase. The change in appetite will likely cause a change in sleep patterns as baby will likely wake up more often during a growth spurt in need of extra milk. Additionally, a growth spurt can be followed by a developmental leap; this whole process can causes babies to become confused and overwhelmed resulting in fussiness.
What are the signs of a growth spurt?
The first sign is an increased appetite: in breastfed babies they may go from feeding 8 times a day to 12 when experiencing a growth spurt; in formula fed babies an extra bottle each day for the few days of the growth spurt should be enough to satisfy the increased appetite. The sudden increase in their appetite is likely to cause a change in routine; baby will want to be fed more frequently and at different times throughout the day and possibly the night too. You may also find your baby is a lot more clingy during this time- refusing to lie alone in their Moses basket and instead favouring your arms. As frustrating as the changes can be for caregivers, your little one’s whole world is changing so the extra comfort will help reassure them and support their development.
How long do growth spurts last?
The length of a growth spurt will vary depending on the age of your child; usually, in young babies the spurt is very short lasting just a couple of days then as your child gets older the spurts can last longer, usually no more than two weeks. It can be hard to tell if your baby is experiencing a growth spurt and when they have finished- this is why it’s especially important to monitor baby’s cues attentively and follow your instincts. Tracking your baby’s weight frequently can help you to identify spurts in their growth and link this back to changes in the feeding routine.
Is there a difference between bottle fed and breastfed growth spurts?
All babies, toddlers and children will experience growth spurts. However, they are particularly noticeable in breastfed babies and children because mum is the source of nutrition; the increased desire to nurse ahead of a growth spurt is an innate biological system that ensures the breast milk supplies are increased in order to meet the new needs. Increased nursing typically causes a surge in milk supply within 24-48 hours to keep baby satisfied and allow babies to get the extra nutrients and energy they require to fulfil their growth. If exclusively breastfeeding, be reassured that your milk alone will satisfy your baby through their growth spurt and it’s not necessary to supplement with a formula bottle unless you wish to incorporate this into your baby’s routine anyway. In bottle fed babies or toddlers and children on solids, an increased thirst or hunger will present itself to allow your little one to get the extra nutrients desired. As mentioned above, with formula-fed babies an extra bottle should be enough to satisfy baby’s needs without changing your formula milk.
5 tips on how to cope with a growth spurt.
1. Forget routine
When it comes to coping with a growth spurt successfully one of the most important steps is to forget about your usual routine and follow baby’s needs closely. Many parents worry that a change in routine is a step backwards but during the few days of a growth spurt it’s best to just follow baby’s cues. When they want to feed it’s so they have the nutrients to get through the growth spurt and when they want to sleep it’s go get enough rest to process the physical and mental changes taking place.
2. Acknowledge the growth spurt is happening
Once you’ve noticed the changes in your baby’s feeding, sleeping, mood or their need for comfort then acknowledging that the growth spurt is happening will help you to cope with the process. As challenging as the process is, when you understand that your baby is going through physical and mental developments it can help you to tend to their needs efficiently.
3. Let others know
If your baby is going through a growth spurt it’s a good idea to let others know as you may prefer to stay home where baby is most comfortable rather than heading out to meet friends or go to play groups. If you do feel comfortable getting out and meeting up with people it’s a good idea to make them aware of the growth spurt so they understand that baby might be a bit more clingy than normal.
4. Ask for support
Once you’ve let people know, don’t be afraid to ask or accept help from friends and family. During a growth spurt it can be a challenging few days and having an extra pair of hands to hold baby or help with other jobs will be a welcome break for you.
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5. Look after yourself
Of course your main focus throughout the growth spurt will be baby but it’s really important to take care of yourself during this time too. Make sure you grab 5 minutes where you can to get a shower or even some fresh air. If you’re breastfeeding make sure you are eating enough and staying hydrated; you need to keep your energy up for the extra feeds you are providing for baby.
In their first year of life babies have so much growing to do, by understanding how this impacts their feeding and sleeping routine, along with a rough guide on when to expect a spurt and the signs to look out for, you will be better prepared to handle the changes that a growth spurt brings. Remember that extra feeds, cuddles and comfort will help your baby through the transition and that as demanding as the behaviour during this time will be, it will only last a few days before your baby will be through the spurt and have developed further. Taking your baby for regular weigh-ins (it is recommended every 4 weeks) and taking lots of photos will help you to feel positive about your baby’s growth and development.