The Essential Guide to Baby Growth Spurts
In their first year of life, babies are expected to triple their birth weight. Here’s everything you need to know on how to tell if your baby is experiencing a growth spurt, how to manage the symptoms, and tracking your baby’s growth.
Just as you found yourself falling into a consistent routine with your baby's eating and sleeping patterns, you might experience an abrupt change in your baby's usual behavior. All of the sudden, your baby seems to be always hungry, unable to sleep through the night, and fussy throughout the day. These are all signs that your baby is experiencing a growth spurt. And just as quickly as it started, things will go back to normal, and you'll be back to your usual routine in a few days.
In their first year of life, babies will experience rapid development and growth. Some babies experience bursts of height and weight gain that can literally happen overnight. Every baby is unique so not everyone’s baby will experience a growth spurt, however, it is likely that your baby could have up to five growth spurts just within their first year of life. Here is everything you need to know on how to spot a growth spurt, how to handle the sudden change in your day-to-day routine, and how to tell if your baby's growth is on-track.
When Do Babies Experience a Growth Spurt?
You should expect the first growth spurt to happen around 7 to 10 days after your baby is born. This is right around the time that your baby starts to put on the weight from breastfeeding or formula. Following the initial growth spurt, you might experience a few more at around age 3, 6, or 9 months old.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average baby grows one-half inch to one inch every month in the first six months and gains five to seven ounces every week in the first six months. By the 5-month mark, they’ll most likely double their birth weight and by the time their first birthday rolls around, they will likely be triple their birth weight.
As your baby is experiencing rapid growth, you might begin to notice some changes in your baby's usual behavior. Although these changes can be tiring and frustrating, a growth spurt typically only lasts 2 to 3 days so you'll be back to your normal routine soon.
Signs Your Baby is Having a Growth Spurt
- Increased Hunger: during the growth spurt, you may notice that your baby suddenly has an insatiable appetite. This is to be expected and completely normal as your baby's metabolism is working extra hard to help with the rapid growth their body is currently experiencing.
- Restless Sleep: while experiencing a growth spurt, your once champion sleeper might unexpectedly start to keep you up at all hours of the night and have trouble going down for their usual naps.
- Fussiness: your little one might become fussy throughout the day due to an increased appetite and lack of sleep. Who can blame them - being hungry and tired would make anyone fussy!
- New Developmental Skills: as your baby's body grows, so does their brain. Although a growth spurt and development skills (such as crawling or grabbing items,) are not directly correlated, you might start to notice your baby is hitting new milestones in their development around this time.
Managing the Symptoms
Increasing the Amount of Feedings
Your baby's body is experiencing rapid growth so in order to manage their increased appetite, you should plan on adding a few extra feedings throughout the day. You can also try increasing the amount of breast milk or formula that you are feeding if your baby seems dissatisfied even after finishing their usual amount. Try to avoid middle-of-the-night meals to make sure that your baby is getting as much sleep as possible during their growth spurt. It is also best to avoid nighttime feedings to help create a connection between the nighttime and sleep.
During your baby's growth spurt, be mindful of not overfeeding your baby. Trust your baby's instinct and natural indication of fullness. When a baby turns their head away from the bottle or breast, it usually means they are full. Follow your baby's lead on how much food they need.
Soothing Techniques for Nighttime
Making sure that your baby is getting enough sleep is important to help support your baby during their growth spurt. You might find that during these few days, your baby has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or going down for their usual naps. Do your best to help your baby go to sleep by:
- Changing their diaper
- Re-swaddling them
- Playing white noise or soft music
When trying to get your baby to sleep, you will want to avoid creating any negative sleep associations for your baby. Avoid interfering with your baby falling asleep so that they have the opportunity to learn how to soothe themselves back to sleep. This will create positive sleep associations that will be beneficial in the long-run.
Take Care of Yourself
Handling a baby’s growth spurt can be exhausting and frustrating as your baby’s usual routine is off-track for a few days. Be patient with yourself and your baby as you navigate this together. Remember to take care of yourself by drinking water, getting as much sleep as you can, and relying on family or friends for help along the way.
Follow Your Baby’s Lead
All babies are unique and will react differently to the changes and growth their body is experiencing. Listen to what your baby is trying to tell you and trust your instincts on what to do.
How to Tell if Your Baby’s Growth is On Track
The first year of your baby's life will be full of appointments where your doctor will regularly measure and track your baby's height and weight. Your doctor is less concerned about the specific numbers and is looking for signs of consistency in your baby's growth. You can measure and track your baby's growth on your own although it is not necessary, unless recommended by your doctor.
The height and weight chart percentiles reflect your baby’s numbers in comparison to the average baby. Remember that there is no "right" and "wrong" percentile for your baby, what is important is that your baby is steadily developing over a period of time. If your baby’s percentile ends up being underweight or overweight, you will just need to adjust the amount you have been feeding your baby to help them gain weight at a faster or slower rate. If your baby is not growing the minimum 1 inch per year, or their percentile curve has flattened or dropped, your doctor may test for fixable issues such as a growth hormone deficiency or problems with absorbing nutrients (like with celiac disease.)
It is common for breastfeeding babies to gain more weight in the first 2 to 3 months when compared to formula fed babies. This is because the baby is nursing on demand, rather than by a schedule, and there is no way to measure the amount of milk they are feeding. All babies are unique and as long as your baby is growing at a steady pace, you should not be concerned about the specific numbers.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
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