Have you ever woken up one morning thinking your baby just looked bigger or they felt heavier? Suddenly your baby’s toes are curling over at the end of their onesie or they seem to have less room in their bassinet? This is not just the effects of sleep deprivation playing all sorts of tricks on your mind, this can actually be something you will genuinely notice! Growth spurts in babies typically occur between 1-3 weeks, 6-8 weeks, 3 months, 6 months and 9 months of age. Don’t worry if you are not seeing any signs of a growth spurt, it doesn’t mean to your baby isn’t growing, just that all babies develop at different rates and some babies show no obvious signs of going through one at all!
A growth spurt essentially means your baby will do a faster period of growing in a shorter amount of time. Younger babies can experience this over 1-2 days while for older babies it can take up to a week. They will gain weight; length and their head circumference will increase during this time. The Growth hormone (HGH) is produced while your baby sleeps, so the growing never really stops, especially during the first year of life.
Signs my baby may be going through a growth spurt
- Wanting to feed more frequently
- Breast fed babies may take longer to feed or formula fed babies may still be hungry after a feed.
- Older babies will take in more solids too!
- Your baby may need more or less sleep than usual.
- Your baby may become clingy, fussy and more unsettled, potentially disrupting naptimes and overnight sleep.
Note: Other developmental leaps and milestones will not stop during a growth spurt therefore your baby may experience more than one change at the same time!
How can a growth spurt affect sleep?
If you are one of the lucky ones, your baby may seem sleepier than usual just before and during a growth spurt. They may wake less at night, take more frequent or longer naps or not wake so early in the morning! It is believed that these babies are conserving their energy sources for all that growing to happen!
On the other end of the scale, some babies seem to need less sleep and wake up more frequently overnight and take shorter naps. This can then lead to overtiredness and more unconsolidated periods of sleep.
Support during a growth spurt
A growth spurt can be a confusing time for you and your baby to endure. Babies often need more support than they have been needing previously around feeding and sleep. This may include providing extra, more frequent feeds, more time to nap or to be held, more hands on settling or your baby may just need some added quiet time with you. It is important to respond to your baby’s cues as your baby is likely to be feeling tired and overwhelmed and out-of-sorts during this time.
These tired and overwhelming feelings will be experienced by you too, so please don’t forget to support yourself! If you are breastfeeding, your milk supply can take a few days to catch up so try to take it easy, rest, eat regularly and drink plenty of fluids. If you have the luxury of support from friends or family members use it! Help around the house or with a meal prep can be a lifesaver!
Your baby’s behaviour can change during a growth spurt with more clingy and cranky moments, unsettledness and restlessness. I know in the moment it can be extremely hard and exhausting but try to keep in the back of your mind that if it is a growth spurt, things will return back to normal pretty quickly.
Behavioural changes can also be a result of a development or leap that is coming such as rolling or crawling, or it can be from changes to a routine such as when going on holiday. Illnesses also affect your baby’s feeding, sleep and behaviour.
If you notice that your baby’s behaviour, feeding, or sleeping habits have changed suddenly and you are feeling concerned, it is ok to consult your GP or child health nurse for advice. A good indicator that everything is well is that your baby is feeding happily, gaining weight and producing wet nappies regularly.
Your baby’s “hangry” behaviour will reduce with the end of the growth spurt and your happy baby will be back in no time…ready for the next growth spurt to occur!
Note: Growth spurts do not cause fevers, extreme irritability, or listlessness. These can be signs that your baby is unwell, so it is important to contact your GP if your baby shows any of these symptoms.