Just as you think you have this whole parenting thing under control, your baby’s behaviours and patterns change – now what? Chances are he’s going through a growth spurt.
What are growth spurts?
A growth spurt is when your baby grows rapidly in weight and height. While regular check-ups over the first two years of life will reveal a smooth growth curve along your baby’s appropriate percentile, in reality this isn’t the case and your baby can actually go through marked periods of intense bursts of growth. These bursts happen at regular intervals and can be quite noticeable to parents. Initially, these periods of fussiness can leave you feeling anxious and mothers often begin to doubt their milk supply and worry that they are not producing enough.
Babies grow at an impressive rate during the first two years of life. In fact, they double their birth weight between four and six months and triple it by their first birthday. They grow a good 2 to 2.5cm in length each month to reach almost one and a half times their birth length by the age of one year. As well as growing larger in size, babies go through spurts of cognitive growth, acquiring new skills and achieving milestones.
Growth spurt ages
Growth spurts start from as early as seven to 10 days after birth and continue well into the toddler years. In the infancy stage, they tend to happen more frequently. They can be seen around day 10, week three, week six, three months, six months and nine months. Things then start to settle in the second year as their weight gain evens out, height growth slows and growth spurts happen less frequently or noticeably. Most toddlers tend to grow around 6cm a year.
What are signs of a growth spurt?
- The first sign your baby is having a growth spurt is that he will appear to be hungrier than usual. Many breastfeeding mothers begin to feel they just don’t have enough breast milk to keep up with the demand and may want to supplement with formula. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, it’s best to try and ride through the growth spurt so your supply catches up to your baby’s increased demands.
- He may also start to wake more often at night, wanting one or two extra feeds when he was previously sleeping well. Prepare to feel exhausted for a day or two, because your baby will likely feed more often. Your baby may begin to feed every two to three hours and want to cluster-feed during a particular time of day. He may have settled into regular three to four hourly feeds and then suddenly want to feed all day long – or at least it will feel that way. This intense appetite is usually noticed during the early growth spurts.
- Growth spurts can also leave your baby feeling unsettled. He may be fussier than usual and not settle as easily to sleep. He may also want to be cuddled more and seem clingier. After a big growth spurt, you may notice that your baby’s naps become longer as he recovers from all that hard work.
Do you need to supplement feeds?
Ideally not, as your breasts need to realise that your baby is growing and the demand for breast milk is increasing. If you top your baby up with formula during these growth spurts, your own supply may not match your baby’s needs.
If you are formula feeding, you may need to increase the number of bottles in 24 hours. You may also need to increase the volume per feed.
As your baby gets older, between four and six months, you need to start adding solids to his menu.
How to sail through a growth spurt
- Try not to stick to any strict routines. Instead, feed your baby on demand. Your baby is extra hungry for a good reason. He will need those extra feeds to help him through this intense burst of growth.
- Allow him to sleep when he needs to. He may have an extra nap during the day or sleep for a longer stretch at night.
- Keep your baby close when he’s going through a growth spurt. He may feel a little out of sorts and will want some extra cuddles and attention.
- Try to get some rest – especially if you are breastfeeding. Your baby’s increased demands will take its toll on you, so try to maintain healthy meals and snacking while increasing your fluid intake.
When to get advice?
If your baby still seems unhappy and cries more often despite your attempts to increase his feeds, you may need to consult your clinic sister or GP to check if anything else may be bothering him.
Pippa is a Registered Professional Nurse and trained as a Registered Midwife at Chris Hani Baragwanth Hospital. She has extensive experience in all things baby related with a special interest in preparing couples for the exciting journey of parenthood as well as supporting them in the weeks that follow the birth. She and her husband Richard are the proud parents of Becca age 6 and Tom age 4. Pippa has a comprehensive private clinic service that includes Childbirth Education classes, a Well Baby Clinic including Immunization as well as Post Natal and Lactation support. With over 5 years of running a private clinic facility and raising 2 children Pippa comes with a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience of parenthood. Learn more about Pippa Hime