Buckle Up, Mama

Baby Growth Spurts Are A Wild Ride, So Don't Get All Hung Up

Here’s what to expect at the various ages and stages.

by Becky Bracken
Originally Published: 
A mother spoonfeeds her hungry baby.
10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Checkups are the perfectly rational place for parents to feel like they are the ones being weighed, measured, and pinched for ripeness. It’s easy to get emotional one way or another about baby development benchmarks and the wild rise and fall of baby growth spurts. But just take our loving advice: It’s bad policy. And many pediatricians agree. Percentiles for height and weight and trying to predict how much your baby is going to grow (and when) is a trap because it’s so different for everyone. All you can do is your best and hang on because baby growth patterns are a wild ride, so it’s best to avoid getting all hung up.

That said, baby growth spurts — a burst of intense growth over a short period — can come on quickly and happen several times in the first year, when babies will tend to triple their body weight. Sometimes a growth spurt hits overnight and a onesie that fit the day before won’t snap. Generally, growth spurts happen during the first couple of weeks, at about 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months. Researchers have even found babies tend to grow faster in the spring than at other times of the year, which is kind of wild.

Want to know what to expect? Here’s some information ahead of your little one’s next spurt.

What are the signs of a baby growth spurt?

  • Growing is exhausting! So, according to researchers, babies experiencing a spurt also need more sleep. While this might sound like a bit of good news, the downside is that they can get cranky. During growth spurts, their sleep schedule may become a little wonky and your little one may be out of sorts.
  • Has your baby turned into a tiny black hole that’s always hungry? Babies going through a growth spurt are going to be hungry. When a baby is growing, they want to eat all.the.time. So just be prepared for a lot of breast and formula feeding! It takes extra calories to grow bigger, meaning they might suddenly get interested in cluster feedings or need more volume.
  • Baby might give you more attitude than usual because they may be in pain. As their muscles grow, it could be an uncomfortable process for them. This may mean your baby is fussier than usual.

When do babies have growth spurts?

“In the first two years of life, it’s hard to predict what a child’s growth chart will look like,” the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Canh explains. “Babies hit many growth spurts. After age 2, we have a better sense of how they are trending in their growth and where they may eventually settle.”

And even after babies hit 2 years old, Dr. Canh says pediatricians are just looking for an upward trend, even just a slight one, which means there probably isn’t any reason to worry.

Newborn Growth Spurts (7 to 10 days and 6 weeks old)

Babies may lose some weight during the first few days, but the first growth spurt during the first week should help bulk them back up. And keep feeding them when you can to maintain steady weight gain.

Per the Mayo Clinic, a newborn won’t eat the same amount every day. “During growth spurts — often at two to three weeks after birth — your newborn might take more at each feeding or want to be fed more often. Respond to early signs of hunger, rather than keeping a strict eye on the clock.” The Mayo Clinic adds that five days after delivery, babies should be wetting no fewer than six diapers a day and show interest in feedings. If not, talk to your pediatrician.

Baby Growth Spurt (3 and 4 Months)

By 4 months old, most babies will have doubled their birth weight, according to Dr. Cristy Wong. The 3- or 4-month growth spurt can come on fast, is likely to be the biggest of the first year, and will cause your baby to be cranky, sleepy, and hungry, just like the first couple. Dr. Michelle Lampl from Emory University says a baby at this stage can grow up to nine millimeters in just 24 hours during a particularly major growth spurt.

Later baby growth spurts during the first year aren’t as noticeable, but just like the others, they can cause your baby discomfort and require a little more care. If the baby is running a fever or acting out of the ordinary beyond a bad mood and being a little hungrier or sleepier than usual, call your pediatrician.

9 Month Growth Spurt

When a child reaches about nine months, their brains have a major growth spurt. This is when they begin to form their own personalities. Of course, at 9 months, your baby isn’t the person they will be for the rest of their lives. But at this age, a piece of who they are as individuals begins to blossom. Babies around this age also develop stronger connections with people and will start to like or prefer some individuals over others.

How long do growth spurts last?

While it varies, a growth spurt typically lasts from two to three days all the way up to one week. They tend to be on the shorter end of that spectrum for babies and the longer end for adolescents.

Are baby growth spurts painful?

Growth spurts are an extremely fussy time for a baby, and although they may sometimes be miserable, there’s no actual evidence that growth spurts hurt babies. However, when a child reaches adolescence, they may experience growing pains like throbbing in the legs or thighs. Even then, there is still little evidence that proves actual growth hurts.

At the various ages and stages, keep these signs in mind so you can figure out if your baby is going through a growth spurt. And always remember, everyone is different — no matter how big or small, your baby is perfect how they are.

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