It’s not your imagination. Your baby, who fit perfectly into their 0-3 month clothing has become The Hulk overnight and is now busting the seams of their onesie. If your little one has grown literally in front of your eyes, they’re most likely going through a growth spurt. But in addition to looking a little longer, your baby might now be experiencing other symptoms, too — some pleasant, and some…not. If you don’t want it to catch you by surprise, you’ll need to know the signs of a growth spurt, so that you can be prepared. After all, these growing pains can be painful both for your baby and for you.
The irony of a growth spurt is that it seems to happen right when everything is going well. Finally, you feel like you’ve gotten a groove with your baby; feedings are frequent, their sleep has somewhat of a schedule, and life is good. And then, without any apparent warning, along comes a growth spurt to screw it all up. Dr. Harvey Karp, M.D., a pediatrician knows your pain. “Growth spurts tend to creep up on you as soon as you say to yourself, “I’ve got this whole parenting thing down!” he says. “Babies definitely love to keep parents on their toes.” Thing is, babies do give you a heads up that a growth spurt is on the horizon, but you’ll only be able to heed the warning if you know what to watch out for.
So if you’re wondering whether your baby is going through a growth spurt, this is what you need to know.
What are the signs of a growth spurt?
Beyond the fact that your baby is getting bigger, your child will give you some clues to show that a growth spurt has started. “Although every baby is so different, your child might be having a growth spurt if they’re having shorter naps, or even resisting them completely,” explains Dr. Amy Conrad, M.D., a pediatrician. “That can lead to increased crankiness and fussiness.” To fuel their sudden growth, your child is going to want to eat — a lot. If your baby is hungry all the time and is looking for the boob again even after a long nursing session, that’s another telltale sign that Baby is going to add on the inches.
When do growth spurts happen?
Sure, a growth spurt is good for your baby but it’s also going to shake up your schedule, too. That’s why knowing when it’s going to happen (more or less) can mentally prepare you for what’s to come. “Growth spurts typically occur at the ages of 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months, but these are not set times for every baby,” explains Dr. Steph Lee, MD, MPH, FAAP, a pediatrician and preventive medicine specialist. “And believe it or not, you may also literally see your baby getting bigger as they put on more weight during these feeding frenzies.”
How long does a growth spurt last?
Here’s the good news: baby growth spurts don’t drag on for weeks — even if it might feel like it. In fact, you’re probably only looking at a few days of fussiness at most. “Growth spurts really don’t last very long,” Dr. Karp offers reassuringly. “For toddlers, a growth spurt can last for up to a week, but for babies you’re looking at maybe three days.” Although it might not be easy in the moment, knowing that Baby’s growth spurt will be short-lived is the key to surviving it…and (ack) the ones to come.
How does a baby’s growth spurt affect their sleep?
As you might have guessed, sleep is one of the first things to take a hit when your little one is going through a growth spurt. Thing is, it might not be as bad as you think since it could mean less sleep — or a baby that snoozes through it all. “Sleep patterns may change during a growth spurt, and these changes may look different for different babies,” says Perdomo. “Some babies may wake more frequently as they have increased demands to feed, and then other babies will sleep through them.” Unfortunately, even if your child is a good sleeper pre-growth spurt, they might still nix a nap, so you won’t know how they’ll sleep during a growth spurt until you’re both in the middle of one.
How do you survive a growth spurt?
As it turns out, expecting the unexpected is the key to surviving a spurt. That’s not to say you should adopt the mindset that it’s going to be miserable but understanding that there might be changes should be a part of your strategy. “Your normal routines might be off, which doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the routine,” says Conrad. “Expect to be confused or feeling uncertain if you’re doing the right thing and remember to follow your instincts – you know your child best.”
“The best way to survive a baby growth spurt is know that it is temporary,” adds Lee. “It can often affect sleep, so try to stick to your bedtime routine as much as possible to provide some predictability, which can help calm your baby.” Above all, be compassionate with your kiddo. Their needs are suddenly changing as they experience new sensations and experiences, and it can be a little unsettling for them, too. So if Baby needs to eat more or just wants to snuggle, you just need to go with the flow.
Are growth spurts considered developmental milestones?
Not quite. “Growth spurts are ‘milestones’ in that they generally occur at similar times for most babies,” explains Dr. Joanna Perdomo, M.D. a pediatrician at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, FL. “They often overlap with developmental milestones — for example, a baby may feed more while they are working on mastering skills like rolling or sitting.” Karp agrees, adding: “While growth spurts aren’t considered developmental milestones, it’s easy to see why they can be confused since both can result in things like sleep regression. But an actual growth spurt is all about quickly occurring physical changes, and developmental milestones are focused on acquiring cognitive, social/emotional, and motor skills.” That said, your baby might go through a growth spurt while they’re learning to crawl but the two aren’t necessarily a result of the other.
Do baby growth spurts cause cluster feedings?
You were shocked to see that your 3-month-old (who typically takes a 4-6 oz. bottle at each feeding) is now looking to down double that. Chalk it up to cluster feeding, another important sign that a growth spurt has sprung. “Cluster feeding, which is frequent feeding during a period of a few hours (including feeding multiple times within an hour), may happen during a growth spurt,” explains Conrad. But cluster feedings can occur outside of a growth spurt, particularly during an infant’s first few weeks to months of life as a way to boost their mother’s milk supply, or even as a soothing method, too.
It’s exciting for your baby to go through a growth spurt because it means that they’re, well, growing as they should. Still, those fast physical changes can impact your infant, and in turn, you. The most important thing is keeping a positive mindset and embrace the fact that it’s going to be kind of chaotic for a little while. But once the spurt has stopped, your baby will become their smiley, sweet self again — and you can breathe a deep sigh of relief.