What You Need to Know About Baby Growth Spurts
November 16, 2021
When it comes to raising a newborn, seasoned parents will tell you to expect the unexpected—and they’re totally right. Just when you start to feel like you’ve got the feeding and sleeping routine down pat, baby can suddenly become a seeming insomniac who’s ravenous and irritable all the time. And then, just as quickly, they’ll bounce back to normal. So what gives? Chances are, you can chalk up this roller-coaster ride to baby growth spurts.
Baby’s growth during the first year of life is fast and furious. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average baby can grow one-half inch to one inch every month in the first six months and gain five to seven ounces every week in the first six months. They’ll double their birth weight by the five-month mark and triple in weight by the time their first birthday rolls around. (Newborn boys tend to weigh about a pound more than newborn girls and are longer by roughly half an inch.)
Baby growth spurts, however, are short periods of time when they really pack on the pounds and put on the inches—sometimes literally overnight. And as you can imagine, growing so quickly is tiring work. You might notice changes in baby’s sleep patterns and attitude, so it’s helpful to be able to recognize when infant growth spurts may be the culprit.
So when do babies have growth spurts? And how do you know if your little one is experiencing one? Here, we address everything you need to know, from baby growth spurt signs to ways to alleviate symptoms and how to tell if baby’s growth is on track.
In this article:
What are baby growth spurts?
When do babies have growth spurts?
Baby growth spurt signs
How to handle baby growth spurt symptoms
How long do baby growth spurts last? How to tell if baby’s growth is on track
Before we get into the details about newborn growth spurts, let’s first define what a growth spurt actually is. It refers to a period of time when baby experiences an increase in pounds and inches. During a baby growth spurt, which usually lasts only a few days, they’ll likely want to feed more often and for longer periods to provide the necessary calories to keep up with their rapidly growing body. Baby may also seem fussier than usual and might even exhibit a change in sleep patterns. Your infant gradually grows and gains weight every day, but a baby growth spurt tends to be sudden and quick.
As you track baby’s progress, you may find yourself wondering, “When do babies go through growth spurts?” While every baby is different, there’s a recognized growth spurt timeline that newborns tend to follow, says California-based pediatrician and AAP spokeswoman Lisa M. Asta, MD. The first newborn growth spurt occurs around 7 to 10 days after birth, right around the time a breastfeeding mom’s milk supply is established and most babies are finally starting to put on weight, she says.
The second happens between the three- and six-week marks, Asta says. After that, baby might experience more spurts at 3, 6 and 9 months of age. Collectively, your child will likely triple their weight and grow an average of 10 inches within their first year, thanks to these baby growth spurts.
As for how long baby growth spurts last, each sprint happens fairly quickly—about two to three days, start to finish. So fast, in fact, you may not even realize your infant is experiencing one. “They’re real, but they’re very manageable,” Asta says. “There’s nothing to fear. It’s a natural thing, and half the time you don’t even notice it.”
Once you figure out when babies have growth spurts, you can begin looking for the telltale signs. These bursts may be over in the blink of an eye, but there are a few baby growth spurt signs you can watch for. Every child is unique and may respond differently, but here are some signals you can count on to know when your little one is growing up a storm:
- Increased hunger. Baby is suddenly insatiable, wanting to feed around the clock—whether they’re latching onto the breast at every opportunity or feeling dissatisfied even after a full bottle.
- Fussiness. Baby is particularly irritable during the day, likely because they aren’t getting a solid stretch of sleep (and let’s face it, who isn’t cranky when they’re hungry and tired?). While baby may be fussier than usual, there’s nothing to indicate that growth spurts cause any pain. Infant growth spurts are simply a natural part of baby’s development.
- Bouts of fitful sleep. Even if baby was once a champion sleeper, they may now be waking at all hours of the night, restless and demanding food.
On the other hand, some babies sleep more during a growth spurt. Others will have trouble falling asleep or will wake up more often during a growth spurt. Don’t be surprised if you notice some degree of sleep regression during baby’s growth spurts.
In some cases, your own body may signal that baby is going through a growth spurt: Some breastfeeding moms report feeling more hungry and thirsty than usual. This is a sign to eat and hydrate more to accommodate more frequent nursing sessions. When in doubt, listen to your body.
So you think that baby might be going through the newborn growth spurt—now what? Baby will likely demand more of your attention during this phase, so be prepared to spend extra time comforting and cuddling your cutie. You’ll probably be feeding them more frequently too, so be sure to take care of yourself. Eat healthy, drink lots of water, get rest when possible and ask for help if you can.
No doubt, baby growth spurts can be hard on you. But experts recommend resisting the urge to greet all of baby’s cries with a meal: Asta says parents can be more liberal with feedings during the day (baby’s busy little body needs the extra fuel) but should hold off on an extra middle-of-the-night meal. Baby growth spurts can negatively affect babies’ sleep, and they need all the rest they can get.
That said, more frequent feedings can also increase your milk supply, which helps provide for your extra-hungry growing baby. Soothing with food can lead to overfeeding though—so before you brandish a bottle or breast, look for basic hunger cues, like rooting around for the breast or bottle, and respond accordingly, says Ian M. Paul, MD, head of general pediatrics at Penn State Children’s Hospital. “When babies turn their heads away from the breast or bottle, it means they’re done, yet some parents continue to try to get them to finish the bottle,” he says. “That’s not great behavior.”
Paul also suggests alternating soothing methods at bedtime. If baby is fussy at night, it’s been less than three or four hours since the last feeding and they’re above birth weight, you can try changing their diaper, re-swaddling them, putting on white noise or singing to them, he says. “You can do other things to try to get baby to settle down without necessarily feeding them.”
Equal doses of patience and perspective can come in handy when your little one isn’t easily consoled during a baby growth spurt. “If you had to double your weight in two months, think about how uncomfortable you’d be and how much you’d have to eat,” Asta says.
The good news is that baby and newborn growth spurts don’t last long. While baby will frequently undergo growth spurts throughout infancy and well into toddlerhood, growth spurts are short-lived: They usually don’t last for longer than three days at a time, although they can sometimes stretch up to a week. In fact, you may not even notice baby’s growth spurt until it’s over and done with, and suddenly your little one’s clothes don’t fit anymore. Baby should get back to their normal sleeping and eating habits once the growth spurt subsides.
While a nice stack of wet diapers and a weight that keeps inching upward are promising signs that baby is thriving, the truest barometer of your little one’s health and wellness is the growth chart, Asta says.
Your pediatrician will measure and track baby’s height and length during every checkup (there are plenty of them during the first 18 months) and look for patterns and trends. If baby’s growth veers sharply from their individual curve, that could be an indicator of a deeper issue, such as an illness or a disease.
But you don’t have to wait for a wellness visit to talk to your doctor about baby’s growth. If you have concerns about growth spurts or any aspect of child development, discuss them with your pediatrician. “In the end, trust your gut,” Asta says. “If it seems significant, it’s worth talking to someone.”
While baby’s growth spurt may come as a shock at first, remember, it’s all part of baby’s natural progress and development. Nothing is more special than watching your child grow and get stronger right before your eyes. Now that you have a better idea of when babies have growth spurts, you’ll know what to look for and how to handle them. Remember, this exhausting phase will pass.
About the experts:
Lisa M. Asta, MD, is a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She received her medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine.
Ian M. Paul, MD, is the head of general pediatrics at Penn State Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, where he earned his medical degree. He is also a clinical and health services researcher with principal interests in primary preventive interventions for newborns, infants, and families and clinical therapeutics for children.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.