Whether it is by crying, whining, or even wiggling, babies are usually good at signaling to parents when they need something — a diaper change, a nap, to be fed. Because they can't talk yet, parents rely on babies' demeanor and body language to tell them what is going on with their little ones. Often, patterns will emerge that help clue parents in on what their baby needs and when they need it. But when a baby's sleep patterns and hunger cues get out of whack, these could be the first signs your baby is going through a growth spurt.
"Babies and children have periods of time where they may experience rapid growth and others where they don’t seem to grow too much. This is normal and expected," Mary Murati, MD, pediatrician at Park Nicollet in St. Louis Park, Minnesota tells Romper.
According to Dr. Murati, growth spurts begin soon after birth and continue into childhood. "Often there is a spurt of growth by about 2 to 3 weeks and again at about 4 to 6 weeks of life. Every few months there may be periods where growth is accelerated, or a 'growth spurt.'"
According to Kelly Mom, babies will experience growth spurts several times during their first year of life and typically last from a few days up to a week long. In addition to the weeks immediately following birth that Dr. Murati mentions, Kelly Mom reported that additional periods of accelerated growth typically happen for babies at 3 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old, and 9 months old. Wow. I'm exhausted just reading that.
1. A Change In Eating Habits
Babies will experience peaks and valleys in their eating habits. One day they might refuse attempting to eat anything but mashed potatoes and the next they might be scarfing down everything in sight. This could have everything to do with experiencing a period of rapid growth. "Just like there may be variation in when babies may have growth spurts, there may be variation in how your baby acts during a growth spurt. It makes sense that some babies will tend to feed more frequently, but some babies seem to not feed as frequently or lose their appetite.," says Dr. Murati.
2. Disrupted Sleep Patterns
It's totally expected that babies will have changing sleep patterns as they grow, but according to Dr. Murati, a growth spurt could have your baby sleeping a lot more or less than normal. Conflicting information, I know. But just as being wide awake at all hours can be a sign of a baby's growth spurt, so can sleeping more than usual.
Dr. Murati recommends that parents stick to a routine to encourage healthy sleep habits, even in the middle of a growth spurt. "If sleep is off, provide a little more comfort if needed, but try to stick to a routine to get your baby ready for sleep," she says. "Bath and teeth (or gum) brushing, a quiet, dark room, and a book, song, or story are a great way to signal to your baby that it is time to go to sleep."
3. Developmental Skill Regression
"Some babies may have temporary regression in developmental skills around the time of a growth spurt," says Dr. Murati. But don't fret. The regression shouldn't stick. It is actually part of how babies grow. "Know that these periods are typical and expected. This is an important part in your baby’s development," she explains.
4. Baby Is Hard To Soothe
An extra cranky baby is something most parents have encountered a time or two, but during a growth spurt, babies can be even harder than normal to help calm down. "Some babies are more irritable and previous sleep pattern is disrupted, but others may sleep more than normally," says Dr. Murati.
An upset baby can be frustrating to deal with, so she encourages parents to be sure that they are also taking care of themselves during their babies' growth spurts. "Make sure you’re getting rest and nutrition as well, especially if your baby is demanding more to eat or is extra demanding of your time and emotional support. Ask for help when you need it, and know that these periods of time are temporary, usually only a few days at a time," she says.