Is your baby hav­ing a growth spurt?

How to recog­nise the signs and help your baby through new phases

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

Around the time of a growth spurt, you see mile­stones, such as sit­ting up or tak­ing first steps.

Ever had the feel­ing your baby has grown overnight? And that the sleep­ing bag you’re sure fit­ted her per­fectly at bed­time yes­ter­day evening is now strain­ing at the seams? Well, you’d be right! Ac­cord­ing to growth re­searcher and di­rec­tor at the Emory Uni­ver­sity’s Cen­tre for the Study of Hu­man Health, Dr Michelle Lampl, your young­ster can grow as much as nine mil­lime­tres in length in just 24 hours. “Ba­bies go to sleep and they wake up longer,” she ex­plains.

While the line you care­fully plot on the cen­tile growth charts in your baby’s health book might make it look like she’s putting on weight con­sis­tently, growth ac­tu­ally hap­pens in fits and starts. And a growth spurt means that there’s a rapid in­crease in length or height and weight. “It’s a bi­o­log­i­cal event that oc­curs within 24 hours,” ex­plains Michelle.

Your baby grows most rapidly in her first year: she’s likely to dou­ble her birth weight be­tween four and six months, and triple it by the time she is one. By her first birth­day, she’s likely to be about one-and-a-half times as long as she was when she was born. Her head is likely to grow in cir­cum­fer­ence from about 60mm to al­most 130mm a month.

As you child gets older, the fre­quency of growth spurts slows down to a few months, or longer, apart. Be­tween the ages of one and two, she is likely to gain around 2.3kg and grow just over six cen­time­tres. And be­tween the ages of two and three, she’s likely to gain 1.8kg to 2.7kg and grow five cen­time­tres to more than seven cen­time­tres. “Ev­ery child is dif­fer­ent,” says Michelle. “But there are some gen­er­al­i­sa­tions that we can make about when growth spurts oc­cur. Grow­ing some­where be­tween five mil­lime­tres and seven mil­lime­tres each growth spurt is the av­er­age.”

And with such a sig­nif­i­cant change hap­pen­ing, it’s no won­der that your young­ster is likely to be a lit­tle out of sorts dur­ing a growth spurt. “The as­so­ci­ated be­hav­iour changes only last a cou­ple of days, but they are a clear sig­nal that she’s about to have, or is hav­ing, a growth spurt,” says Michelle. “So if your baby or child is be­hav­ing out of char­ac­ter – one day she is happy and the next she’s sud­denly grumpy – have a mo­ment of re­flec­tion. Step back and con­sider whether all the signs are point­ing to her hav­ing a growth spurt.” No mat­ter what her age, the signs will be the same, and there are sim­ple, ef­fec­tive steps you can take to min­imise the dis­rup­tion.”


One of the first signs of a growth spurt is your baby or tod­dler sud­denly hav­ing a mas­sive ap­petite. And rather than be­ing sat­is­fied with her nor­mal amount of milk or food, she wants more. And more! “In the lead up to a growth spurt, a child can get crazy hun­gry,” says Michelle. “That’s a tell-tale sign of growth.

If she has not yet started on solids, she may want 100 per cent more milk than usual. And while this may feel re­ally drain­ing if you’re breast­feed­ing, it’s only a short-term event, last­ing for a day or two be­fore her growth spurt and then maybe a day af­ter­wards.” She’s likely to want to eat much more fre­quently than usual, too. “Watch your child and her hunger sig­nals,” ad­vises Michelle. “No mat­ter how old she is, she’ll tell you when she is ex­tra hun­gry!”

SLEEP signs

Don’t panic if your young­ster, who was sleep­ing per­fectly well, is sud­denly wak­ing re­peat­edly at night or re­fus­ing to nap dur­ing the day: that’s an­other sign of an im­mi­nent growth spurt. She may be wak­ing be­cause of her in­creased hunger, or she may be strug­gling to sleep be­cause she feels out of sorts.

She’ll make up for all that lost sleep very soon, though, as after all this dis­rup­tion, she’s likely to want more sleep when the growth ac­tu­ally hap­pens. “Re­search shows there is a def­i­nite link be­tween growth and sleep,” ex­plains Michelle. “It’s known that the se­cre­tion of growth hor­mone in­creases dur­ing sleep, and longer sleep pe­ri­ods cor­re­spond with greater growth in body length.” So your young­ster might very well sleep an ex­tra four-and-a-half hours a day for two days dur­ing a growth spurt. The num­ber of naps she has might in­crease by up to three ex­tra naps for a cou­ple of days.

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