"Is this normal? Is this a growth spurt?" The first few weeks to first year of motherhood can be nerve wrecking, even with the "What to Expect" books piled around your rocking chair. When your baby gets extra fussy, or can't sleep, it can just be a sign of a common growth spurt. All babies grow and develop uniquely, so you cannot necessarily expect that a growth spurt will happen exactly on the predicted timeline. However, there are signs and guidelines to help you get a handle on your baby's growth and what to expect from spurts.
How Many and How Often?
During your baby's first year, it is possible that you will see about six growth spurts. This can vary considerably, as all babies develop differently. These growth spurts will generally occur at approximately 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months of age. Growth spurts can lead to erratic eating and disturbed sleep for days at a time, while your infant rapidly gains weight and grows in length.
Grow, Baby, Grow!
It may seem like your baby outgrew her cute little sleeper overnight, because in fact, she did! Suddenly those toes don't fit, or the onesie buttons just aren't reaching their snap. The growth of your baby in the first year is rapid and can literally happen overnight sometimes. Even if you're not a typical next-stage-prepared shopper, make sure you keep at least one or two outfits on hand for when they suddenly don't fit into any of their clothes. In some cases, it can even seem as though the baby "skipped a size" according to manufacturer size guidelines, so you also want to be careful that you don't overbuy ahead of time.
Eat, Baby, Eat!
Non-stop nursing is a big sign that your baby is experiencing a growth spurt. It is hard work for their bodies to grow and they need all the nutrients they can get. Growth spurts generally don't last for more than 2 to 3 days, but can certainly make it feel like you are constantly feeding your baby during the hunger stretch. Relax! It's necessary to increase your milk supply as your baby grows. The bigger they are, the more milk they will need. You can distinguish a true growth spurt from an issue with your milk supply by the duration. Growth spurts are temporary, often ending as fast as they began; whereas, low milk supply lasts until you take steps to increase it.
Fuss, Fuss, Fuss
Your child may be crankier or clingier even though they don't appear to be sick. A fussy baby could mean a growing baby. Growing is tough stuff! Again, most growth spurts only last a few days, so if you notice long-term signs of odd or fussy behavior, it's important to talk with your child's doctor. It can be very confusing when a baby has been feeding and sleeping well and, all of a sudden, patterns reverse and the baby starts feeding all day long and is fussy. As long as it isn't long-lasting, it can be a sign of a perfectly normal growth spurt.
Off the Chart!
Your child's pediatrician monitors growth at checkups and calculates it on a growth chart to make sure his size is proportionate and healthy. His growth percentiles reveal his height and weight in relation to other children of the same age and gender. What your baby's doctor is observing is whether or not his height and weight percentiles are proportionate and ensuring that they continue at a balanced rate. If your doctor mentions a jump in your child's graph, you'll know they had a growth spurt.
Change in Sleep Patterns
During a growth spurt, a baby's sleep patterns may become very erratic. They may begin sleeping much more or not sleeping at all. This may happen during the day or night. Your baby may nap longer than usual or refuse to take a nap during a fussy period. This is normal. Waking a sleeping baby during this time is not recommended. Their little bodies are working very hard to grow. If sleep patterns are disrupted, your child may not relax as easily because she is overtired. If she is sleeping, let her sleep.
Follow Baby's Cues
It's important to follow your baby's cues on growing, because each child's growth spurts happen differently. Eating, sleeping, and fussing continuously can be exhausting. It's important to remember, though, that while growth spurts can be frustrating, they are temporary, and essential. It may seem like an endless cycle at some periods, but stay calm and focus on giving your child what they need during each stage. This too shall pass, and it has to, in order for your baby to grow.