One of the many rewards of being a parent is witnessing your child grow and mature. During the first year of life, your child will grow in weight and length more quickly than any other period in his lifetime. While the specific areas of growth may be unpredictable, the timing of early growth spurts, according to most pediatricians, follows a predictable course.
Infants grow at an incredibly fast rate during the first year of life. By the time your child reaches 1 year of age, he will have at least doubled, if not tripled, his birth weight. He will also have added 8 to 10 inches to his length, according to the director of the pediatric primary care unit at Nashville's Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, Dr. Gregory Plemmons. This growth happens during five to six spurts over the course of the year.
Timing and Length of Spurts
Babies experience at least four growth spurts, the first occurring at 3 weeks of age, followed by additional growth spurts at 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months of age. Growth spurts may also occur around 10 days after birth, and again at 9 months. Regardless of timing, the duration of a growth spurt tends to consistently be between 3 and 7 days.
Signs of a Growth Spurt
The most significant sign that your baby may be going through a growth spurt is a sudden increase in appetite. Whether formula fed or breastfed, babies need more food when they are experiencing a growth spurt. Because of this increased need for food, your hungry baby may wake more frequently than usual in the night. Parents may notice that their child is fussier during growth periods, though this can be attributed to the disturbed sleep schedule. Finally, you may find that your baby sleeps heavily for a few days after experiencing a growth spurt.
Coping with a Growth Spurt
Growth spurts can sometimes be difficult experiences for both child and parent. Because your baby needs to eat more, any established routine will probably be disrupted for a few days. Because this disruption continues through the night, expect to get up more frequently at night. Breastfeeding mothers may find this time particularly challenging, as some feel that they are not producing enough milk to satisfy their newly ravenous child. However, the more frequent nursing will cause the mother's milk supply to rise to match the child's need.
It is not always easy to identify whether or not your child is experiencing a growth spurt. Fatigue, fussiness, sleep disruption and even a seemingly greater appetite can be signs that your child is coming down with a cold. Therefore, it is important to investigate your child's symptoms to be sure there is no underlying cause before determining that your child is having a growth spurt. Do not hesitate to consult your child's pediatrician if you are unsure.