According to KidsHealth, part of the Nemours Foundations's Center for Children's Health Media, a nonprofit pediatrician-led organization devoted to improving the health of children, babies grow an average of 10 inches in length and triple their birth weights during their first year of life. This growth happens in spurts. The first few growth spurts commonly occur when babies are 10 days old, 6 weeks old, and 3 months old, say expert pediatricians of the Pediatric Associates of Richmond in Virginia. During a growth spurt, infants exhibit certain changes in their everyday patterns. Look out for these signs when determining whether your baby is having a growth spurt or if there's a more serious problem at hand.
His Stomach Becomes Bottomless
A major sign of an infant growth spurt is a sudden and significant increase in hunger. Whether a baby is breast-fed or takes a bottle, he'll want to eat more frequently while he is going through a growth spurt than he normally does. In an article featured on Parents.com, Dr. Michelle Lampi, growth researcher and associate professor of anthropology at Emery University, says that babies need more calories during growth spurts. While this increased hunger may be overwhelming, it comes with an advantage for mothers who are breastfeeding, because frequent feedings help boost milk supply.
Nighttime? What's That?
On the site WhattoExpect.com, Heidi Murkoff, author of "What to Expect When You're Expecting," states that infants will be up more often at night during a growth spurt. Even babies who have adjusted to a semi-regular sleep schedule, sleeping continuously for 5 to 6 hours, will wake up more frequently for nighttime feedings during a growth spurt. Older babies experiencing growth spurts may also wake up earlier from naps.
She's Suddenly Captain Cranky-Pants
It's very common for babies to be more irritable than usual when going through growth spurts. This uncommon crankiness can be attributed to the increased feedings during the night that are associated with growth spurts, according to Dr. Gregory Plemmons, medical director of the pediatric primary-care practice at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. In a Parents Magazine article, Plemmons explains that if a baby is awake more often during the night to feed, she's not getting the longer periods of rest she needs. If lack of sleep affects adults, imagine what it does to developing babies.
He Sleeps Like the Dead
Once babies have bulked up on calories, they need time to allow their bodies to get to work growing. Babies often spend the next few days after the feeding frenzy sleeping longer and more soundly than they normally would. Research on infant growth spurts by Michelle Lampl, PhD, MD of Emory University and Michael L. Johnson, PhD, of the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, in a study published in the journal "SLEEP," found that babies sleep more and sleep longer as a result of growth spurts. The study also noted that boys and girls vary in how they get their extra sleep. While boys tend to sleep for longer periods of time, girls increase the amount of naps they take during growth spurts.