Growth spurts are a transitional phase in the life of a new-born baby in which development takes place faster than usual. The first few months progress irregularly: they follow a curve, yes, but at certain times development accelerates and reaches a peak.
To regain the balance that was temporarily lost, new parents need to recognise and deal with growth spurts, one after the other. There are typical symptoms to watch out for in these periods, and they can be managed with simple strategies: here is a short guide to help you deal with your baby’s big changes.
When do growth spurts happen, and how do we recognise them?
During growth spurts, the weight, length and head circumference of the new-born increase very quickly. Although this is an entirely physiological phenomenon, it certainly causes an upheaval for the baby. This is why characteristic symptoms usually appear with growth spurts, such as:
- Sleep disruptions when the baby sleeps more or less than usual.
- Increased appetite and cravings, regardless of the type of lactation.
- Irritability, restlessness and frequent crying, especially at night.
- The desire and need to be held often and to be in close contact with mum.
This usually lasts two or three days, but in some cases, it can last up to a week. These are busy days for the whole family and can put a strain on mum and dad.
Knowing how to recognise a growth spurt and roughly when it will happen helps take the stress out of dealing with these moments. The stages are more or less as follows:
- Growth spurt at week2-3
- Growth spurt at week 6-8
- Growth spurt at 3 months
- Growth spurt at 6 months
- Growth spurt at 9 months
In each of these moments, as we said, the child seems to be growing bigger by the second. This happens on a physical level – weight can vary greatly, even from one day to the next – and also on a behavioural and psychological level. It is not uncommon for new abilities to emerge after a growth spurt, such as following a moving object with their eyes (at one month), making voluntary movements and grasping things (at three months), lallation (at six months) or crawling (at nine months).
But how can we best manage our baby's needs at these times?
How can we deal with baby's growth spurts?
As you just read, the symptoms of growth spurts mainly concern nutrition, sleep and behaviour, so coping strategies also have to do with these areas.
If you breastfeed your baby, seeing him always hungry and eager to be fed might make you think that your milk is no longer enough. The reality is that if breastfeeding is well underway and weight gain is maintained (140-200 g per week in the first three months, 80 g between 3 and 6 months), there is no cause for concern. Continue to feed him naturally as you always have, following his rhythm and feeding him on demand. In this way, your milk production will increase, and you will meet his nutritional needs.
But how can we cope with growth spurts when he feeds on formula milk? If you bottle-feed your baby, it's likely that you will need to increase the amount of milk at these times. In this case, it might be easier to manage, since you know the specific doses that you give each time, and you can easily just vary them. However, it's important to always follow the advice of your paediatrician, who will tell you exactly what to do according to your child's weight and age.
A mistake that should be avoided, both in the case of breastfeeding and formula feeding, is to offer the baby alternatives when he wants to feed. Don't give your baby water, herbal teas or even the pacifier – unless it is already a habit – because they can alter his sense of satiety and proper nutrition.
In addition to these nutrition-related tips, here are three other simple suggestions to follow:
- Seek help (from a paediatrician, a midwife or specialised consultants) to clearly distinguish agrowth spurt from other problems that might cause similar symptoms in the new-born baby.
- See to the baby's needs straight away, thereby increasing the frequency and duration of the feedings, and comfort the baby when he or she becomes restless.
- If you are breastfeeding, make sure you are eating and drinking enough:: nutrition while breastfeeding is vital for giving your body all the nutrients and calories it needs.
- Remember that, even though it is tiring, the growth spurt lasts just a few days and is completely normal: try to face it with calm, serenity and lots of affection ... and maybe get help at work and at home when you're feeling extra tired.
At the end of the first year of life, the baby is usually about 75 centimetres tall and weighs about three times as much as at birth and will have acquired a number of psychomotor skills. Mum and dad are not alone in assessing whether the baby's developmental stages are all going to plan: your paediatrician can check that everything is going well. If you are confused about when growth spurts appear and how to recognise them, he will be able to guide you through it.
In any case, we are sure that with a little patience and all the love between you and your child, you will have no problem getting through each and every growth spurt with calmness and peace of mind.