Thursday, September 17, 2009

Growth Spurts

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In The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, Tracy Hogg lists some good information on growth spurts. I think growth spurts are often troublesome for parents. We never know for sure if it is a growth spurt. Once we know it is (or we think we know it is), we aren't sure how long it should last or will last. Here are some answers to help you out.

"...a period, typically lasting a day or two, when your baby's body demands more food." (page 116)

I have to start by saying that I don't think it is a good idea to have a preconceived time table in mind for how long a growth spurt should last. When Kaitlyn was having her 6 week growth spurt, Brayden was having his 2 year old doctor appointment. I asked our pediatrician how long a growth spurt lasts. He replied that you can't put a timetable on it.

McKenna's growth spurts always lasted about 5-6 days. Yikes! That is a long time! Growth spurts are exhausting. She went from feeding every three hours to every 2.5. Toward the end of the growth spurt, she ate every 2 hours. Whoa. What a difference one hour makes. I was always happy to have the growth spurt end :) But they are a part of life.

I also read in another book (I believe Super Baby Food?) that baby's first year is really just one long growth spurt with faster sprints mingled in there. I think that is a great way of looking at it.

Also, I found that both Kaitlyn and McKenna had one day each week where they ate more often. Kaitlyn's day was Thursday and McKenna's was Friday. This lasted until somewhere between 2-3 months old.

If your child is typically a good sleeper, it makes "diagnosing" a growth spurt much easier. If your child typically takes a full nap and has been sleeping X number of hours at night, but suddenly starts waking early, the it most likely is a growth spurt.

You can also look at the time table. This is tricky because just about every "expert" has a different timeline for growth spurts. Hogg says the first one happens at 6-8 weeks old (116). Not true for my children! The timetable I have found to be true for all of my children is that they happen every 3-4 weeks. So the first one will be somewhere around 3-4 weeks old. Basically it is once a month. In her first book, Hogg says they happen every 3-4 weeks.

Another hint Hogg uses is the type of waking if baby is waking in the night. If baby is waking at the same time every night, it might not be a hunger issue. If it is at different times every night, the it likely is a growth spurt (page 116).

Another good clue is how baby eats. If she eats well when you feed her earlier than usual, then it likely is a growth spurt. If not, then she might be waking for some other reason (page 117). I do have a word of caution with this, though. If your baby is a sleepy eater (common in the newborn stages, so very common at the 3/4 week growth spurt and 6/8 week growth spurt), she might still get sleepy at a feeding if she is going through a growth spurt. Watch for behavior that is different from normal.

Feed baby. Feed baby. Feed baby. Did I mention feed baby?

Hogg says to increase food during the day (adding ounces to bottles or more feedings when breastfeeding) and/or adding a dreamfeed if you don't have one already (page 117). If you are breastfeeding and your baby will do it, you can also increase the amount of time baby spends nursing. So if baby typically takes 20 minutes to eat, you can increase nursing time to 30 minutes. This will increase stimulation which will increase milk supply. This is usually easier to do with the newborns than the 3/4 month olds. When they get older, they don't really want to sit and suck when not much is coming; they want to be looking at the world!

Many parents worry during a growth spurt. They feel like they are backtracking and worry they are starting new bad habits with short naps. Please don't worry about it--especially if it comes at the expense of feeding your baby the food she needs.

Ignoring a growth spurt will not make it go away. It will only prolong your short naps and/or night wakings. The best way to "fix" a growth spurt is to feed baby. Once baby's body has reached the growth needed, you will be able to tell and you can get baby back on her normal napping/sleeping schedule.

It is normal for a baby to have growth spurts. It is not cause for concern. Feed baby as she needs it. Doing so is following the rules of Babywise precisely. I know growth spurts are exhausting, but the are a necessity. Hang in there!



Peter, Jolene and Henry said...

Thank you for the information on growth spurts! I have a 16 week old boy and I always wonder how to handle feed/wake/sleep during growth spurts. Let's say that you put your baby down and they sleep for about an hour and then want to eat again (when they usually sleep longer) do you do wake time after the feeding or try to put them back down to finish a nap (never seems to work)? Just wondering how you go about the day when it is a growth spurt. :)

Stephanie said...

Thank you so much for this post. I have a 7 week old and have struggled to discern when he is in a growth spurt. I also have one other question. If he takes a nap from 6-8 before his last feed, he wakes at the 3 or 4 am feed wanting to have awake time. I have attempted keeping him up these 2 hours and he gets so overtired, he feeds and falls asleep but then wakes up when I lay him down and cannot calm himself (he usually can). So I am not sure what to do. I have tried him in his swing so he could take a short nap but he won't fall asleep in it. Just wondered if you had any suggestions! Thanks so much!

Alyssa said...

Thank you! And thank you for your blog - it's been really helpful to me! My son is 3 weeks old and I've been trying to follow BW, but have felt very frustrated doing it because he didn't follow the "rules" exactly and I didn't know what to do. I have a feeling he's currently in a growth spurt, and I'm trying to feed him, but never sure if he's eating enough. I guess he has the diapers to prove that he is (9-10 wet per day), but still, he always seems to be hungry, even after full feedings and no snacking. Maybe I'm just mistaking it though, and I'll really know when a growth spurt does hit?

Angela said...

Thanks for this post. There is a lot of good and important info in it that I hadn't thought about.
My daughter goes into hibernation for three days, barely having any wake time and eating just enough to go back to sleep. She started this at two months old and was doing it every week and a half or so until about four months old. She was born four weeks early and has gone to the 95th percentile for length. I, also, usually know when it's a growth spurt because I'm extra hungry, too. She has very few bowel movements while growing (sometimes up to 36 hours in between) which my pediatrician is said is fine for a breastfed baby. I was told of one boy who went eleven days and my son went five. Just as long as they are tooting...

Thanks so much for your blog. I will definitely be passing along this post to friends! :)

Dave and Elaine said...

I am desperately trying to figure out what is going on with my baby! She is 16 weeks old & was born at 37w3d. I was so happy that we had reached the point where she was sleeping from about 10pm to 7 or 7:30am. And then, about a week ago, she started waking between 2 and 3 for a feeding (she is bottle fed) and then around 6am for another feeding, even though her wake time is 7:30am. I can't figure out if this is a bad habit forming or, until reading your post today, I am thinking maybe it's a growth spurt??? She does eat well when she wakes up to eat at those nighttime hours. The only thing is sometimes after the 6am feeding she wants to start her day!

Her bedtime used to be 10pm. Then I was noticing she was really fussy between the 8-10pm hours so I moved her bedtime to 9pm, which has eliminated the fussy time. However, now she eats her last bottle around 8:45pm. Could this be why she is now waking twice in the night? If I did a dreamfed at 10pm she will have only been in bed about 45 minutes. Seems a little to early. I'm already asleep by 11 to do a dreamfed...

Like I said she is 16 weeks. I've had her on a flexible 3-4 hour eating routine. Should I do a strict 3 hour eating routine or 4 hour routine?? Sometimes she takes 45 minutes to a hour to finish a bottle! And other times it is only a 30 minute feeding.

Please help me! I have spent hours on here reading your wonderful blog and feel I would greatly benefit from you giving me advice about these specific issues I am having! THANK YOU!

DoodleBug81 said...

This post on growth spurts is so timely for me! My baby boy is 6 weeks old today, and I'm pretty sure we've been going through a growth spurt this week... I was glad to read your comment about sleepy feedings with newborns, even during a growth spurt! Is this common, even when your baby has started being more awake and aware for feedings, and then kind of 'regresses' during the growth spurt? He used to (and still at times does) be awake and 'on task' with nursing, making it clear when he's done. Lately, though, he bobs off and on my breast, falling asleep, wakes up, wants more, and never seems to be satisfied! He will even feed for 10 minutes on one side and then start to cry and fuss!! Is this normal?

Plowmanators said...

Peter, Jolene, Henry,

I always still follow the eat/wake/sleep cycle during growth spurts. However, since naps are shorter, waketime needs to be shorter, too. Since baby isn't as well-rested due to shorter naps, baby needs shorter waketimes.

Plowmanators said...

Stephanie, it sounds like it might be a situation you need to wait out. Has it worked out yet?

Plowmanators said...

Alyssa, you are welcome! There are always guessing games with growth spurts :) And your baby is still young. Don't worry so much as following things by the book. Just do what you can do and enjoy the moment. No baby is by the book (even the book says so :) ).

Plowmanators said...

Angela, thanks for your added observations! I like the "as long as they are tooting..." thought.

Plowmanators said...

Dave and Elaine,

Id does sound like a growth spurt. if she is still waking in the night, I would add a dreamfeed.

Also, 9 PM is still pretty late for her for a bedtime. I know it is counterintuitive, but the later the bedtime, the worse she will sleep in the night. I would advice a bedtime anywhere from 7-8:30.

As far as feeding spacings, it is totally fine to have some intervals be 3 and some 4. During a growth spurt, it is good to add a feeding to the day, though. Good luck!

Plowmanators said...

Doodlebugs81, it is pretty normal. The baby isn't sleeping as long as he is used to, so he is tired.

However, be sure to me mindful of whether it is him waking for another reason and falling asleep while eating because he isn't hungry vs. him waking out of hunger but falling asleep because he is just tired. There is no magic answer for you to know which is which. You just have to observe and go with your intuition. I think it is wise to always err on the side of hunger, so if you are not sure, definitely offer the feeding.

Also, another thing you can try is try to help him fall back asleep with help for about 10-15 minutes. If he does, and he stays asleep, then it was likely a transition issue. If he doesn't, then it is likely hunger.

danielle said...

Do you have any recommendations for babies that don't appear to have the 'off' switch? All the advice seems to focus around the baby telling you if they need more food and letting you know when they no longer do. My boy will eat 24/7 if given the chance and has been that way since the beginning. My pediatrician recommends demand feeding so I was doing that....we ended up seeing several specialists becaus of his severe reflux and they were all horrified at how much I was feeding him (a lot of it was coming right back up too, which leads me to believe they were right). They put us one strict 4oz every 3 hr schedule which we've been doing for the last month and it does seem to have helped. If he wakes up early though he will cry till the next feeding (more often than not), and he often cries after feedings too and will ALWAYs eat more if offered (we are bottle feeding). How will I identify then when he really does need more for a growth spurt?
Also, when it is a growth spurt do you feed them at night when they wake, or do you stick to the rules at night and not reintroduce night feeds and just increase feeds in the day to keep them sleeping at night?

Plowmanators said...


Brayden had no "off" switch either. I just choose a length of time that seemed like it should be plenty and stopped his eating at that point (that was 40 minutes). I think a big part of it was that I was new to breastfeeding and couldn't recognize the signs that say the baby is done eating and is just sucking.

You definitely will need to have strategies for growth spurt periods. Reflux babies get growth spurts, too, so he will need more food or food more often at those times. I am not sure what to tell you about if he really needs it (growth spurt) or if he is just wanting to eat.

Some babies with reflux find it soothing to eat---so he might be like that and wanting to eat to soothe himself.

I would watch for signs on what he does after eating when he wants to eat more--are there times he won't spit it up and times he will?

Also, growth spurts typically happen every 3-4 weeks, so you can track them that way.

I do feed at night during growth spurts if baby is hungry.

Garrett and Denise Stone said...

My baby is 2.5 weeks. During the night and day she has been on a 3 hour routine and sometimes at night goes 4-5 hours. The last 4 nights she is going less time during the night, maybe 2-2.5, and sleeping not as good during the day. Also the last 34 nights she wakes up at 545-6 for a feeding and I put her down after. She will not go down after this last feeding, she cries and cries. I have tried to let her CIO a little but the only thing that helps is trying to hold her or rock her. I was thinking the general overall change was a growth spurt? I am trying to keep her on a 3 hour schedule but I dont know what to do, as my wake time has usually been 730-8 for her in the am. Any advice? Im an exhausted mama!

Karissa said...

I don't know if you still are able to respond to comments, but I have one question. My baby is 4 weeks old, and he woke early from a nap, and all the usual soothing techniques didn't work. So I fed him, but he didn't eat a full feeding. When babies go through growth spurts and they eat more frequently, do they eat a full feeding every time or do they snack more? I'm not sure if this is the beginning of a growth spurt or not...

Valerie Plowman said...

They would eat a full feeding. He is the right she for a growth spurt, however.

It could be a wonder week issue.

Bek Rogg said...

I have been in tears. I feel so in the dark and unsure of what to do. My [just turned] 4 month old is still getting up between 2-3am at night for a feed - which is fine BUT doing the day her feeds are so short. I'm not joking when I say she will feed for 5 min (2.5 min on each boob) and then she will not have anymore. she won't even cluster feed - she won't eat unless she's hungry and when I think she's really hungry she only feeds for 5 min. she's sleeping efficiently during the day has 1.5-2hr naps, occasionally will wake early. I thought she might of been having a growth spurt which is why she has been getting up during the night to feed but if I try feed her before 3 hours she doesn't want to feed and sometimes she doesn't feed at 3 hours. Soooo I thought maybe she is ready to go to 4 hour feedings - but advice says not to go there until Bub is sleeping through the night.
We start the day at 7am she will have a small feed (you'd think this would be her best feed of the day considering it's the first feed - this morning she only had ONE BOOB for about 3 min) then every three hours after that if I'm lucky... She goes down to sleep at 7am, had a good dream feed at 10am and then wakes at 2-3am...
I thought maybe I'm just not producing enough milk - but when I express, one boob pumps out 125ml in around 3-5 min.
I don't know what to do.. I am happy to get up during the night if that's what she needs but I fear that she's getting up in the night lately because she's not getting enough on the day and I don't know how to change that - I can't force her to eat.
Any help / advice would be so appreciated!

Angela said...

How is baby's weight gain? If she is breathing more than 60 times/minute I would mention that to her doctor..

Valerie Plowman said...

Her sleeping well during the day tells me she is getting enough. Kaitlyn was my fastest nurser and around that age she was at about 5 minutes per side. She was always the highest percentile for weight, also. She still is a fast drinker to this day. Some people can just chug :)

I would go ahead and try the four hour schedule. There are moms that find a four hour fixes night wakings. It is worth a shot. If it doesn't go well, just go back.

I wouldn't worry about the night waking. With her sleeping well in the day, she is fine. My oldest woke once a night until he was 6 months old. He has a very fast metabolism (so does my husband) and I think it just took him longer to make it all night.


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