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It can almost seem concerning at first. Your baby suddenly seems hungry and discontented at all hours. What is going on! There is like a growth spurt going on.
How do I know if it is a growth spurt or a napping problem?
It is hard to say for sure, but there are a few signs. One, if your baby has previously been sleeping fine and is suddenly waking early, chances are it is a growth spurt and not a sleeping issue. Two is if your baby is around the age of a growth spurt. Most babies will have a growth spurt at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 or 4 months, 6 months…but don’t rely on those ages as hard and fast rules for a growth spurt. Third, I have noticed that Kaitlyn poops a lot less when she is in a growth spurt. It makes sense because less of the food would be waste–she would be using it to grow.
If your baby is waking early from naps, it is best to treat it as a hunger problem first, as BW suggests. Feed the baby and see what happens. After a couple of weeks, if the baby still isn’t sleeping well, you can move on to try other solutions.
What do I do when my child has a growth spurt?
Feed the baby! BW is parent directed. That means you decide what happens. If your child is hungry, feed him. If you try to fight it, your baby will continue to wake early from naps and will become irritable out of hunger and fatigue, and if you are BF, you risk compromising your supply. Feed your baby. Once the spurt is over, your baby will go back to the 3 hour (or whatever) schedule.
How long with a growth spurt last?
I don’t know. I asked my doctor that once and he said you couldn’t give a timeline to it. I have found that after a day or two, the milk supply catches up and the baby settles down. If you are bottle feeding and the baby can take more in the tummy, you can increase that and the baby may settle down. But maybe baby can’t take more in at a time and needs to eat more often. Do it. Baby will eventually go back to sleeping well. My daughter’s six week growth spurt seemed to last forever.
Something I did at the 2 week growth spurt was to let my daughter eat twice as long when she nursed, and she still made it the 3 hours that way. I wanted to do that because I wanted to stay on schedule with my not-quite two year old. He was still getting used to her being around. It seemed to work fine and my lactation consultant friend said that would work because your nipples are getting more stimulation. I would wonder how well that would work at an older age, though, because they tend to pull off when the milk is too slow.
Remember that babies have growth spurts throughout their first year, then toddlers do after that, etc. until they are done growing. Once you start solids and have them down, it will be more difficult to spot a growth spurt, but they will happen. Remain aware of them and offer your child more food if you suspect a growth spurt. Mine wouldn’t nurse longer–they nursed the minimal amount of time to get the milk they wanted, then they were ready to play.
See also: Baby Whisperer: Growth Spurts
- David said…
Hi, I think my 6 week old is in a growth spurt. We just moved from a pretty regular 2.5 hour schedule to a 3 hour schedule, but had barely started getting used to the new schedule, when now she suddenly is sometimes wanting to eat only 1.5 hours after her last feeding. And she has gone from napping constantly to waking early from her nap, or wanting to eat before her next nap. So, my question is, how do you handle it as far as the schedule goes. For instance, she ate at 10am, but then was hungry again at 11:30 but not due to eat again until 1. I fed her (and she took a full feeding, so it was obviously a hunger thing), and then she went down for a nap soon after. So, now do I try to feed her again at 1 to keep to the original schedule, or just wait and see when she wants to eat again and try to go as long as possible between feedings?Thanks!
January 12, 2008 11:11 AM
When my babies have growth spurts, I just feed them when they are hungry and let the normal routine fly out the window. I still feed, play, sleep, but I let baby decide when to eat. The catch is to keep them eating at least as often, so in your case every 2.5-5 hours. She might keep herself on the 1.5 eating and eat at one anyway! I wouldn’t wake her if she is sleeping until 2 or 2:30. Good luck with the growth spurt! It can be tiring. By the way, good job feeding your baby when she was hungry 🙂
January 12, 2008 11:19 AM
I meant 2.5-3 hours, not 2.5-5.
January 12, 2008 11:19 AM
Hi, thanks for the response. She did end up waking up to eat again at 1 that day and kept to the schedule, and the rest of the day was more or less on schedule. We are doing great on the 3 hour schedule now, except for some colicky evenings–sometimes the schedule and napping go completely out the window those nights, but I’m hoping to get past all of that in another month or so!
January 22, 2008 1:26 PM
I am glad things have calmed down for you! I find those first three months to be the most challenging part of baby’s life. I have heard it referred to as the 4th trimester–it is just hard. Something magical happens around three months and baby just gets a lot easier.
January 22, 2008 2:12 PM
- Meredith said…
My child is doing this now and today I picked him up and fed him and he took a full feeding. What do I do after this re: the schedule? For example, he eats at 7:00, then ate again at 9:00, but it is usually 10:00. He didn’t go back down after the nine feeding b/c it took him 30 minutes to eat and then he was a wake. What do I do at 10:00? feed him again and continue with the regular schedule? I don’t know if he will eat.If they won’t go back to sleep after a 45 minute intruder feeding, then do you just adjust the schedule until it can be ironed out again? What are your thoughts on this?
January 30, 2008 9:31 AM
Good question. If I experience the 45 minute intruder and baby is hungry, I just continue on the day more on a “pattern” than a “schedule.” So baby ate at 9. I would then shoot for the next feeding to be 2.5-3 hours from 9, but perhaps sooner. If this is a growth spurt, then it will be sooner. Feeding baby as often as necessary for a few days will get him with the extra food he needs and he will then go back to normal schedule. So I would feed at 9, do the normal waketime, then put down for a nap. If it turns out he was just hungry for that one feeding, he might sleep a little longer for the next nap and get back on schedule at some point in the afternoon. If not, don’t worry. Tomorrow is a new day 🙂
January 30, 2008 9:45 AM
- Tanya said…
How can you tell that a baby is getting a full feeding in? Mine nurses for about 10 minutes on one side and then might take the other side for a few sucks but won’t take it for longer – usually pulls off and just won’t go back on when I offer it. Also, this afternoon, he was waking up and wanting to eat every two hours. We ran errands tonight so he was in the car seat and is still sleeping after the 2 hour mark. When he wakes up after 2 hours, he eats for 10 minutes and then has wake time and then sleeps for about an hour. He’s very awake when he gets up and is acting hungry?? He’s 6 weeks old this weekend, by the way.
February 21, 2008 7:02 PM
6 weeks is a growth spurt time. Also it is a time prolactin levels drop in the woman, which means the body needs to figure out some other way to make the milk. At least that is the way I understood it. The prolactin drop is significant in some way. So you definitely want to feed him as often as he wants it.As far as know if he got a full feeding…it is hard to know when you are breastfeeding. You sound like you are doing it correctly. You always want to let him finish one side completely before switching to the other so he gets the hind-milk. Then you offer the second side for as much as he wants. As time goes one, you will get to know it better. It will become more natural for you. Just watch the diaper output. If they are on track, then you know he is eating well!
February 21, 2008 9:15 PM
- Meghan said…
I was so glad to find this post!! My daughter (7 weeks today) has been on a 3 1/2 hour schedule for about 2-3 weeks and doing great. I had to go back to work this week so she was with a sitter. To make a long story short, this week, she began wanting to eat sooner and fussing until she was fed. We had to move her to a 3 hour schedule. Before, she was only waking about 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. for her MON feeding but now she is waking at 12:30 or 1:00 and then again at 3:00 or 4:00. It has been tiring especially it being my first week back. Do you suggest that I just add another feeding for now? Last night I did not feed her when she awoke at midnight but then she woke at 1:20 a.m. and I fed her then. Also, I probably should have fed her when she woke at 4:00 too?? At 4:00 she just got really restless but never extremely fussy. She actually dozed off to sleep several times and made it to her regular feeding time of 6:30. Thanks for any input you can give!!
March 28, 2008 6:30 AM
Yes, I would cut back down to a 3 hour schedule. BW recommends not extending your schedule until night feedings are dropping. As I understand it, Baby needs X number of calories in a day and need so many feedings to get those calories in. As they grow, they can take in more at a time and have fewer feedings. You want that dropped feeding to come at night, not in the day.Whether you do that or not, adding a feeding during a growth spurt is always a good idea. 🙂
March 28, 2008 10:27 PM
- Catherine said…
I have been feeding him every time he wakes up- he’s just having a big issue with one feeding per night- the last 3 nights he has been eating voraciously one feeding for about 45-50 minutes, afterward he is so worked up he just can’t seem to get himself back to sleep. I even tried feeding him longer 2 nights ago but that just made it worse. It takes him 1-2 hrs. crying off and on even in his swing to fall back asleep. (Meaning I hear him crying every few minutes off and on) So I feed him as often as he wakes up, but he’s having such a tough time when he wakes up so much from that feeding, poor guy. The other feedings he goes right back to sleep if he’s in his swing. I feel like 3 issues are coming up at once! The growth spurt, him not being able to self soothe if he is woken up after almost falling asleep, and his days being in transition! Ahhh!
March 6, 2008 12:32 PM
Hang in there! It will get better. Have you looked into any medical issues or milk supply yet?
March 6, 2008 3:50 PM
- Catherine said…
Thanks- I am hanging in and just trying to get some sleep in the process. 🙂 I did look extensively into both- gas, colic, etc, and my milk supply. I have more than enough milk. I pumped for a while and let my husband feed him the bottles. I also read a whole lot on gas, colic, reflux, etc… and even though he does fit the symptoms of it starting after eating, he doesn’t fit the symptoms of fussiness with crying constantly, arching his back, seeming like he’s in pain, etc… I have tried shortening his naps the last two days. He has taken 3 2.5 hour naps very happily and easily yesterday and today. His 4th nap yesterday was almost 2 hours. We were not having this issue at night until I stopped feeding him whenever he seemed that he had woken up when I put him in the crib. Meaning if I put him down, and he started jostling and waking up, I would pick him up and feed him again until he was really calm and would fall asleep easily when I put him in the crib. As soon as I stopped doing that, he has been up crying. I feel like I was soothing him back to sleep. Also for him to eat like he has been with that super long voracious feeding in the middle of the night is very out of character for him, only has happened the last 3 nights. He has also been eating consistently longer at each feeding the last few days.
March 6, 2008 6:51 PM
It sounds like he is improving! Remember that improvements come slowly, and the progress isn’t in a straight line. They get better, then go back, then better, then back, etc. It is all a normal part of the process. The voracious eating is likely due to the growth spurt. Keep working on it–he is definitely making progress!
March 7, 2008 10:38 AM
- swanny said…
My DD (14 weeks) had been consistantly sleeping through the night (7:30 bedtime, 10pm dream feed to 6:30 wake time)since 8wks old. Starting about 1 week ago she hit a growth spurt- but instead of waking up from her day time naps, she adopted the habbit of eating at night. I know that she needed the night feedings because she was eating very well for them (abt 12-15 /side and during the day she usually does 10 and 10). I tried yesterday and the day before to put her on a 2.5 hr schedule in the evenings (3:30, 6, 8:30, 11 pm dreamfeed) instead of the 3hr she has been on since birth (only one 2.5 hr feeding if she wakes early), in hope that she would not wake for a MON feed. She wasnt eating well for those feedings, and then was cranky because I woke her up early and she was not feed well. So I decided that was not the way to go. This morning she did not eat well. Do you think that it is time to start to wean her from her MON feeding that she just recently adopted? (I can’t do CIO in the MON b/c I live w/ my inlaws and my husband is away at school). I dont want to under feed her if she is still going through a growth spurt. I am at a loss of what to try next.
April 4, 2008 9:49 AM
Swanny, Sorry, I didn’t get a notification about your post! I don’t know if you are still having that issue by this point, but yes, I would start to wean from that MON feeding. Let me know if you are still having difficulty, and if so, what questions you have.
April 14, 2008 10:56 AM
- Elise’smum said…
Hi, my LO is 11 weeks old and we are just now starting CIO. We have suscribed to BW pattern since her birth tho. We started CIO because she went from falling asleep by herself to falling asleep being rocked and she kept waking herself up after busting out of her swaddle. SO, I guess we’re starting less swaddle (one arm out)and CIO. Plus she is now over some major reflux/colic issues. ANYWAY, day 2 naps are going OK she cries anywhere from 10-30min and then falls asleep with an arm out! Horray. But nights are tough she has never gone more than 6 hours without nursing. YUCK. I thought she was in a pattern recently so I tried CIO last night for the first time but I feel terrible because I went to check on her after 1 hour of fuss (at a patterned time) quiet fuss quiet CRY and she was hungry (when offered) that was on this evening schedule (eat 5PM)(nap 6PM) (nurse730PM&to bed)(1030PM nightfeed)*130AM CIO to 230AM nurse 630AM nurse. AKKKK. I’m sure she’s eating enough during the day 2.5-3 hour schedule plus I have MORE than enough milk I always offer the second side too. SO, the question is…is she in a growth spurt or just eating because I offer at 4 hours since last nursing? Or just still needs a middle of the night nursing (but it seems to be in a pattern!) Does this make sense? Thanks!Elise’s mom
May 13, 2008 10:26 AM
It is a hard call. I would be inclined to think as you do that she should need at most 1 night feeding. If she usually goes 6 hours, that isn’t too bad. It isn’t ideal for you, but 15% of BW babies don’t sleep 7-8 consistent hours until 12 weeks. For that reason, I personally always wait until 12 weeks before considering CIO at night. BUT I do have friends that have done it at 9 weeks with success. You have to be the one to evaluate her need for food in the night and then go from there. 3 months is a growth spurt time, so I would also wait until you have seen that come and go before CIO at night. See this post on other ideas for dropping night feedings:Early Morning Feedings Before Waketime: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/early-morning-feedings-before-waketime.html
May 14, 2008 11:22 AM
- LEM said…
Is there such as thing as an opposite of a growth spurt? My 10-week old doesn’t seem to be very interested in any of his feedings lately. In fact today he has flat out refused 2 in a row! He’s seems normal otherwise. At his last appt about a week ago he was at the 50th percentile for both weight and height but it concerns me when he doesn’t want to eat. My mother (not knowledgeable in BW) says I should feed him every 4 hours but I told her I needed to get rid of the dreamfeed first. Is it normal for them to not be hungry like this?
July 26, 2008 6:35 PM
My baby eats noticeably less during his growth spurts. I was concerned at first, too, but have discovered that as the cause…
July 27, 2008 10:34 AM
LEM, Since he refused 2 in a row, I would say it is not a need for a four hour schedule. I would guess it is a sickness issue. Teething, ear infection…Also, they are often really tired right after a growth spurt and might eat less.
July 28, 2008 2:08 PM
wrknprogres, thanks for your thoughts!
July 28, 2008 2:08 PM
- bradysmom said…
I wonder if my LO is going through a growth spurt. He hasn’t been pooping as much – every 2 days; and I can’t get him to take a full 2 hour nap to save my life. He has consistently (for the past 5 days) been waking after 1.5 to 1 hr 45 minutes for naps (he’s on a 4 hour schedule). He isn’t crying when he wakes, so I just figured he was done eating.I did try to increase his solid intake, but he’s not really interested in taking all of it. Maybe I should increase the bottle amount (he’s bottle fed now). Also, I give him his bottle, then his solids. I tried it the other way around when we first started solids, but then he wouldn’t finish all his bottle. Now he doesn’t finish all his solids, unless it’s somethign he loves!i just wonder if it’s a growth spurt and that’s why he’s waking a little early, not pooping as much.
August 19, 2008 6:34 AM
It is possible 🙂
August 19, 2008 9:24 PM