Growth spurts: When do they occur and How to survive them?

May 6, 2024

Do you want to know what growth spurts are, when they occur, and how to manage them?

You have come to the right place.

In this article we’ll find out how to tell if it’s a growth spurt, the months of all growth spurts, whether regressions come with a growth spurt, how these occur and how to manage them.

How to tell if it is a growth spurt?

After birth, the baby goes through extremely quiet times and somewhat more difficult periods.

Scientific research has shown that babies go through at least 10 major, predictable changes during the first 20 months of life.

This is precisely a time when the baby learns so many things, far more than at any subsequent period, at least at this rate.

Inevitably, these changes will affect the child in both mood and health.

Indeed, it is not uncommon for the baby to go through phases of exhausting crying, moments of extreme nervousness, and unfortunately also many difficulties in falling asleep.

Or, excessive infant sleep (all problems that can be solved at least in part with optimal sleep time management).

The infant’s brain, during the growth spurt, suddenly undergoes a drastic change that it cannot immediately cope with.

What apparently seems to be an extremely difficult period is nothing more than a small step toward greater awareness on the part of the child.

Thus, in the face of a small regression, what comes soon after is a great growth of the child.

Now let’s look in detail at how to tell if our child is going through a regression that indicates a spurt.

What are the months of growth spurts?

Growth spurts can occur at any time-it is very important to know this because each baby is unique.

However, we can define specific periods when growth spurt is most likely.

There is no pre-packaged timetable that will be adhered to by all babies; we will only give general guidelines as to when to prepare to handle the baby.

We can, broadly speaking, identify in the following the most “difficult” periods:

Week of DevelopmentBaby’s DevelopmentRecognizing Signs
3rd/5th weekBetter perceives the world around. Reacts to olfactory, tactile, and auditory stimuli. First smile and tears.Increased appetite. Desire for more physical contact. More crying and difficulty in consoling.
8th weekSenses refine. Lifts head when on stomach. Discovers hands and feet. Vocalizations and communication.Shyness towards strangers. Frequent sucking for self-soothing. Irregular and disturbed sleep. Decreased appetite (in some cases).
12th weekGrabs objects he sees. Keeps head upright. More vigorous kicking. Discovers own voice. Social interaction (selective smiling).Seeks closeness of parents. Increased appetite and more frequent feedings.
16th/19th weekFirst rotations from belly to back. Motor development: grabs objects with one hand. Puts everything in mouth. Body and muscular growth. Reactions to mirror.Agitated sleep. Constant hunger (possibility of introducing solid foods). Seeks physical contact.
26th weekWaves and claps hands. Understands cause and effect. Expresses emotions (joy, anger, fear). New sounds.Generalized shyness. Conscious smiles, anger, and frustration. Crying when parents leave the room.
37th weekAttempts to crawl. Shows preferences and determination.Hunger and curiosity towards new flavors. Exploration of limits and start of educational process.
47th weekSits and crawls agilely. Rises by leaning on furniture. First steps (if assisted). Learning sequences in daily activities.Dissatisfaction, variable mood, and complaints. Seeks closeness and attention.
55th weekTransition from baby to child. First autonomous steps. Assertion of own will.Alternation between laughter and crying. Outbursts of anger, tantrums, and frustrations. Possible return of shyness. Resistance to sleep and difficulty sleeping.

Between growth spurts, there are periods when the child is calmer, seems to be much calmer and much more mature because of these new acquisitions.

Between one growth spurt and the next we can have periods when the child eats more, has more independence, and even sleeps better.

Let us always remember that children are able to develop some particular skills only when the brain is mature enough to do so and when the body is able to follow the rapid evolution of new neural connections.

All growth spurts in detail

So let’s go into detail about the most common and obvious growth spurts and find out how to recognize and accompany them properly.

First growth spurt: from the fifth week

The infant begins to perceive the world around him better, showing more alert and lively.

He reacts noticeably to olfactory, tactile and sound stimuli.

The first smile and tears also appear due to the opening of the tear ducts.

Breathing stabilizes and episodes of milk regurgitation are reduced.

Signs of recognition:

Increased appetite.
Desire for more physical contact.
More crying and difficulty in comforting.

Second growth spurt: from week 8.

Senses, such as sight, hearing and smell, are refined.

Baby is able to lift his head when on his stomach.

He finally discovers his own hands and feet and attempts to grasp them.

He can hold objects in his hands and begins to make new vocalizations, warble and communicate.

Signs of recognition:

Shyness toward strangers and preference for mother.
Frequent sucking for self-calming.
Irregular and disturbed sleep.
Decreased appetite in some children.

Third growth spurt: from 12 weeks.

Baby tries to pick up objects he sees.

Keeps head erect and kicks more vigorously.

Discovers his own voice, emitting squeals and cries of joy.

Social behavior begins more noticeably: for example, the baby begins to interact by smiling selectively.

How to recognize it:

Seeks parental closeness.
Increased appetite and need for more frequent feedings.

Fourth growth spurt: from 16 to 19 weeks.

First evidence of rotation from belly to back begins.

Infant further develops motor skills and is able to pick up objects with one hand.

He brings anything to his mouth.

Significant body and muscle growth is noted.

First reactions when standing in the mirror.

The famous sleep regression of the fourth month may occur during this period.

Signs of recognition:

Restless sleep.
Constant hunger, with the possibility of introducing solid foods.
Seeking physical contact.

growth spurt

Fifth growth spurt: from week 26.

Baby begins to wave and clap and understand the first links between cause and effect.

Begins to clearly express emotions such as joy, anger and fear.

Attempts to make new sounds never attempted before.

How to recognize this developmental stage:

Generalized shyness, even toward familiar faces
Conscious smiles, but also clear expressions of anger and frustration.
Crying when parents leave the room, having realized that this draws their attention.

Sixth developmental stage: from the thirty-seventh week.

The child attempts to crawl. Begins to express preferences and shows determination.

How to recognize snapping:

Hunger and curiosity about new tastes.
Exploration of limits and beginning of the educational process.
Seventh developmental stage: from forty-seventh week.
Baby is able to sit and crawl with agility.

Begins to lift himself by leaning on furniture and, if helped, takes his first steps, possibly without a walker. Sequence learning in daily activities.

Main indicators of snapping:

Dissatisfaction, variable mood and whining.
Seeking closeness and attention.

Eighth growth spurt: from the fifty-fifth week.

The actual transition from baby to toddler begins.

First steps toward autonomy in walking.

Baby begins to assert his or her own will.

How to recognize this growth spurt:

Rapid alternation between laughing and crying.
Temper tantrums, tantrums and frustrations.
Possible return of shyness.
Resistance to sleep and difficulty sleeping well.

How does a growth spurt manifest itself?

The very first growth spurts that the child has are due to his adaptation to the outside world.

His body has to learn to live in a foreign environment, and this inevitably leads him to experience periods of great stress.

The first consequence is to seek comfort in his only point of reference: his mother and his parents’ bodies (some people have a strong need for contact at all)

In the still following months, the baby starts weaning (or self-weaning) and this affects his behavior and habits, he starts moving more and more and communicating: crawling, saying the first words, rolling over…

Keep in mind that this is a momentous change for his digestion, with a radical change in his gut microbiota.

Around 8/9 months, the fear of being abandoned arises in the baby and he requires more contact with his parents, seeks more reassurance, and often, at this very stage, breastfed babies ask even more to be nursed.

We can summarize then that the characteristics of a growth spurt are:

  • irritability
  • increased appetite
  • decreased appetite
  • increased need for contact
  • inconsolable crying
  • disturbed sleep
  • difficulty staying with other people
  • anger
  • sadness

When do children begin to become more manageable?

As we have seen this is a difficult stage, but at the same time it brings great improvement.

The growth spurt usually lasts from 3 days to a week.

Here are some tips for you to survive the growth spurt:

  • take care of your baby but don’t forget about yourself
  • use a sling or baby carrier if you can
  • breastfeed on demand
  • hydrate a lot
  • be patient a few days, because these growth spurts do not last forever
  • accept that your baby may need more contact
  • give him or her to a trusted person to regain energy
  • maintain daily routines and routines
  • seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed
  • The advice is always not to compare your child with another of the same age.

Although it is a strong temptation, it is unnecessary, as babies are all different and have different developmental timelines.

Don’t be frightened if your child has more difficult periods or “skips” any growth spurts-these are not mandatory and accurate, just indicative.

If you see that your child shows other signs besides nervousness and irritability, do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician to rule out other medical issues.

How to manage growth spurts?

During periods of growth spurts, there are certain strategies to adopt depending on whether the baby is breastfed or formula-fed.

For breastfed babies, it is important to recognize the signs of increased milk demand and try to meet it by attaching the baby to the breast more often. If the baby soils five or six diapers a day with yellow stools and clear urine, there should be no doubt about the sufficiency of milk.

For formula-fed babies, the goal is to try to replicate breastfeeding as much as possible. This can be achieved by increasing the amount of formula for a few days until the baby requires it, then returning to the normal amount at the end of the growth spurt.

In any case, observing and listening to the baby is crucial. Each baby is unique and may react differently to growth spurts. Some may require more milk, others may be more irritable or sleep more. It is important to pay attention to these signals and adjust feeding and handling routines accordingly. Careful observation and active listening allow us to better understand our baby’s needs and respond appropriately.

If you feel you need direct support, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will help you through this difficult phase.

We are with you

At Parentalife, we do everything we can to ensure that you feel calm and prepared on your parenting journey. We do this through our guides and classes, and through personalized consultations (which we encourage you to book if you feel you need support).

Remember, on this journey, you will never be alone: we are with you.

FAQ

  1. What is a growth spurt and how to recognize it?

    A growth spurt is a period when a child goes through rapid physical and mental changes. It may manifest as increased appetite, increased need for touch, inconsolable crying, disturbed sleep and other signs of distress.

  2. What are the months of growth spurts?

    Growth spurts can occur at any time, but there are more likely periods. For example, the first one may occur around week 5, followed by others around week 12, week 26, and so on.

  3. How to manage growth spurts?

    During growth spurts, it is important to watch and listen carefully to the baby. Some may require more milk or nourishment, others may be more irritable or have changes in their sleep patterns. Adjusting feeding and management routines accordingly is critical.

  4. How can I distinguish a growth spurt from a medical problem?

    If your child shows signs of discomfort beyond those typical of growth spurts, such as fever, severe gastrointestinal symptoms, or sudden and persistent changes in his or her behavior patterns, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician to rule out any medical problems.

SOURCES

Lampl M, Johnson ML. Infant growth in length follows prolonged sleep and increased naps. Sleep. 2011 May 1;34(5):641-50. doi: 10.1093/sleep/34.5.641. PMID: 21532958; PMCID: PMC3079944.

About the Author

Claudia Denti

Claudia Denti is the founder of Genitore Informato and Parentalife.