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Growth spurts are a necessary evil. It may seem shocking that I’m calling them evil. That sounds harsh, I know. But a mom in the throes of her baby’s growth spurt doesn’t think that’s a harsh description. Trust me, it can be torturous!
If you’ve ever experienced a particularly rough growth spurt, you’re nodding your head right now and saying “YAAAAS girl! Those things are wicked!”
Of course, we know they’re necessary and we want our wee dumpling to grow. But does it have to be so awful? I don’t think so.
If your baby’s older than about 3 days, you’ve probably been warned you about growth spurts. It used to drive me crazy because any time my first baby was fussy, it seemed like people came out of the woodwork to ask me if he was going through a growth spurt. I didn’t realize growth spurts follow a pattern and happen at somewhat consistent times. I also didn’t realize they’d change my baby’s personality for a few days.
Understanding when a growth spurt is coming gives you the advanced knowledge you need to prepare. And knowing ahead of time that your baby is gonna be fussy and clingy for a few days will keep you from feeling frustrated when it happens.
When growth spurts happen
In the first 8 weeks of life, your baby will be growing at super-sonic speed! Babies grow faster in the first 2 months than any other time in their life. He may literally outgrow his clothes overnight! (So if you’re saving a cute outfit for some special day, go ahead and put it on him!! You may not get another chance.)
I read several sources to find the exact timing of growth spurts in the first couple of months, and here’s what I found:
HA! Let’s just say the first 8 weeks are full of growth spurts, shall we? Your tiny baby may only experience 2 or 3 “true” growth spurts during the first 8 weeks, but they could seriously happen at any time.
After those first crazy weeks of growing-gone-wild, your baby will follow what I call the Rule of 3’s. Put simply, he’ll have a growth spurt in months divisible by 3.
You can expect growth spurts around 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. An exception to the rule is 4 months – that’s a common age for growth spurts too.
Signs you may be in a growth spurt
While growth spurts start without warning, there are some clues to show that what a baby is experiencing is a growth spurt. A few tell-tale signs your baby is going through a growth spurt are:
- cluster feeding
- baby never seems to get full
- napping more
- nursing longer
- waking more at night
You might also have some signs of a growth spurt such as:
- hungrier than usual
- thirstier than usual
- breasts are more full
Don’t be surprised if you’re not able to pinpoint the exact timing of your baby’s growth spurt. At first, your baby is probably just a bit fussy. Nothing new, right? Most growth spurts are almost over by the time mom realizes what just happened – if she notices at all. You have to reeeeeally be paying attention to realize what’s going on.
How long will it last
I’ve got good news for you! Growth spurts are pretty short-lived. Your baby will calm down and be back to normal in 2 or 3 days.
If your baby is fussy, clingy, and never seems to get full for longer than 3 days, call your pediatrician. Other factors may be at play such as a low milk supply, gastrointestinal troubles, or sickness.
How to help your baby
As trying as it may be to go through these necessary growth spurts, there are a few things you can do to make it easier for you and your baby.
- Clear your calendar as much as possible. Don’t try to accomplish very much while your baby is so needy. It’ll just frustrate you.
- Give him more skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact will improve both your baby’s mood and your own mood. It may give you a slightly less needy baby too.
- Try babywearing. The Moby wrap absolutely gets my vote! For moms who aren’t comfortable with wrapping, the harness-style Ergobaby carrier is amazing! Babywearing provides your baby with constant nearness he craves, yet still keeps your hands free to do other things.
- Avoid bottle feeding during the growth spurt if at all possible. As tempting as it may be to grab a bottle and hand baby to someone else, understand there’s a biological reason for the extra suckling. All this constant nursing increases your milk supply to accommodate a bigger baby!
- Be patient. He’s not being impossible on purpose. As hard as this experience is for you, it’s just as rough on your baby. He doesn’t know what’s going on, and it’s stressful for him.
- Give yourself grace. The fact that he’s nursing all the time doesn’t mean your milk supply is low or that you’ve spoiled the baby. He’s nursing all the time for 2 reasons: 1) to get extra nutrition to grow like a weed and 2) to start your boobs making more milk for his bigger self.
Riding the waves
Have you ever been swimming in the ocean and been smashed in the face with a wave you didn’t see coming, while someone next to you just gracefully skimmed right over the top of it? The difference was they knew it was coming and so they were prepared for it. Same wave, very different responses.
In much the same way, you can either be smashed in the face by a growth spurt or skim right along with it. Know when it’s coming. Remember that Rule of 3’s – plus month 4! Understand your baby needs extra nursing and snuggles. Clear your schedule and keep your goals at a minimum. And take comfort in the knowledge that it’s only gonna be 2 or 3 days before everything returns back to normal.
Always keep in mind when you have a growth spurt on the horizon and ride those waves. You’ll make it look so easy mama, I promise.
Did your baby ever have a particularly horrible time with a growth spurt? What did you do? Please share in the comments!