Understanding baby growth spurts

baby growth spurts

by Stephanie Spencer |
Updated on

Your tot can experience baby growth spurts where they grow almost a centimetre bigger overnight. From sudden changes in eating and sleeping habits as well as behaviour changes, these growth spurts can bring a lot of disruption to your daily routine.

Your youngster can grow as much as nine millimetres in length in just 24 hours. "Babies go to sleep, and they wake up longer!" explains expert in human growth and development, Dr Michelle Lampl. While the line you carefully plot on the centile growth charts in your youngster’s red book might make it look like they're putting on weight consistently, growth actually happens in fits and starts, with rapid increases in length or height and weight.

What are baby growth spurts?

Your baby grows most rapidly in their first year, and they're likely to double their birth weight between four and six months and triple it by the time they are one. By their first birthday, they're likely to be about one and a half times as long as they were when they were born – and that’s a lot of growth spurts! As they get older, the frequency of growth spurts slows down to a few months, or longer, apart.

But between the age of one and two, they're still likely to gain around five pounds and grow around six centimetres. And between the age of two and three, they're likely to gain five to six pounds and grow a further five to eight centimetres.

And with such a significant change happening, it’s no wonder that your youngster is likely to be a little out of sorts during a growth spurt. "The associated behavioural changes only last a couple of days, but they are a clear signal that they're about to have, or are currently having, a growth spurt," says Michelle.

"So if your child is behaving out of character – one day they are perfectly happy and the next they're suddenly grumpy – step back and consider whether all the signs are pointing to them having a growth spurt,’ suggests Michelle. And no matter what their age, the signs will be the same.

When do babies have growth spurts?

Babies are constantly growing and developing and growth spurts can happen at any time and of course, every baby is different. Some experts suggest growth spurts will occur around:

Two weeks

Three weeks

Six weeks

Three months

Six months

As each child's growth patterns vary, do not worry if you do not notice your baby having growth spurts at these stages. Boys tend to be a little heavier and taller, and their growth pattern is slightly different to girls. Some children may have more or fewer spurts than the suggested points.

It is not necessary for you to weigh your baby regularly or worry about their growth. Your midwife or health visitor will come and weigh your baby and asses their growth alongside the baby weight chart in their little red book. The NHS recommends "After the first two weeks, your baby should be weighed:

• No more than once a month up to six months of age

• No more than once every two months from 6-12 months of age

• No more than once every three months over the age of one".

Your baby's weight and progression will be checked by health professionals throughout their early years. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and UK-WHO release growth charts that you can use as a rough guideline.

Baby growth charts:

Are baby growth spurts painful?

There is no evidence to suggest baby growth spurts cause your little one any pain. Sometimes your baby might seem unsettled or more grumpy than usual but this is completely normal. Growth spurts can make your baby seem out of sorts or irritable but they do not cause fever, extreme irritability or listlessness. If your baby does exhibit more extreme symptoms or they seem to continue for more than a few days to a week then it is a good idea to get the baby checked at the doctor or by a health visitor.

Other explanations for increased appetite, sleep changes, and bad moods can be minor illnesses, baby is teething or changes to their routine.

Baby growth spurt signs

Weight gain

This one is pretty obvious as if your baby is growing, they will be increasing in weight. Their weight is likely to be more noticeable than the actual growth changes as they may just start to feel a little heavier when you pick them up or hold them. You don't need to worry about weighing them too often, once every couple of months is perfect for a baby over six months but some parents do prefer to invest in some baby weighing scales for monitoring their weight on a more regular basis.

Sleeping more

You may notice your baby is more tired and sleeps more frequently or for longer during a growth spurt. All this growing is tiring work and when your baby sleeps they produce more of the protein human growth hormone (HGH).

Sleeping less

Yep, they might sleep more or they might sleep less! It depends on the individual baby but they may be more likely to wake at night or nap less during the day. It is difficult to maintain a routine during your baby's early life when they are going through several developmental changes so don't worry too much!


You might find your baby is a bit more clingy than usual. The best thing to do is to cuddle them and soothe them until they feel more comfortable on their own. Often during growth spurts, the baby goes through development and it can be the start of new skills like crawling or walking.

Appetite increase

The most commonly noticed symptom of a growth spurt is your baby feeding more. If you are breastfeeding, feed the baby whenever they are hungry, even if it seems like a lot more. If you are using formula, just add in an extra bottle. This increase in appetite usually only lasts throughout the period of the growth spurt.

Changes in feeding routine

Sleep routines are not the only thing affected by a growth spurt. Increases in appetite might mean your baby wants to feed at different times. Try and rest when your baby rests and don't be too preoccupied with maintaining a routine as it is just important your baby is supported throughout the growth spurt.

Bad mood

You may find your baby is a bit more grouchy and cries more often. A general bad mood is common during a growth spurt and they may find it harder to settle during the day or at night. As with all of these growth spurt signs, they are likely to calm down after a few days.

Things you can do during a baby growth spurt

baby weight chart UK

1) Relax the routine

Your youngster’s sleep is likely to be disrupted in the days before their growth spurt so they may sleep for longer at some point. If they have an extended baby nap time, let them snooze. And, if you can, take this time to catch up on your missed sleep, too. Wait until they've finished the spurt before you get their sleep routine back on track.

2) Be led by their appetite

Your child is likely to want to eat lots more during a growth spurt. Let their appetite lead you during this period, and practise on-demand feeding, so they eat or drink whenever they're hungry. They'll naturally go back to their normal appetite – and normal feeding routine – within a couple of days.

3) Fuel up

If you’re breastfeeding your baby, you’ll need to eat more to cope with the extra demand of your baby’s increased feeding. Snack regularly with nutritional mini-meals of crackers and cream cheese, or a tub of mixed seeds and nuts, rather than waiting until you’re ravenous and reaching for the biscuits. Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration, too.

4) Up their bottles

If you’re bottle-feeding your baby, give your baby a second bottle rather than switching to a hungry baby formula, which could upset their tummy if they're not used to it. You can return to their normal amount once the spurt is over.

5) Rope in family and friends

Your baby is likely to want to feed around the clock during a growth spurt, and may also be pretty cranky and not want to be put down. And that’s hard work for you, mama! Ask family and friends to help with anything and everything from getting the shopping to simply making you a cup of tea.

6) Buy a carrier

If you haven’t already invested in a baby sling or carrier, get one now! Being close to you will comfort your baby, and you’ll still be able to get everything you need to do. And if they're struggling to settle, then the cosy, rhythmical feeling of going for a stroll in a carrier can work like magic.

7) Restore yourself

Growth spurts can be emotionally exhausting for you, too. Build in some moments of much-needed time out, even if it’s just going for a walk around the block while your partner looks after your baby. You’ll be better able to help them deal with their emotions if you’re feeling calm yourself.

8) Soothe growing pains

When your baby or toddler is having a growth spurt, a soothing baby massage will help calm them as well as ease growing pains. Add a two-minute massage to every day-time nappy change, and a longer post-bath rub if they're happy.

9) Don’t stress about night feeds

Your baby is likely to wake up and need night feeds during a growth spurt, even if they're previously been sleeping through for a while. And they will go back to sleeping through, don’t worry. Once they've finished growing, but they carry on waking from habit, try giving them a drink of water instead of milk.

About the expert

Physician-scientist, academic, and author Dr. Michelle Lampl has dedicated her career to learning more about how babies grow. She specialises in the overall study of human growth and development extending to the different influences on our growth from birth and her landmark research established that us humans grow intermittently, not continuously.

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