Baby growth spurts

baby in pink hat laughing at camera

What happens during a growth spurt?

During a growth spurt your baby will put on weight, length and head circumference more quickly than usual. They may also hit a developmental milestone, or master a skill they've been working on for a while.

Many mums find that the most noticeable sign of a growth spurt is their baby feeding more, so look out for times when your little one seems particularly hungry (ABM 2010, Gartner et al 2005, LLLI 2006, PSBC 2013, Wagner 2012).

If your baby is breastfed, feeds may take longer than usual. If they're formula-fed, they may seem as if they're still hungry at the end of a feed.

Some babies sail through growth spurts without showing any obvious signs.

You may take your baby to be weighed and see that their weight’s jumped to a higher percentile, or notice that their new onesie is suddenly tight at the toes!

When your baby’s having a growth spurt, they may need more or less sleep than usual (Lampl and Johnson 2011). There's some research to show that babies going through growth spurts become clingy, fussy and unsettled (van de Rijt and Plooij 2010), and this can disrupt naptimes and nighttimes.

When do growth spurts happen, and how long do they last?

Growth spurts can happen at any time. In young babies, they usually last for one day or two days (Hermanussen 1998). In older babies, they can last up to a week (Wagner 2012).

Some experts believe that growth spurts are more likely at certain points in your baby’s first year. These are:
  • at two weeks (Block 2013)
  • at three weeks (IHS nd, LLLI 2006)
  • at six weeks (Block 2013, IHS nd, LLLI 2006)
  • at three months (Block 2013, IHS nd, LLLI 2006)
  • at six months (IHS nd, LLLI 2006)

Each baby’s growth pattern is different, so try not to worry if your baby doesn’t seem to be having growth spurts at these times.

If they're feeding happily and gaining weight, you can be sure that they're growing well.

Are growth spurts the same as feeding spurts?

No, but they are related. Feeding spurts are times when your baby seems hungrier than usual. They may or may not be linked to a growth spurt.

During a feeding spurt, your baby may feed for longer.

If they're breastfed, they may be fussy at the breast, and if they're formula-fed, they may seem hungry after feeds (LLLI 2006, Wagner 2012).

You may also hear or read about "cluster feeding", which is when breastfed babies feed more often, up to 18 times in 24 hours (Block 2013).

Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot of research linking feeding spurts to increased growth. But it makes sense that when your baby’s taking in more energy, they’ll grow more quickly (NCT nd, Piwoz et al 2012).

Because of this, some people use the terms “growth spurt” and “feeding spurt” to mean the same thing (LLLI 2006).

Apart from feeding more, what are the other signs of a growth spurt?

Just before and during a growth spurt, your baby may seem sleepier than usual. Waking up less at night, having a sleep-in, or taking more naps may be signs that they're channelling their energy into growing. One small study suggested that during a growth spurt, babies may sleep up to four and half hours more than usual over one or two days (Lampl and Johnson 2011).

It’s not clear exactly why this happens, but a protein called human growth hormone (HGH) is produced in the brain during sleep. HGH is crucial for growth, so sleep may provide the fuel that your baby needs to grow (Lampl and Johnson 2011).

Some babies seem to need less sleep during growth spurts, so you may also notice your baby waking up more frequently at night, or taking shorter naps.

You may find these changes in your baby’s routine tiring or confusing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself that a growth spurt only lasts for a few days. Before too long, your baby’s routine will be back to normal.

During a growth spurt, your baby may be more restless and clingy than usual.

You may find that they want to be held all the time, and cry when you try to put them down. Or you may notice that they're unsettled and weepy at times when they're usually laid-back and calm.

It’s not known exactly what causes these changes in behaviour. They may be down to your baby feeling tired or overwhelmed as they devote their energy to feeding and growing.

There's also a theory that behavioural changes may be a sign that a developmental leap is coming (van de Rijt and Plooij 2010). This may happen alongside a growth spurt, or at a different time. So if your baby seems fussy or cranky, they may be getting ready to unveil a new skill, such as rolling over or crawling!
Hunger signs
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What should I do during a growth spurt?

Respond to your baby’s cues and try to give them what they need, whether it’s extra feeds, a morning nap, or quiet time and cuddles.

Breastfed babies can seem as if they’re not getting enough milk during a growth spurt. Don’t worry, your breasts will produce plenty of milk for your baby’s needs.

But if they are hungrier than usual, it may take a day or two for your body to catch up, so a growth spurt can feel a little overwhelming at first (LLLI 2006, NHS 2014).

Help your milk production along by letting your baby feed as often and for as long as they want, which is easier said than done (LLLI 2006, NHS 2014)! Take care of yourself by eating regular meals, drinking lots of fluids, and letting family and friends help out with housework.

If your baby is formula-fed, they may seem hungry after a feed. It’s fine to give them an extra bottle if they want one. There’s usually no need to switch formulas, but if you’re considering it, talk to your doctor or child health nurse first.

Is it a growth spurt, or is something wrong?

Growth spurts can make babies sleepy and out-of-sorts, but they don’t cause fevers, extreme irritability, or listlessness. These can be signs that your baby is unwell. Contact your GP if your baby shows any of these symptoms.

If you breastfeed and you’re worried that your baby isn't getting enough milk, ask your doctor or child health nurse for advice and extra support. Or ask for a recommendation for a lactation consultant.

Growth spurts aren’t the only explanation for a cranky, hungry baby. Holidays, teething, changes in routine and illnesses can also affect your baby’s feeding, sleep and behaviour.

If your baby’s routine has changed and they're feeling unsettled, they may find feeding comforting. So if they seem more hungry than usual, they may just want the reassurance of contact with you (Gartner et al 2005, NCT nd, NICE 2011).

If your baby’s behaviour, feeding, or sleeping habits change suddenly and you‘re concerned, ask your GP or child health nurse for advice.

Learn more about your baby's development with our milestone charts:


ABM. 2010. Breastfeeding twins. Association of Breastfeeding Mothers. Bridgwater, UK

BHNT. nd. Formula feeding: 6 weeks to a year. Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, UK

Block SL. 2013. Delayed Introduction of Solid Foods to Infants: Not so Fast! Pediatric Annals 42(4):143-147

Gartner LM, Morton J, Lawrence RA. et al. 2005. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics 115(2),496-506

Hermanussen M. 1998. The analysis of short-term growth. Review. Horm Res 49:53-64

IHS. nd. Breastfeeding - growth and development. Provider information. Indian Health Service

Lampl M, Johnson ML. 2011. Infant growth in length follows prolonged sleep and increased naps. SLEEP 34(5):641-650

LLLI. 2006. Why does my baby suddenly want to nurse constantly? La Leche League International

NCT. nd. Breastfeeding: my baby's feeding pattern has changed. National Childbirth Trust. [Accessed December 2014]

NHS. 2014. Breastfeeding: the first few days. NHS Choices, Health A-Z. [Accessed December 2014]

NICE. 2011. Breastfeeding problems. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Clinical Knowledge Summaries. [Accessed December 2014]

Perinatal Services BC. 2013. Newborn Guideline 13. Newborn Nursing Care Pathway. Vancouver, Canada

Piwoz E, Sundberg S, Rooke J. 2012. Promoting healthy growth: what are the priorities for research and action? American Society for Nutrition. Adv Nutr 3:234-241

van de Rijt H, Plooij F, 2010. The Wonder Weeks. Kiddy World Promotions BV. Arnheim, the Netherlands

Wagner CL. 2012. Counseling the Breastfeeding Mother. Medscape Reference

Megan Rive is a communication, content strategy and project delivery specialist. She was Babycenter editor for six years.

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