New South Wales
Most babies go through several growth spurts. These bursts may be instantaneous, last 2-3 days or, in some cases, continue for up to a week. Some babies object audibly whereas others cruise through with the greatest of ease! The Sleep Coach Cheryl Fingelson shares her advice for handling these times.
Many people believe that that there are common times for growth spurts in children, but this belief is a generalization. Realistically, they can occur at any time.
Many experts advocate resisting the urge to respond to every sign of distress with a meal. Feeding is more justifiable during the day when baby’s busy body needs extra fuel, but spasmodic night meals can negatively affect sleep cycles. Maximum rest is optimum during growth spurts. Restoring tranquility with food can also result in overfeeding so follow the child’s lead and look for basic hunger cues. When babies turn their heads away from the breast or bottle, it indicates that they are satiated and it is inadvisable to then continue feeding.
Methods of soothing can be alternated during the night. A healthy baby’s fussiness, less than 3-4 hours after the last feed, can probably be mitigated by changing the nappy, re-swaddling, singing or ‘shushing’. Putting on white noise or soft music are other ways of attempting to settle the baby.
A baby that is difficult to console requires patience and perspective, bearing in mind that an exponential weight increase in a short period of time, accompanied by high calorific demands causes discomfort.
Common growth spurt periods are:
The above times are approximations. Each child is unique and babies don’t read calendars!
Growth spurts are far more numerous than sleep regressions, which have much more to do with mental and physical development as opposed to simple growth and weight gain. Waking up early from naps and during the night has a definite cause—the baby is hungry and needs to eat. Causes of sleep regression are far more difficult to detect. They are ‘invisible’ and customarily stem from developmental issues. In addition, growth spurts are usually short-lived whereas sleep regressions can be somewhat protracted, typically lasting for 2-6 weeks.
It should also be noted that there could be a significant overlap in the times of growth spurts and sleep regressions.
Although different in nature, it is likely that growth spurts impact sleep regression and that sleep regression impacts growth spurts.