Infant sleep during growth spurts

Baby’s onesies aren’t the only things that change when they are going through a growth spurt – their eating and sleeping patterns all may change temporarily during growth spurts. Growing is a lot of work, and it takes a lot of fuel to keep it going, both in terms of food and rest. More than that, though, it’s during deep sleep when babies produce the hormones that control their growth. Since babies triple their birth weight in the first year of life, that leaves a lot of growth to feed. Every little one is different, but in the first year, most babies experience growth spurts on a fairly regular basis, sometimes as often as every few weeks. Most growth spurts only last a few days, but they can last as long as a few weeks, in some cases.

Sleep during growth spurts 

The effect that growth spurts can have on sleep is a little unpredictable – a growth spurt can send a child who had either completely or almost grown out of night feedings back to needing a midnight snack or three, making sleep a lot more restless and brief. On the other hand, children going through growth spurts often add extra naps to their day, and may even sleep longer at night.

These changes in feeding and sleeping can either happen at the same time, or in turns. A 2011 study published in Sleep found that increased napping and longer sleeps associated with growth often happen before the actual growing. The study found that, often, the children being observed would start to sleep more, and then, within two days, would show measurable growth.

On the other hand, babies eating up a storm to keep a growth spurt going may need a little extra rest at the end of a growth spurt too. Babies going through growth spurts can also be a bit fussier or harder to comfort while they’re awake. Not every health concern is part of a growth spurt, though – if increased sleep is accompanied by fever, vomiting, or any other sign that could indicate an illness, it’s probably not related to growth, and should be checked out by a healthcare provider.

  • M. Lampl, M.L. Johnson. “Infant growth in length follows prolonged sleep and increased naps.” Sleep. 34(5):641-50. May 1 2011. Web.
  • Meredith Melnick. “Do Sleepy Babies Grow More? The Science of Growth Spurts.” Time. Time, Inc, May 2 2011. Web.
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