Growth Spurts & Baby Growth Spurts
What are growth spurts?
Children (babies through adolescents) experience patterns of growth as they age. Each child is unique and will grow at their own pace before they reach physical maturity between the ages of 15 and 20. Throughout their development, children experience growth spurts. Growth spurts occur when your child reaches new physical growth milestones (height and weight) within a short period of time.
What is the difference between growth spurts and developmental milestones?
Growth spurts are physical changes that occur quickly as your child ages, including length, height and weight increases.
Developmental milestones are actions and skills that mark your child’s growing maturity at specific stages. Developmental milestones focus on how your child thinks (cognitive and language skills), plays (social and emotional skills) and moves (motor skills).
When will my child experience growth spurts?
Growth spurts occur at different stages of your child’s development based on their age:
- Baby: Your baby will experience significant growth during their first two years in regard to their length and weight, growing about 10 inches (25 centimeters) longer and tripling their weight during the first year.
- Childhood: Between preschool and puberty, your child’s eating habits will change, making their growth slow and steady. By five years, your child should have doubled their height from birth. This growth continues with regular increases in height and weight each year until adolescence.
- Adolescent: Adolescents will reach their growth spurt around the same time as puberty (sexual maturation). Children assigned female at birth will experience a growth spurt between ages nine and 15. Children assigned male at birth will experience a growth spurt between ages 12 and 17. Each child grows at their own pace and may experience puberty changes earlier or later than their peers. Adolescents will increase in height at an average of 3 to 4 inches (9 to 10 centimeters) during their growth spurt.
Who do growth spurts affect?
Every child will likely experience a growth spurt at some point during their physical development, from newborns to young adults, until the child reaches physical maturity between the ages of 15 and 20.
How do growth spurts affect my child’s body?
Because your child’s body is evolving physically, they may experience eating or sleeping changes that could take a toll on their emotions. These changes could cause your baby to become fussier than normal, but it is not a sign of pain. Growth spurts do not cause limb pain as growing pains do. Any uneasiness during your child’s growth spurt is temporary and an expected part of their development.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the signs of growth spurts?
Changes in your child’s height and weight caused by increases in bone, muscle and fat are the most immediate signs that your child is experiencing a growth spurt. Other signs of a growth spurt include:
- Decrease or increase in appetite.
- Fussiness or emotional outbursts.
- Baby teeth appearing and adult (permanent) teeth replacing baby teeth.
- Sexual development (menstruation, voice change, pubic hair growth).
What causes growth spurts?
Growth spurts are a natural part of your child’s development because their bones and muscles are forming, and the nutrients they eat create fat in their body.
Your child’s genetic composition, or the genes that they inherit from their parents, causes growth spurts. Your child’s genes will determine how tall they will grow and how quickly they will reach their maximum height.
In addition to their genetic makeup, environmental factors can affect your child’s growth, including:
- Diet and nutrition.
- Exposure to negative substances in the water or atmosphere (pollution or lead).
- Abnormal fetal health or pregnancy complications.
Diagnosis and Tests
How are growth spurts diagnosed?
Your child’s healthcare provider will track your baby’s height and weight during wellness checkups using a scale, measuring tape and/or measuring table (stadiometer). Growth charts created by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify whether or not your child is growing on target according to their peers of the same age.
Since a growth spurt does not cause any health problems, there’s no need to rush to your healthcare provider’s office. Instead, your healthcare provider will track the change in your child’s height and weight at your next wellness visit and let you know if they are following a normal pattern of growth for their age.
Management and Treatment
How do I support my child during their growth spurt?
Babies under one year tend to express their growth spurt through fussiness and periods of increased hunger. For school-age children and adolescents, growth spurts trigger changes in appetite, sleep and behavior, along with physical height and weight changes. During your child’s growth spurt, you can support them by:
- Providing additional meals to satisfy their appetite.
- Encouraging regular bedtimes and positive sleeping habits.
- Being patient with their changing emotions.
Are growth spurts preventable?
No, growth spurts should not be prevented because they are a natural part of your child’s growing process. Your child will experience growth spurts at their own pace when their body designates the appropriate time to increase height and weight until physical maturity.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if my child has a growth spurt?
Your child’s growth spurt is a short period of time when they undergo physical changes. It could last two to three days or up to one week. Growth spurts in babies tend to be shorter, lasting up to three days, whereas growth spurts in adolescents could last up to a week. You'll notice your child’s behaviors changing, from extreme fussiness to sleeping and eating changes. Make sure you adapt your child’s routine to meet their needs as they progress through growth spurts by providing additional feedings or encouraging nap times throughout the day.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
Growth spurts are shorter for young children and a bit longer for adolescents, but typically don’t last longer than one week. If your child becomes fussy or expresses discomfort that is difficult to ease for more than a week, but doesn’t show signs of illness, then contact their healthcare provider.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
- Is my child meeting growth expectations for their age?
- If my child complains of pain in their arms and legs, does that relate to their growth spurt?
- If my child doesn’t reach their growth milestones at the same time as their peers, is it a sign of a developmental delay?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Growth spurts happen in the blink of an eye and often spark the statement, “Look how big you’ve grown!” at gatherings with your family and friends. Children grow at their own pace. Each child will develop when their body and genetic composition tells them it’s time. If you notice your child is not meeting height or weight requirements for their age, talk with your child’s healthcare provider.
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