Growing Like Dust Bunnies

It happens in every family. Everything is sailing along perfectly with your little one, until one day a screaming alien baby has taken his place.  Welcome to the fun and exciting world of growth spurts.  Since you are with your baby every day, you do not usually notice the subtle, daily differences in his growth.  You may notice that his face has suddenly changed, or that he is now longer than Florida.  While you do not notice these changes every day, you see them in “spurts,” much like how dust bunnies will develop overnight while you are not looking.   

At first you may notice that your child is eating an unusual amount of food.  Your driveway may look like a UPS parking lot, but no matter how many truckloads of food you keep shoveling in, he keeps begging for more.  Breast or bottle feedings become more frequent.  He will finish one meal while looking at the menu for the next. Before you get concerned about super-sizing your baby’s food portions, keep in mind that unlike his parents, a baby will stop eating when he is satisfied.  Unfortunately, they usually let you know by dumping their remaining food on the floor or their head (or yours).  It’s a good thing for the restaurant business that people grow out of that stage. 

Growth spurts cause a marked increase in irritability in a child.  Older children can have downright meltdowns. Your baby may seem overly fussy, but you might blame it on teething.  If the fussiness occurs in conjunction with some other tell-tale growing signs, you can probably bet your money on a growth spurt.  Unfortunately, parents who are irritable cannot say, “I’m having a growth spurt.”

 An extremely positive side to the growth spurt is the tendency for a child to sleep much more than usual.  Naps and bedtime will be extended and peaceful.  Your baby will be exhausted and longing to go to sleep; resistance is futile to them.  A child who used to cry and complain about going to bed will suddenly submit quietly.  When our kids were older, sometimes they would ask to go to bed right after dinner.  After the Hallelujah! Chorus was done playing in my head, I would realize that this was probably a growth spurt. 

Just when you are wondering what is happening to your child, his clothes won’t fit anymore.  Summer clothes are not as easy to detect, but dressing your baby in pajamas with feet becomes like trying to stuff a watermelon into a turkey.  His long pants are suddenly at his knees, and you wonder if his clothes shrank in the wash.  Start to put the clues together – excessive eating and sleeping, irritability, pants that look like floods. Eventually you will smack yourself in the head and realize that his clothes are not shrinking; he is growing! 

A baby’s first growth spurts usually happen around weeks three and six, and then at months three and six. Your baby may not feel like following the chart, however; growth spurts may happen at any time. A baby will grow an average of 10 inches during the first year.  After the first birthday, the growth rate slows down considerably. In older children, growth spurts generally occur approximately every 6 months, usually around the birthday and again six months following. 

Your baby’s height, weight, and head size will be measured at every doctor’s visit. The doctor will put these measurements on a growth chart and check for the appropriate increases.  You will be told what percentile your baby’s measurements fall in compared to other babies.  Keep in mind that these percentiles fluctuate greatly in the first year. 

Measuring seems like a simple process, but our babies never appreciated having to get naked on the scale and stay still on the table with a tape measure wrapped around the head. (Well, would you?) You can try to bring a favorite toy to distract him when possible, but they may fuss during the process anyway.  It’s just one of those times to buck up and be strong.  Besides, if you slam your head down on the table, you’re going to unfairly tip the balance of the scale.

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