Growth Spurts and Growing Pains
Growth spurts and growing pains are two common conditions faced by babies and young children. Most of the parents are clueless about how to deal with their children who’re facing these unusual and difficult times. Hence, let’s have a detailed look at each of these conditions.
Growth spurt is a phase when breastfed babies require more nursing than usual and they often get irritable and fussy. Most of the babies go through many growth spurts during the first twelve months. The babies also gain weight, length and head circumference more rapidly than usual. The baby can also reach a developmental milestone, or learn a new skill they’d been working on for some time during their growth spurt.
Some of the babies don’t show any obvious sign of a growth spurt. You’ll recognize a growth spurt when the baby gains considerable weight in a short time.
Babies can also react differently to growth spurts, such as; some babies require more sleep while some require less sleep than usual in a growth spurt. There’s also research evidence that babies passing through growth spurt become fussy, frustrated, and unsettled due to which their night-time sleep and naptimes become disrupted.
Onset and Duration of Growth Spurts
There’s no fixed time of a growth spurt. In newborn babies, they last for almost one to two days, whereas, in older babies, they may last up to a week.
Doctors suggest that there’s a high possibility of growth spurts to occur at certain times of your baby’s first year. These times are:
- At 2 weeks
- At 3 weeks
- At 6 weeks
- At 3 months
- At 6 months
However, each baby has a different growth pattern so there’s no need to worry if your baby doesn’t have a growth spurt during these times.
Signs of a Growth Spurt
Your baby might get sleepier than usual during a growth spurt. They may wakeup less at night, or take more naps which indicate that they’re channeling their energies into growing. One research study suggested that babies tend to sleep almost four and a half hours more than normal during a growth spurt. This happens because the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is produced by the brain during sleep and since this hormone is the key factor in the baby’s growth, more sleep helps in its production.
But some babies may wakeup very frequently at night and take shorter naps during a growth spurt. So if you’re feeling confused and overwhelmed during your baby’s growth spurt, remember that it’s temporary and it’ll last just for a few days.
The babies usually become restless during a growth spurt. They want to be held all the time and get weepy and unsettled at times when they used to be calm and quiet in the past. This may happen because the babies feel worn-out and tired as they devote too much of their energy in extra feeding and growing.
Experts also suggest that such behavioral changes indicate the occurrence of a developmental leap. So if your baby is getting cranky and fussy, it might indicate learning of a new skill such as crawling or walking!
Role of a Parent during a Growth Spurt
Parents must respond immediately to the baby’s needs such as; a morning nap, extra feeding, more cuddles, and quiet time. Remember if your baby requires more milk than usual and they’re being breastfed, then the mother’s body will take time to catch up to these extra needs. So stay calm and simply let your baby feed for as long and as often as they want. You can help your milk production by drinking plenty of fluids, eating regular and healthy meals, and staying calm and relaxed.
If the baby is formula-fed, they might need an extra bottle or two during their growth spurt.
Growing pains are achy muscular pains and cramps which are usually felt by preschoolers and preteens in both of their legs. These pains are more likely to occur in the late evenings or late afternoons and cause your child to wake up at odd hours in the night.
Growing pains start early in childhood at around three or four years of age, and they are likely to hit again at the age of eight to twelve years.
There’s no solid evidence that growing pains are related to growth spurts. Such pains can simply be muscular aches because of tiring childhood activities which take a toll on your child’s muscles. Such activities include; jumping, running, and climbing. Growing pains are more likely to occur after your child has had a day full of sports.
Growing pains are different for every child. Some children suffer from a lot of pain, some don’t. Most of the children don’t have regular growing pains. Growing pains can be felt for months or even years.
Growing pains usually occur in the late evenings just before dinnertime or at bedtime. The pains might get so bad that the children are woken up from deep sleep. If your child feels no pain in the mornings, don’t think the child was faking the pain because growing pains do disappear in the morning.
Generally, growing pains affect both legs, especially the calves or back of legs, the front of thighs, and the area behind the knees. Studies also suggest that children with growing pains become more sensitive to pain in general. Such children will have abdominal pains and headaches more often than usual.
Treatment of growing pains majorly depends upon the intensity of pain being faced by your child. Usually, the following non-pharmacological management is sufficient to deal with most of the growing pains.
- Proper massage of the legs.
- Stretching of the leg muscles. However, this might be difficult for young children and they require some help.
- Applying a heating pad or warm cloth on the sore area of the leg. But this shouldn’t be done during sleep.
If the pain intensifies and the abovementioned management doesn’t work, then ask a medical specialist if you can treat your child with an over-the-counter medication, such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen. Ask your doctor to recommend an appropriate dose of these medications based on your child’s age and weight. Never treat your child with Aspirin on your own as it’s harmful for young children and may cause a disease called Reye’s syndrome which can be life-threatening for your child.