Babies are amazing, but they can be so, so confusing. Unless you’ve spent time with someone else’s baby, having your own — especially the first one — can be a lot to get your head around. One of the first things you’ll hear about is growth spurts, sometimes known as leaps. Let’s take a look at them in more detail.
What are growth spurts?
Well, it’s all in the name. Babies grow an enormous amount in the first couple of weeks, months and years. All that growing can be difficult and confusing for them (as it can be for their parents!)
What’s the difference between growth spurts and leaps?
The growth spurts, or ‘leaps’ as they are sometimes known, include both body and brain growth and can take up a lot of physical and emotional energy. For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to mental and brain growth as a leap and physical growth as a growth spurt.
How do I know when a leap is coming?
Fortunately for us, leaps are relatively predictable. This term was coined by the authors of the bestselling book, Wonder Weeks. Your baby’s brain will experience exponential growth, both physical and mental, allowing them to learn quickly.
When are these leaps?
These leaps occur in certain defined time periods, according to their gestational age (the time since their conception). If your baby was born early or late, remember to adjust these times to accommodate this time. In other words, if your baby was born at 39 weeks, all their leaps will occur a week later.
There are 10 leaps within the first two years of life. They occur at about five weeks, eight weeks, twelve weeks, 19 weeks, 26 weeks (± 6 months), 30 weeks (± 8 months), 37 weeks (± 10 months), 46 weeks (± 1 year), 55 weeks (± 14 months), 64 weeks (± 16 months) and 75 weeks (± 1.5 years).
Are there any ways to tell if it’s a leap?
Apart from the timing, there are also some physical signs and signals that your baby will present when they are heading into a leap. They will likely be grumpier than usual, more clingy, and cry more. They may also feed a lot, or lose their appetite, and often resist being put down, seeming to be happy only when they are held.
This is because they are feeling unsettled, and they have learned to trust you and find comfort in your closeness. Whatever other signs they exhibit, they will almost certainly need more love and attention during these leaps.
How long does a leap last?
A leap can last anywhere between a couple of days and a few weeks, which can be frustrating and tiring for their caregivers. That being said, it’s also a period that brings in a lot of new abilities and, often, a much calmer, happier baby afterwards.
How do I tell between a leap and a growth spurt?
Since leaps are relatively predictable if your baby is exhibiting all the signs and signals, but there are no leaps in their near future, it could also be a growth spurt. Babies bodies also grow an incredible amount in their first two years, and growth can be hard. Cluster feeding, frequent night wakings, clinginess and grumpiness can also be signs of physical growth.
How do parents cope with all of this?
It’s hard work, there’s no doubt of that. There are a few things that can help. The Wonder Weeks book (available in print, digital and audio) also has an app. You can plug in your baby’s details and allow it to send you notifications of an upcoming (and ending) leap. Since leaps are taxing for babies, they are also naturally taxing for their caregivers and knowing what to expect can help.
Tips and tricks to manage
This will be a time when any normal routine or rules will have to be relaxed. Babywearing can take the pressure off, allowing you to keep baby close and have your hands free to look after yourself. Allow your baby to sleep on you or in the carrier; whatever helps you both rest well. Feed on demand (this will help stimulate more milk production if you are breastfeeding) or allow extra formula if your baby is formula-fed.
As with so many things, raising a baby is extremely hard to do in isolation. If possible, take it easy during a leap. Don’t schedule too many activities, keep your social calendar free and ask for (and accept!) as much help as possible. If you are going to help your baby get through their growth, you need to be looked after too.
- The Wonder Weeks Book: https://www.thewonderweeks.com/
- Clingy Baby: Clinginess, Crankiness and Crying: https://www.thewonderweeks.com/crankiness-and-crying/
- Baby growth spurts: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a25012757/baby-growth-spurts
- Baby Growth Spurts: Timeline, Signs, and How to Cope: https://www.mamanatural.com/baby-growth-spurts/
- The baby fog: growth spurts and wonder weeks: http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/baby/baby-care/the-baby-fog-growth-spurts-and-wonder-weeks-20120416-1x3fw