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Guide Happy parents


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Growth spurts

advice in category: toddler

There are 7 growth spurts in the first 12 months of life. They are moments connected with the development of the nervous system so they involve psychological rather than physical development. The development of the brain and nervous system means that babies are exposed to stronger perceptual stimuli than before, so they may experience stress, sleeping difficulties or lack of appetite.

How to recognise a growth spurt?
Does your baby suddenly become fretful, wake up in the middle of the night and demand your constant attention? This is probably one of the seven growth spurts! It will last for about a week and then... your baby will seem to have learnt new skills almost overnight. The baby develops very quickly during these periods. The development of the brain and the nervous system results in a different perception of reality. The senses are maximally heightened and the baby is not always able to cope with this. In consequence, its behaviour at that time is difficult, including crying, fear, waking up in the middle of the night, and aversion to eating. It may seem to you that the baby suddenly forgets all its skills and regresses - and then comes an instant surge of new abilities.

Not every growth spurt is preceded by a period of fretting, sleeping troubles and the need for more attention. Sometimes during that period, babies seem to regress. Such a crisis is very stressful both for the parents and the baby. The baby is scared of the changing world all the time. Mothers, frustrated because the baby cries, don’t understand what’s happening. Directly after the growth spurt, however, the baby seems to have learnt a lot of new skills literally overnight.

Initially, these periods are short and last for a few days. But the older the baby, the longer these periods last. You should also know that babies born after the due date experience growth spurts earlier, e.g. a baby born 2 weeks after the due date goes through the growth spurt 2 weeks earlier, and babies born prematurely experience these moments later. This is connected with brain development.

The periods of growth spurts are as follows.

5 week (impressions): The baby becomes more attentive and awake, the senses are more sensitive than before. From now on, the baby can hear, see, smell and taste completely differently than before. Unfortunately, the only way of expressing this surprise is to cry and scream.

The first growth spurt can be noticed about the fifth week. The baby’s senses become more sensitive. The baby can hear, see and feel in a different, more intense way than before. The change makes the baby restless or even scared. New tastes, sounds, and colours can be so frightening that the baby might need its parents more frequently and more intensely. Your baby will smile more or cry with real tears. You will surely notice that it can listen more attentively and watch longer than before.

7-9 week (patterns): The baby starts to distinguish patterns in sounds, smells and tastes, notices that its hands are part of itself and starts to gain some control over its movements, though they are still uncoordinated. About three weeks later, around the eighth week, the baby starts to be more aware of its body. It realises that hands can be used to do many different things and it’s all up to the baby - so it watches its hands, holds them above the body or the head, grabs toys, and touches everything within its reach. In addition, the baby lifts its head, starts to turn and kicks with its legs. In addition to watching people, the baby is interested in their expressions. One of the novelties is making sounds and enjoying its own voice, but the baby is also happy to hear others singing. Generally, the baby starts to feel the ability to control the body.

11-12 week (nuances): The baby learns to understand small differences in tones of voice and notices changing light in the room or outside. The baby moves more smoothly when reaching out or turns its head to follow movement. Around week 12 the baby starts to realise that the world is varied. Hearing mum’s voice, it knows if mum is angry or calm, notices that the sun is clouded over and that it is getting darker, and starts to move its hands, head and eyes in a more coordinated way. The baby starts to play with its voice - squeaks or changes tone. The baby not only puts everything in its mouth, but also blows spit bubbles. It can be irritated by things that never bothered it before, like a dog barking (which can wake the baby up, even if it didn't previously).

14-19 week (events): The fretful periods get longer and can last as long as 6 weeks. The baby starts to understand events in the sense of short sequences. It can learn, for example, to reach for a toy, catch it, shake it and put it in its mouth. The baby combines sounds in sequences, like mamama, bababa.

The next growth spurt can be noticed around weeks 15-19. Your baby starts to understand events in a system of short sequences - for example, it grabs a toy with one hand and puts it in the other hand, supports itself with the arms and lifts itself, puts different things in its mouth and chews on them, turns from the belly onto the back and backwards, starts to throw things on the floor deliberately, combines sounds - mamama, bababa, starts to react to the sound of its name and generally understand words, reacts to its reflection in the mirror (the reactions can vary - the baby can be happy or scared), starts to pronounce consonants (s, z, r and others), reaches out if it wants to be lifted, repeats the same behaviour if it can see a reaction (e.g. coughing again), smacks its lips if hungry or throws away the bottle if full.

22-26 week (relations - separation anxiety): Typically, in this period the baby starts to be shy towards strangers, has no appetite, doesn’t want to change its diaper or clothes. It starts to see and understand relations/relationships, notices the distance between objects and people, e.g. between itself and its parents. The baby begins to understand how to influence events - what to do to make something happen. A great example is the light switch! In addition, the baby understands when something is wrong, e.g. when people bump into one another it can be funny, but also painful. More tiring but fascinating days in the life of the baby and its relatives come around week 26. This period can last for up to 4 weeks and is difficult because the baby cannot sleep well, starts to distrust others, objects when mum wants to change its clothes or diaper, and has no appetite.

Above all, the baby begins to react negatively when the parents go away. It begins to realise the growing distance and it becomes frightened. Your baby can notice that toys can be placed against each other in various ways, that it can influence what will happen - if the light switch is pressed, the light turns on etc. The baby is getting better at moving around - crawling and motor coordination: it is able to sit or stand up, push toys in front of himself or herself, grab small objects, take off its socks, put food in mum’s or grandma’s mouth, take toys out of boxes and put them back again, notice strange behaviour, dance to music, listen to voices on the phone, understand simple commands, wave good-bye or clap hands.

33-37 week (categories): The baby notices that some things can be similar, e.g. they sound or smell similar. Your baby learns about the world with all of its senses, seeing, hearing, tasting and touching things. It experiments with similarities and differences. Some researchers believe that intelligence starts to develop at this age. When the baby categorises the world, its way of thinking starts to resemble the way adults think.

A few weeks later, between weeks 33 and 37, there’s another growth spurt. The baby becomes a little scientist and discovers its surroundings through seeing, hearing and touching them. Some think that intelligence starts to develop here. The baby begins to think similarly to adults, which makes it easier for you to understand it. Thus, the baby categorises the world, and when pointing to a cat, it understands that all cats belong to one category - plush or alive, they are all cats.

Your baby’s world starts to take shape and resemble the adult world. The baby not only understands the names of objects but also can show that something is amusing, call a family member, make faces in the mirror, act very politely if it wants to, but also show anger or jealousy if mum or dad hugs another baby. At this age your baby starts to take the initiative while playing or ask someone to sing a song.

41-46 week (sequences): Between weeks 44 and 48 the baby starts to find and create sequences with the use of senses. In the previous growth spurt your baby took objects apart to examine them - now it begins to put them back together - for example builds a brick tower instead of destroying one. Your baby starts to connect events - e.g. collects its things and puts them into a basket or on a shelf. It understands that some events usually come in sequences.

The next step is pointing to where it wants to go while you hold it in your arms.The last critical growth spurt takes place around week 46 and it can last for as long as five weeks. In the previous one the baby would rather take toys apart to see what they look like from inside, whereas now it wants to put them back together and is more interested in building rather than destroying brick constructions. Your baby starts to realise that some events follow others, that scattered bricks have to be put back in a box after playing. It can show you the direction in which you should go with it and can name things.

You will notice that your baby can consciously use the word 'no'.The baby likes to play with toys that have to be matched together, can do a small jigsaw puzzle, draws, and tries to talk over the phone. It is also a dangerous time as your baby starts to climb to reach something, pushes a chair, gets off a couch or crawls down the stairs, looks for an object that has been hidden, fetches objects, mimics what the parents do, tries to get dressed or undressed and can even pretend e.g. not to be able to do something.

Remember that not all abilities come at once, and each baby develops in a different way. Although it’s very difficult, do not compare your baby to others. You will surely be jealous if your friend’s son starts to sit a month before yours does, but don’t make your baby do things that it isn't ready for. All in due time! Since each baby is an individual and grows at a different pace, the above growth spurts can take place a bit later or earlier and you can’t expect them on schedule. It’s amazing how different babies can be, even babies of the same parents raised in the same environment. One thing is certain: the first 12 months of your baby’s life are the most dynamic period of growth.

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