From the minute they are born, babies are constantly growing and developing in front of your eyes. Many of their developmental leaps take place in fairly predictable chunks and you may find that these changes happen without your being aware of them.
For the first few weeks, first time parents are frequently lost in a new and confusing fog of the unfamiliar lack of sleep, endless advice and opinions from others and hugely variable “factoids” from questionable websites. However, babies experience growth spurts at approximately 3 weekly intervals and during the first fraught weeks those little developments can be missed if you blink.
The first growth spurt happens at around 3 weeks from the baby’s due date. The 2nd is at around 6 weeks, then 9 weeks, then 12 weeks and so on. When your baby seems to be feeding and sleeping (or shouting) on a day-to-day basis, it can be hard to recognise exactly what is going on on the inside, so this little babble might help you better understand the changes that your little one is experiencing.
Typically, a breast-fed newborn will feed approximately every 3-4 hours and settle well to sleep with a nice full tummy shortly afterwards. Just as you feel you are seeing a pattern in the chaos, your baby will throw you a curve ball and begin demanding food as frequently as every 1-2 hours. By feeding more frequently the actual growth spurt (which usually comes a few days after this change in feeding behaviour) will have all the fuel it needs. Once his demand is met, he will then get on with the important job of developing his next stage, be that perception, muscular or digestive development.
During these growth spurts, your baby may rapidly gain weight or lengthen in a very short time. Coupled with this, physiological changes occur in your baby’s brain which may result in him being unusually fussy, sleepy, short-tempered or clingy. You may find that the baby-grow that seemed to swamp him just last week is now stretched to capacity with his little toes curling into the feet of the outfit and you have to stretch vests to get the poppers in the crotch to meet. Thighs start to chub up, the prominent belly button is now receding as that little tum fattens up around it and the orange-shaped face is now lengthening and the back of his head is starting to change shape to accommodate the increase in the size of his clever little brain.
Week 3+: Those little eyes which may have looked rather swollen (think Rocky!) from birth begin to blink open more often, looking through a fuzzy veil at the world around him. His tolerance for a little kick-about on his play mat is increased to more than a few minutes. This is a good moment to start introducing a little tummy-time, using favourite toys or a mirror strategically placed to keep his attention.
Week 6+: Your baby will start to “map” your face, gazing intently at your features and starting to mimic your facial expressions. He may stare at simple patterns around him so place some black and white patterned books next to him on his play mat, introduce more brightly coloured toys and walk around the house with him showing him pictures on the wall. Any day now you should start to get your first “true smiles”.
Week 9+: Nappy/clothes changing time become much more challenging now. They start to twist and reach out for items on the changing mat (rather like dressing an octopus!), their hand/eye co-ordination starts maturing and object recognition comes on in leaps and bounds. That mobile over the cot can now be wound up and he will spend time kicking happily about underneath it as it bobs and sails over his little head. Giggles start to come more frequently and the long sleepless nights suddenly all seem worth it!
Your Tiny Small is growing up fast – you’ll have to run to keep up with him before you know it!