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Infant Sleep Linked to Growth Spurts in Babies

infant sleepHas your baby started to nap more often? This may be a sign that a growth spurt is on its way. A new study has confirmed a longstanding theory – infant sleeping patterns are related to growth spurts in babies. This theory has never been proven until now.

According to a new research study in the recent issue of Sleep, babies who start to take more naps, or sleep for longer periods of time, are more likely to undergo a growth spurt within the next two days. So, if you think your baby has suddenly gotten bigger overnight, you might be right!

The Science Behind Baby Growth Spurts and Sleep Patterns

Researchers at Emory University asked 23 parents to keep daily sleep records for their babies (9 boys, 14 girls), starting at 12 days old. The parents detailed when their children fell asleep and woke up, in addition to whether the babies were breastfed or formula-fed, and whether the children developed any signs of illness (such as diarrhea, rash, fever, or vomiting).

The study’s authors measured the infant’s length on a regular basis (some were measured every day; others were measured twice a week), and they cross-referenced this information with the babies’ sleep records.

When the infant’s sleep patterns started changing – when the babies started taking more naps, or sleeping more – this was usually followed by a growth spurt. With each additional nap the baby took, they were 43 percent more likely to have a growth spurt. And for each additional hour of sleep the babies got during these sleep peaks, they were 20 percent more likely to grow. Growth spurts in these babies typically occurred within 48 hours of these bursts of extra sleep.

On average, growth spurts in babies caused them to sleep about 4.5 extra hours each day over two days. This roughly equates to three extra naps.

Baby Growth Spurts: Boys vs. Girls, Breastfed vs. Bottle-fed

When the babies started to sleep more and longer, they grew in length, and they also got heavier, especially around their bellies. There was also a difference among the boy and girl babies. The baby boys slept for shorter periods of time, but they napped more often than the little girls.

Breastfed babies typically took shorter, more frequent naps, compared to the bottle-fed babies.

This study didn’t explain how sleep affects babies growth, but the researchers theorize that it may be due to hormonal signals during sleep that boost the secretion of growth hormones in these babies.


Read related articles:
Baby Napping 411: How to Get Babies to Nap
10 Surprising Facts about Having a Baby

About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Ekaterina February 23, 2017, 9:26 am

    Hi, DP Nguyen!

    Thank you for the information! I was looking exactly for the answer to the question about diferences in growth spurts among the boys and girls. Also, you mentioned that it’s possible to notice that baby suddenly has grown overnight. I think it’s very difficult to see such change if you don’t measure the baby before and after. I think you meant that. Anyway, great analysis of the research study. Thank you again.

  • joni October 31, 2012, 2:13 pm

    My ds #3 just turned 1 he was waking up in the middle of the night due to learning how to walk or so I thought,now all of a sudden he started sleeping alnight again 12 hrs solid and he has been taking long naps 3 hrs 1 nap 2nd nap of about 1 hr eating more and really clinging too me. So I guess I would say he is going through a grownth spurt. Oh how I love all 3 of my boys! Ages 5, 2 1/2,and 1.

  • Alexandra May 26, 2011, 3:19 pm

    Looks like my 1 year old will be growing soon. His afternoon naps have been lasting longer than usual.

  • Julie Smith May 6, 2011, 11:58 pm

    Great blog! Very informative and interesting post this one! Will be following you from http://www.toddlerbedandmore.blogspot.com! Thanks for your post!

  • Samantha May 6, 2011, 4:15 pm

    I have heard of that and I believe it with my sons!

    New follower from SM 🙂 Hope you have a chance to follow back.

  • S. Greiner May 4, 2011, 10:00 am

    AHHHH sleep and babies! I thought that once they got on a schedule it would be easier…trying to get toddlers to sleep is sooooo frustrating!

    Thanks for the note via MBC. I’m following you via GFC now :)! Please feel free to drop by http://www.alwaysjustamom.blogspot.com!

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