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What is a Growth Spurt?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A growth spurt is a period in childhood characterized by a burst of physical and cognitive development. In babies, these spurts are sometimes referred to as “frequency days.” The final growth spurt occurs during puberty and can last several years as a person develops from a child into a young adult.

During a growth spurt, more nutrients than usual are required. The person is often hungrier than usual and may also be physically fatigued, because development requires a lot of energy. Sometimes personality changes occur as well, such as fussiness in babies or temperamental moods in teens. Physical and/or cognitive developmental milestones may be reached, as for example when a baby starts crawling after a spurt.

An infant undergoing a growth spurt will want to feed frequently and may be restless or fussy. It is also not uncommon for the baby to sleep more than usual. During the growth period, the baby may grow physically but can also experience cognitive development as the brain develops. Growth spurts can be accompanied with the establishment of new connections in the brain that may result in increased agility, greater understanding of concepts, and other events related to cognitive development.

Teens and young adults experience growth spurts as hormones are released during puberty. These hormones contribute to the development of secondary sex characteristics and also lead to increased height, heavier bone mass, and other physical traits. At the same time, the brain is also developing. During a teenage growth spurt, it is important to make sure that teens have adequate and balanced nutrition available. It can also be helpful for teens to know that while they may feel unusual during the growth spurt, physical symptoms such as aches and pains or fatigue are normal.

If someone appears to be missing developmental milestones and failing to grow, a pediatrician can conduct an examination and make recommendations for referral or treatment. Some people simply develop more slowly than others, while in other cases developmental delays can be a sign of genetic disorders, malnutrition, disease, or other issues. Maintaining a chart that tracks progress can be beneficial, as it will allow a doctor to see where a patient fits in when compared with other people of a similar age. This information can be used to determine whether or not intervention is needed.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By croydon — On Jun 28, 2011

@indigomoth - It works both ways. You can be an early bloomer, or one of those kids who waits and waits to shoot up a few inches while everyone else is growing like sunflowers.

I don't remember any height issues but I was mortified that it seemed like every girl in class had hit puberty before I did. They were all discussing things that I had no clue about, like periods and sex and bras, and in fact everyone was wearing a bra in the changing rooms before I was (or at least it seemed like that!).

I think though that every kid that age thinks they are the odd one out in some way. Mostly they are all too worried about their own weirdness to worry about anyone else!

By indigomoth — On Jun 28, 2011

I went through a growth spurt when I was in primary school that left me standing taller than most of the teachers.

This was really embarrassing for me, particularly when they would ask me to get things off high shelves for them. I was also taller than all the boys in my class.

And I was awkward and clumsy too, which is another part of a growth spurts in girls and boys. The bones and muscles are growing so fast they don't know what to do with them.

I eventually settled down but I think if I'd had a more positive environment during those years I wouldn't have had to battle with as many self confidence and body issues later in life.

So be supportive of your kids when they are going through a growth spurt. Make sure they know it's normal and all the other kids will get there too!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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