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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.