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Do Sleepy Babies Grow More? Study Says Yes

Henry sleeps (and grows?) while Max looks on.

If sleepy babies grow more then Henry is going to be one hell of a big boy. He is sleeping from 7pm to 4am every night. Occasionally he’ll wake up for a feeding around three in the morning but more often than not, he’s sleeping until four in the morning at which point I bring him in bed with me. We snuggle until seven or so, when Violet gets up and it’s absolutely delicious.

Except that the new study says it’s erratic bursts of sleep that may correspond with growth spurts. That’s a bit of good news for the exhausted parents of babies in the midst of crazy, inconsistent sleeping patterns. Hey, Natalie! Maybe Huck is just going through some serious growing spurts?

A group of researchers asked 23 sets of parents to keep daily sleep logs of their newborns (average age 12 days) for four to 17 months. They detailed their children’s sleep and waking patterns, as well as whether they were breast-fed or formula-fed, and whether they ever developed signs of illness like vomiting, rash, fever and diarrhea.

The researchers measured the infants’ length often — anywhere from daily to twice a week — and cross-referenced their growth with parents’ sleep records.

What they found out is fascinating…

When babies’ sleep patterns shifted — when the infants began taking more naps or slept more overall — it was typically followed by a growth spurt. Specifically, babies were 43% more likely to experience a growth spurt for each additional nap they took, and 20% more likely to grow for each additional hour of sleep they got during these sleep peaks.

On average, babies’ growth-associated sleep patterns resulted in about 4.5 hours more sleep per day over two days, and three extra naps.

The babies got longer and heavier when they slept which demonstrates that growth spurts not only occur during sleep but are significantly influenced by sleep,” said the study’s lead author, Michelle Lampl Lampl said in a statement.

Other interesting things Lampl and his team discovered; baby boys tended to nap more frequently than girls, but slept for shorter bursts. And breast-fed babies also took more frequent, shorter naps than formula-fed infants.

The association wasn’t perfect — not every shift in sleep pattern was associated with a growth spurt, and vice versa — but it was significant. The finding should help ease some parents’ anxiety about their infants’ problematic sleep. “Sleep irregularities can be distressing to parents,” said Lampl. “However, these findings give babies a voice that helps parents understand them and show that seemingly erratic sleep behavior is a normal part of development. Babies really aren’t trying to be difficult.”

That’s good to know because sometimes? It really seems like they’re trying to be difficult on purpose, doesn’t it?

The study was published in the May issue of Sleep.

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