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Kids' Growth Spurts

Have your child's jeans suddenly turned into waders? Welcome to the wonderful  -- and unpredictable  -- world of growth spurts. "They don't follow any particular pattern before puberty, so there's no sure way you can know when a child is going to have one," says Rob Benjamin, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Still, there are at least a few clues. One sign that your child may be just about to sprout up is an increase in his appetite; another is too-small shoes. Kids grow from the bottom on up; after their feet grow, legs lengthen, hands get bigger, and then arms become longer. Some things to keep in mind while your child's going through a growth spurt:

* A baby may want the breast or bottle more often or take in more at feedings. Let him. And allow older kids to eat and drink more as well  -- just make sure you offer a healthy variety of food, plus milk.

* After age 3, growth spurts can lead to growing pains. These leg aches tend to happen at night, especially after a day of lots of activity. Gentle stretching, plus a heating pad or a warm cloth, can help ease them.