In an intercross between the high-body-weight-selected mouse line NMRI8 and the inbred line DBA/2, we analyzed genetic effects on growth during the suckling period and after weaning during the juvenile phase of development. QTL mapping results indicated that a switch of gene activation might occur at the age of three weeks when animals are weaned. We found QTLs for body weight with major effects at the age of two and three weeks when animals are fed by their mothers, and QTLs with highest effects after weaning when animals have to live on their own under ad libitum access to food. Specific epistatic effects on body weight at two and three weeks and epistatic interaction influencing growth after weaning support this finding. QTL effects explained the greatest variance during puberty when animals grow fastest and become fertile. In the present study, all except one QTL effect for early body weight had dominance variance components. These might result from direct single-locus-dominant allelic expression, but also from the identified epistatic interaction between different QTLs that we have found for body weight at all ages. Beside body weight, body composition traits (muscle weight, reproductive fat weight, weight of inner organs) were analyzed. Sex-dimorphic QTLs were found for body weight and fat deposition. The identified early-growth QTLs could be the target of epigenetic modifications which might influence body weight at later ages.