Some children grow up fast, and others remain the smallest in the class for a long time. What determines growth and are there any methods available to parents to influence it?
If you want to find out how tall a child will be – look at their mom and dad. In most cases, their genes determine the child’s height. However, a number of factors can affect the genetically predetermined growth program. As a result, about 5% of children do not grow well, making their parents anxious and getting them see a doctor.
The most notable growth is observed in the first year of life: approximately 25 cm. To the age of two, they add 8-12 cm more, to the age of three – another 7-8 cm, and after that they start growing 4-6 cm a year. Record your child’s height about once a year at the same time. You can find out whether it is normal with the help of the so-called central table, available at your pediatrician. It can also be found in the Internet, but it is difficult to understand without the relevant knowledge. However, if a child grows up less than 4 cm per year after he or she turns 4 years old, it is really a cause for concern.
For those who like calculating
There are formulas that allow you to calculate your child’s genetically inherent growth. However, their margin of error is quite high – 5-10 cm.
- Girls = (father’s height in centimeters + mother’s height in centimeters)/2 – 6.5 cm.
- Boys = (father’s height in centimeters + mother’s height in centimeters)/2 + 6.5 cm
Growth can be affected by health problems. For example, chronic diseases of the respiratory system, problems with heart and blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract, hormonal disorders. Regular intake of drugs containing glucocorticosteroid hormones (eg, for asthma attacks), also slows down the growth.
Sometimes kids born with insufficient weight and height also grow slowly. Despite their parents’ care and a proper diet, 10% of these children are behind their peers even after the age of 4. Such a delay may occur with those children who have a parent lower than 160 cm. Do not panic! Most children have the so-called constitutional growth delay. It is not pathologic, but the child remains the smallest in the class for a long time. As a rule, puberty also starts later in this case – at 14-16: this way, nature prolongs the children’s growth period. As a result, they usually reach their standards without treatment, although they are unlikely to get really tall. In most cases, this is typical for boys whose parents, especially fathers, grew slowly, as well.
Human body growth is regulated by somatotrophic hormone (growth hormone, or GH). Reproductive and thyroid hormones, as well as insulin, are also important, but they are only active when the level of growth hormone is normal. It turns out that a deficiency of one or more hormones or an excess of adrenal hormones leads to growth retardation and is impossible to overcome without special treatment.
Fortunately, endocrine growth retardation happens in less than 1% of children whose parents turn to doctors. Real lack of growth hormone results in dwarfism, when boys grow up to no more than 140 cm, and girls – up to 130 cm The sooner parents will turn to the endocrinologist and get a prescription for GH injections, the greater the chance that the little patient will grow to medium height, or even taller. Moreover, if the first child suffered growth hormone deficiency, the parents can plan a second child safely – in most cases, this hormonal problem is not repeated.
The bone (biological) age shows whether the overall bone growth and development corresponds to the child’s age. This is a more accurate indicator than height or weight. Children’s bones have the so-called growth zones, which allow the skeleton to grow. These growth areas are gradually closed by the end of puberty, the skeleton gets ossified, and growth stops. Bone age allows doctors to see how long the child will be growing, whether it is necessary to look for hormonal abnormalities, or there is no reason for this. However, even in healthy children, bone age deviation can make up to 3 years.
Now we are coming to the most interesting part: which growth factors can parents affect?
Nutrition for child’s growth
First of all, food. For a child to grow up, his or her body should get everything to build tubular bones, muscles, teeth, skin, and other tissues and organs. The building material is amino acid, which can only be obtained from protein. Therefore, 60% of meals should consist of dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, meat – in general, products of animal origin. Make sure that they are not very fat, since fat slows down the production of growth hormone.
Vegetable products must constitute 40% of the diet. Above all, we are talking about cereal. Legumes are also not bad, but they often cause problems with digestion, and still they do not substitute for milk and meat. Vegetarianism and religious fasts for children are not acceptable! As well as fast food and semi-finished products such as sausages: they contain almost no protein.
Energy for growth is provided by carbohydrates, which are obtained from cereal and grain dishes. Sweets, which contain no fiber, also slow down the production of growth hormone! So you’d better buy fruit instead of sweets. By the way, whole grains (buckwheat, millet, barley and so on) increase the synthesis of growth hormone.
Vitamins and minerals are important for growth. We are mostly speaking of vitamin D, the lack of which causes rickets. Now doctors recommend giving it to all the children in a preventive dose of approximately 10 micrograms per day.
Do not forget about calcium and iodine. The former is embedded in bones, increasing their volume and strength. The latter is included in the thyroid hormones, which otherwise would be lacking. Therefore, at the age of 6-10, children should receive 800-1200 mg of calcium and 150 micrograms of iodine per day. Teenagers should receive 1200-1500 mg of calcium and 200 mg of iodine daily. The best source of calcium is cottage cheese, but you cannot eat that much, so about half of the calcium should be taken in pills. Another option is products enriched with calcium. As for iodine, only those who live by the sea get enough of it: with drinking water and seafood. Iodized salt is not enough, so the iodine-containing supplements are another important thing for growth.
What else makes children grow faster?
Apart from the nutrition, it is important that the child follows regular hours: the child should receive adequate emotional and physical stress and at the same time have a good rest. Then you can be certain that he or she will grow well.
There are more and more children with severe allergies to numerous foods. Pediatricians and allergists recommend them a very monotonous diet like rice, cauliflower and rabbit meat. However, in a year or two, you find out a lack of minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and sometimes protein. Choose something in the middle: you can tolerate, for example, mild skin rash, providing the child with proper nutrition. We are reminding you that proper nutrition means different types of meat, fish, and vegetables, but not fast food stuffed with flavors and preservatives.
How does sleep affect a child’s growth?
The child loves surfing the Internet at night? If he or she wants to be tall, they will have to give it up. 70% of the growth hormone is produced from 22 to 24 p.m., and only during deep sleep. So this is the time when a child or a teenager should long be asleep. At the same time, the glowing screen of a smartphone, tablet PC or computer before bedtime reduces sleep depth, so that the production of growth hormone is getting lower again. Explain to the younger family members that a child up to 12-14 years should sleep at least 10 hours, adolescents – at least 8, but doing it in the daytime is useless!
What sports help the child to grow up?
Any physical activity that your child likes, and which does not exhaust them, helps them to grow. However, it is difficult to identify those that really stimulate growth. Traditionally, these are sports, which presuppose jumping and stretching up and forward: basketball, volleyball, swimming, badminton, high and long jump. It is also believed that wrestling and weightlifting inhibit growth.
Psychosocial Short Stature
Psychosocial short stature is dwarfism caused by an unfavorable atmosphere in the family. In particular, this applies to deprived families where no one cares about the children’s diet, their emotions and outlook. Nevertheless, even in seemingly prosperous families where a child feels loved and needed, their growth may slow down.
How long will children grow up?
Each person has an individual growth program, but still there are general laws. On average, men grow up to the age of 18-22, and women – up to 15-19. After 25, men sometimes have a slight height increase – up to 2 cm. In general, people who grow in adulthood are those who had late puberty.