As mothers, we do everything we can to make sure our children are healthy and growing appropriately. We make pencil marks on doorways and compare the height of our children to their peers. But what is right and appropriate growth for one child may be different for another. The important thing is that your child continues to make progress on a growth chart.
Biology dictates that humans come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There is no one standard for measuring whether a child is growing appropriately. For that reason, growth charts are used. Growth charts are tools that allow a doctor to track your child’s growth on a curve. The curve is based on the average sizes of the children of your nationality or country. There are two growth charts commonly used in the United States. One is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the other is published by the World Health Organization.
When you baby is born, your doctor will measure her length, weight and head circumference, and then mark it on a growth chart. At each checkup, your child will be measured again, with the results plotted on the chart, which is usually in graph form. Your child may be on the small side, falling into the 5th or 10th percentile of all children of the same age and gender. Or, your child may be larger than most of his peers. Which percentage your child falls into does not matter as much as whether your child is progressing on the chart. If your child’s measurements are increasing at a normal pace, then your child is growing appropriately.
Sometimes, your child may not progress on the chart to the doctor’s satisfaction. Your doctor may ask you a series of questions, such as if your child has been ill recently, or if she was born prematurely. Sometimes, an illness will slow growth, or maybe your family is just full of short people. Your doctor will probably also ask if your child has met other developmental milestones, such as being able to stand on one leg, or use a pencil. In rare cases, when all other options are exhausted, a growth delay may be diagnosed.
Causes and Treatment
Growth delays are often caused by poor nutrition, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics website. An infection or chronic disease can also cause a delay in the growth of a child, as can a digestive problem. Hormonal problems and diseases can cause delayed growth and delayed puberty. In rare cases, a child’s bones may develop at a rate slower than the age of the child. This is a constitutional growth delay, and causes a child to be smaller than her peers. Because there is such a wide range of conditions that cause delayed growth, treatments vary. Sometimes, the underlying cause can be treated, such as is the case with many digestive issues. Sometimes, the cause can’t be treated easily, such as the case with some serious chronic diseases. Improved nutrition can help malnourished children, and hormones can be given to children with endocrine diseases.
Some children are naturally small in stature. For these children, growth hormone treatment is often considered. The reasons for this usually relate to improving the child’s self-esteem. A study conducted by the University of Michigan, however, found that there is no correlation between a child’s height and her popularity and friendships. Still, in 2003, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of growth hormone in children and teens that fall into the lowest 1.2 percent on the growth charts.