Children's growth - your questions answered

child height chart

Children come in all shapes and sizes, that's a fact. However, when do you know what's normal and what's more of a cause for concern?

To find out the long and the short of it, we asked Dr Hilary Jones, ITV's Health Editor, Mumsnet users' most burning questions about childhood growth – from growing pains to percentile charting. See what he had to say below, and learn more through More Than Height – a resource for parents to track their child's growth

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Baby and child growth

How much on average do babies grow each month?

Babies grow each month at a rate determined by their body type, their metabolism, their feeding habits, their environment and their general health. There are many variables, including the baby’s weight at birth and growth spurts.

baby growing

Also, the first two weeks are not representative as babies normally lose 5 to 10% of their body weight in the first week before regaining it.

That said, as a generalisation, most babies will gain about 150 grams per week in the first three months, which is 5.3 ounces. Thereafter, the rate of weight gain slows to about 100 grams – 150 grams per week. From birth to age six months, babies grow in length on average half to one inch a month (1.5 – 2.5 centimetres).

Long babies do tend to become taller adults although there are many variables

Is the projectile of a toddler an indicator of future height?

To some extent, the length of your baby is a predictor of how tall they might be as adults. Long babies do tend to become taller adults although there are many variables. While there can be spurts and slowdowns in a baby’s growth, a smooth and consistent projectile in a higher percentile is a pretty reliable predictor of future height.

How often should you weigh and measure?

Children should be weighed and measured every month until six months of age and then every two months until they are one year old. After one year, checks are recommended every three months.

Children should be weighed and measured every month until aged six months and then every two months until they are one. After that, every three months

How often should children be changing shoe size?

Children’s feet will grow differently and at different times and can be smaller or larger than the feet of other children of the same age. As a rough guide, children’s feet grow about half a size every four to five months, and slightly faster at one to three years than at three to six years. It is wise to visit your shoe store about three times a year to ensure your children's feet have plenty of room to move inside their shoes.

child feet

Growth charts

Should I pay much attention to percentile charting?

Yes and no. Percentile charts are a really good way of comparing your child’s measurements to a national average. They enable you to compare your child’s height, weight and head circumference to other children of the same age and gender. If your child is on the 75th weight centile, for example, it means that 75% of other children of the same age and gender weigh less than he or she does. Furthermore, by plotting regular measurements on the percentile chart the rate of steady growth or, more importantly, faltering growth can be observed.

Percentile charts are a good way of comparing your child’s measurements to a national average. That said, you shouldn't be concerned necessarily about them being on the fifth or the 95th centile – both can be entirely healthy

That said, no parent should be concerned necessarily about their child being on the fifth or the 95th centile. Both can be entirely healthy and normal.

At what age should I worry about a child’s weight in a higher percentile?

The important thing about percentiles is that they should follow a consistent curve in the first year and show steady growth. Different charts are used for children aged between two and 20 years of age when it is wise to measure body mass index as well so that any tendency to become overweight or too lean can be identified.

Where can I find trusted information about normal heights and weights for children?

The percentile charts, which are kept in the personal child health record (PCHR) or 'Red book', are a good indicator of progress for your b
aby’s growth. This progress can be discussed with your health visitor or doctor. Another source of information is the website Morethanheight.com, which provides tools to help you understand more about children’s growth. It also has a growth calculator to help you track your child’s development.

Diet and health

With all the lactose-free products that have been available for over a decade, does lactose intolerance still really impede growth?

It is not so much lactose intolerance itself that impedes growth, but the avoidance of nutrient-rich food groups that might occur as a result. With good advice, this is completely avoidable even in the case of actual milk allergy.

four-year-old eating

If my four-year-old is constantly hungry, but at a healthy weight, should I be worried or could it be the sign of a growth spurt?

Your four-year-old being constantly hungry could indicate they are going through a growth spurt or simply that they are becoming more active and requiring more calories. Some children will want to eat more because they are bored, or eating for comfort, or are becoming food-obsessed. Provided your toddler is of a healthy weight, active and eating healthy foods there is little cause for concern.

A four-year-old being constantly hungry could indicate they are going through a growth spurt or simply that they are becoming more active and requiring more calories.

How can we know if a pain a child is having is growing pains? And what’s the best way to alleviate them?

Doctors are generally less convinced than parents that growing pains exist. In my experience, however, these pains are quite common especially between the ages of three and 12. Typical symptoms include an ache in the front of the thighs, calves and behind the knees, usually occurring before bedtime. The pains can last 10 – 30 minutes at a time and certainly not present on a daily basis. Ibuprofen or paracetamol and a hot compress is all that is required.

Never ignore constant limb pain, however. If the pain is constant or severe and there is associated swelling, anaemia, infections, bruising, bleeding or joint pain consult your doctor immediately.

How much do recurrent infections affect growth?

Children will soon catch up after a common childhood infection such as tonsillitis or an ear infection. But more serious invasive infections, which create a systemic response such as pneumonia, dysentery or kidney infections can, if sustained and resistant to treatment, negatively impact on nutritional status. If you have any specific concerns, please discuss them with your child’s doctor or paediatrician.

How much does the amount of sleep a child gets affect growth?

child sleeping

A single night’s poor sleep will not stunt a child’s growth, but long-term sleep deprivation can. Sleep deprivation suppresses the production of growth hormone and is not only linked to slower growth but also to obesity and diabetes in the future.

A single night’s poor sleep will not stunt a child’s growth, but long-term sleep deprivation can

Babies, children and teenagers need more sleep than adults for mental and physical development, as well as for concentration and energy to do well at school. A child aged one to two will still need about 11 to 14 hours' sleep a day. A child aged six to 13 may still require nine to 11 hours per night. An early bedtime for babies and school children is recommended with a consistent, soothing and winding down routine beforehand.

Family factors

Is it likely that kids will take after one or other parent in terms of height rather than meeting in the middle?

About 80% of your child’s adult height will be determined by parental height. It is also likely that your child’s final adult height will be determined more by one parent’s genetic make-up then the other, in the same way that they might facially resemble one parent more than another and inherit more of their hair colour. The mid-parental height method of calculating your child’s future height is only an indication.

children standing next to parents

As a parent, how much should we take into consideration our own height before worrying about our children’s height?

It is thought that about 80% of a child’s adult height will be determined by the height of its parents. Therefore, as parents, we should take our own height into consideration before worrying about our children’s height.

About 80% of your child’s adult height will be determined by parental height

As a rough rule of thumb, you can calculate your child’s future height using the mid-parental height method. Do this for boys by adding both parent’s height, adding five inches and then dividing by two. For girls add both parent’s height, subtracting five inches and dividing by two.

Puberty

Do boys tend to put on a bit of weight before their puberty growth spurt?

Currently, in the UK, we are seeing more children of all ages who are overweight or obese. Puberty for boys tends to occur later than it does in girls, so it is very likely that we notice boys particularly carrying a bit of “puppy fat” before they undergo that dramatic growth spurt at puberty.

puberty age children in classroom

When do girls stop growing? Is it true that they won’t grow any more two years after their first period?

Puberty occurs earlier in girls than boys and during their rapid growth spurt, they may increase in height by about three inches on average. This growth spurt ends, and they reach most of their adult height by the ages of 15 to 16, a couple of years after their periods began. There may be a very small further increase in height, but this is normally finished by the age of 18.

At what age do children stop growing?

Puberty occurs in most boys between the ages of 14 and 17 with most of the growth spurt occurring then. This is two years later than the growth spurt seen in girls. There may be some further increase in height until the ages of about 20 to 22 although the muscles and other pubertal features will continue to develop.

MoreThanHeight.com

Your child's growth tells a story about their overall health and wellbeing. That's why it's important to keep track of how they are growing over time. This website provides parents with information, tools and resources to help them to better understand their child’s growth and development.