Is your child growing the way he should? Stop obsessing about milestones and get the facts from our experts
If your child is racing up the growth charts, or she's rooted in the front row of every class picture with the smaller kids, you may wonder if she's on the right track. Here's when to worry, and when not to, at every stage.
Birth to 1
From birth to age one, your little cherub triples in weight and gains about 10 in (25 cm) in length or height. An average-sized baby is 20 in (50 cm) long at birth and grows to about 30 in (76 cm) by age one. Boys tend to be slightly taller than girls and, according to Dietitians of Canada, breastfed babies tend to grow more quickly than formula-fed babies in the first six months, and then more slowly in the second six months of life.
What to expect at checkups: Your baby’s doctor will monitor weight, length and head circumference every month for the first six, then every two months until age one, to make sure her growth is on track. “If the weight, length and head all fit in the same parameter, that’s the pattern of the child,” says Fabian Gorodzinsky, an associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Western Ontario in London. “For example, a child who’s on the bottom of the growth chart for all three is a small child, and one who’s on the top end is a big child, but they are both normal.”
Troubleshooting: If any one measurement falls off, doctors do get concerned. “That’s one of the most important indicators that there’s something wrong with the child, such as a chronic infection or something more serious like a heart problem,” says Gorodzinsky. “Usually, the weight is affected first and the height is affected much later — for the child to not grow in height, the event has to be far more chronic and severe.”
That was the case with Sarah Kirmani’s baby, Alina, whose growth slowed at five months. “We decided to investigate rather than assume she was just a small baby,” says Kirmani, who lives in Markham, Ont. A paediatric cardiologist discovered that Alina had a heart condition that was hogging her little body’s supply of energy. After heart surgery at age one to correct the problem, Alina is now growing normally.
Growing really tall during the first year is usually no cause for worry, says Gorodzinsky. In extremely rare cases, a really big child could have a genetic or endocrine condition, such as gigantism, due to an excess of growth hormone. When the growth of a child’s head circumference is slow compared to the weight and length, it may suggest a problem with brain growth, and if the head grows too fast, it could be due to excess fluid in the brain. Talk to your child’s paediatrician if you have concerns.
Find out where your child should be from ages 1 to 3 and beyond >