As custodians of child’s welfare, most parents have a vigilant eye on the increasing height of the child as a barometer of his growth. And, rightly so!
The most rapid growth of the baby occurs in mother’s tummy. At birth a healthy newborn measures about 50 cm. After birth, the fastest growth occurs in the very first year. By the end of first year the baby is about 75 cm in length. By two years, he is by and large half of the adult height. Thereafter, growth rate is about 5-7 cm per year until puberty. Then, during adolescent growth spurt, the gain is enormous, at times upto 10 cm per year.
Remember, since adolescence/puberty starts in girls about two years earlier, growth spurt too occurs earlier in them. It also gets over earlier. However, once the boy’s spurt takes off the ground, he is likely to speed up faster than the girls.
For measuring the height, doctors often use a simple device called stadiometer. You can fabricate a sort of stadiometer at home by making the bare-footed child stand against a wall, ensuring that both the shoulders are against the surface and the head is held so that the lower margins of the eyes are level with the ear holes. An upward lift at the lower jaw helps to correct the position of the head. Then, a book is rested over the child’s head. The point at which the base of the book touches the wall is marked with a pencil. At this stage, the child is moved away and the distance from the floor to the pencil mark on the wall is measured, preferably with a metal tape.
Since child’s height is significantly influenced by parents’ heights, you can have a rough idea of the child’s height by taking the mean of the parents heights and then adding 6.5 in case of a boy and subtracting 6.5 in case of a girl. This is called “genetic bull’s eye”. Here’s a word of caution. Since nutrition, environment and chronic disease rank among other factors that influence the height of the child, a factor of 8.5 cm either way needs to be considered in the final outcome of adult height. If you are regularly visiting the pediatrician for your child’s health and cooperating with him, chances are he is maintaining a growth chart for your child. Also called “Road to Health Card”, this chart has three areas of growth plotted on it. If the child’s height curve remains throughout within the normal (central area), he is supposed to be growing fine. If at any stage it tends to move towards or right into the lower area, for whatever reason (say poor dietary intake, a prolonged illness, etc.), it is a “wake-up call” for taking action. Don’t take it easy. The term, short stature, is reserved for children whose height remains significantly less than the expected for age. Though it may well be familial, the causes range from genetic disorders through chronic malnutrition to chronic systemic diseases such as endocrinal disorders involving growth hormone or thyroid hormone. It is advisable to get in touch with a competent doctor who is likely to carry out certain investigations, including a bone X-ray for bone age before he is in a position to give you an appropriate advice. Hormonal therapy (say growth hormone) is certainly available but you have got to leave it to the expert to decide if it indeed is warranted. In any case, make sure you see the doctor fairly early. Else, he may not be able to achieve much through hormonal treatment even though it is indicated in your child. Occasionally, parents are concerned about unusual tallness of the child, especially in case of a girl. There is no point in plunging headlong into endless consultations and investigations. Nevertheless, an expert consultation is in order, particularly if excessive tallness is accompanied by physical or mental handicap.