My, how you’ve grown! And just as importantly, how have you grown?

My, how you’ve grown! And just as importantly, how have you grown?

15 January 2013

All those aunts and uncles who don’t see your little darling every day will often exclaim: “My, how you’ve grown!” But you should take that oft-repeated exclamation a step further and turn it into a key question: “How have you grown?”
Your child’s growth pattern is a useful indicator of his or her overall health. Parents need to think of growth as more than just a series of snapshots, but rather as more like a video. For instance, has growth been consistent over a given time, or have there been periodic spurts? It’s important to plot your child’s growth milestones, and to look at growth rate as well.
For instance, if a child is growing too quickly, or not quickly enough, this can be a useful indicator for pinpointing any health or nutrition problems, or the need for increased exercise.

But what to measure, and when?

There are three key attributes you’ll need to track. These are height or length, weight, and head size or circumference for babies and toddlers. You and your child’s physician will keep track of these important measurements which should be taken at every regularly scheduled check-up, and at ad hoc illness-related doctor visits. You and your child can make your first regularly scheduled visit seven to 14 days after birth; and then at two, four, six, nine, 12, 18 and 24 months. Those visits become annual once your child hits the two-year-old mark.
Your child’s physician will plot these three measurements on a growth chart, which becomes part of your young one’s medical file. Growth charts include those of the World Health Organization (WHO), which launched new growth standards in 2006. Feel free to keep your own chart at home too.

What can I do to ensure what’s best for my child?

One of the first steps is to be aware of two sets of contributing factors: those outside your control, and those you can control. For instance, heredity plays a role in growth. Remember, you can’t choose your ancestors – if there’s a family history of below-average height, or relatively larger heads, this may show up in the next generation too. But there’s a lot you can control – and that includes the quality of: your child’s nutritional intake, mental stimuli, and physical activity – and the affection you give.
For more information, consult with your child’s pediatrician, or your family doctor.
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