All of us are aware of the fact that not all children grow at the same pace. Some are quick to attain growth, some grow slower. Children of same age may appear totally different from each other, like in height or weight. Because when it comes to children’s growth, many things play vital roles and affect their development. Slower or faster growth may be hereditary that children acquire from their parents. For example, some children may be short or thin because their parents are short or thin.
Eating habits also affect their growth. Children who don’t eat well or lack nutrition grow slower and struggle to put on weight. Anything that restricts children’s normal growth is considered a growth disorder. For parents, it is very important to understand these growth disorders by measuring their children’s growth on regular intervals so as to know what’s wrong with them and preventive actions can be taken immediately. Both slower and faster growth is bad for children. And unless you know the reasons behind it, you will find it difficult to tackle. Here we have come up with five most common factors that affect children’s growth the most.
- Genetics: When it comes to slower or faster growth in children, genetics play the most important part. Some genetic conditions don’t allow children to grow at a normal pace. For example, some girls, who suffer from the Turner syndrome, may never grow tall. Whereas Marfan syndrome, another genetic condition, makes a person tall with very long arms and legs. If your children’s growth is abnormal, get them checked for genetics.
- Hormonal disorders: Hormones, to a very extent, are also responsible for growth. One of the glands in our body is called the pituitary gland (spelled as pih-TOO-ih-tare-ee) which is found at the bottom of the brain. It sends out a chemical messenger to our body called growth hormone, which is essential for growth. When the pituitary gland does not create enough growth hormones, the growth of children slows down. In that case, daily shots of growth hormones can be given to children to help them grow to be normal-sized adults. Like the pituitary gland, there’s another gland that produces hormones that are important for growth – thyroid. It is found in the front of the neck, just under the Adam’s apple. It makes a hormone called thyroxine. If thyroxine is made too little, the condition is called hypothyroidism which makes children grow slowly. A simple blood test can detect hypothyroidism and, if needed, a pill can be given to children as the missing hormone. Which can help bring their growth process back on the track.
- Chronic diseases: Chronic diseases are also known to slow down the growth process in some cases. Not many children suffer from chronic diseases like heart and kidney problems, cystic fibrosis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or sickle cell anaemia that restrict their growth. But if a child is really struggling to grow and does not look like her / his age, she / he might as well be suffering from a chronic condition. In that case, the sooner the condition is diagnosed, the more preventive measures can be taken in the due course of time.
- Complications during pregnancy: Drinking and smoking during pregnancy are known to slow down a baby’s growth. In some cases, where the mother smoked during pregnancy, babies were born too small and some remained relatively small for their life. Doctors call this condition Intrauterine (promounced in-trah-YUTE-er-in) Growth Retardation or IUGR. Other than drinking or smoking, some infection during pregnancy or certain genetic diseases can also cause this problem. One reason why a pregnant woman must not indulge in drinking and smoking!
- Lifestyle habits leading to failure to thrive: When children don’t grow after a few years, it’s time to check their lifestyle habits that include eating, sleeping and exercising. Eating food with no or low nutrition, staying up late and not doing any form of exercise lead to FTT (failure to thrive) and restrict children to grow to their full potential. These habits not only make them underweight but also make them tired, cranky and energy-less. Most children, on average, grow about two inches a year from the age of three until they start puberty. If you find your children’s growth not up to this mark, maybe it’s time that you keep a strict check on their lifestyle and have them eat foods that help them grow faster.
The key to your children’s ideal or normal growth lies in measurement. It is only by measuring them on regular intervals that parents get to know what’s not working right for them. That’s why measuring your children’s height, weight, BMI, etc. is more important than you think it is. Because it is the only way to ensure that your children grow at the required benchmark that matches their age. Regular measurement will also empower you to take necessary steps before it is too late. After all, there is nothing more important than children in a parent’s life.