Normal Baby Growth Development: Principles & Problems
An overview of infant growth and development patterns
Growth Problems before Birth
Babies who are smaller or larger than the usual are of concern. Both groups are more likely to have problems during labor and delivery and in the immediate neonatal period. Babies that are smaller than usual are sometimes called small for gestational age (SGA). Another, less often used term is intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). Babies that are SGA should be evaluated to determine the cause. SGA infants tend to be small throughout their lives, especially if they are born prematurely or are very small compared to the standards.
Growth Problems in Infancy
Babies normally lose weight in the first few days after birth. Breastfed babies lose more weight than bottlefed infants, but suffer no adverse consequences to this normal weight loss. Within the first two weeks or so infants should regain their birth weight.
Within the first few months after birth, the infant usually establishes a growth rate that will be consistent for many years. This growth rate should keep her at about the same position relative to her peers. A child who is smaller than 75 percent of his same-age peers may be perfectly healthy. Concern would arise only if the child were losing ground compared to his same age peers. (Read more about how your baby may measure up.)
Growth Problems in Childhood
By two to three years of age a child should have established a rather consistent growth pattern. Height at this time is a fairly good predictor of final height. Significant reductions or increases in the rate of growth often indicate a medical problem.
At well-baby visits, there are four key areas that physicians look at when considering a child’s growth:
- Height (Before your child is able to stand, this is best done by measuring the difference between the top of the head and bottom of the feet with the child lying on the floor.)
- Head circumference
- Developmental milestones
Increases in size, cognitive, and motor skills are the hallmark of childhood. The first few months after birth are a time of particularly rapid growth. You should partner with your doctor or nurse practitioner to make sure that your baby is growing and developing appropriately. (Read on for more well-baby visit exam expectations.)
Growth & Development Tools
While the tools on this site are not intended to be substitutes for your doctor’s medical advice and care, you can use them to help track your child’s development:
- As Baby Grows milestone tracker
- Personalized Development Calendar
- Memory-saving Baby Pages
- Interactive Height Predictor
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