Ask The Expert is a weekly column on Littlestomaks.com. The idea is to have a reader-submitted question answered by a nutrition expert or a pediatrician. Feel free to submit your question in the comments section below.
This week, Registered Dietitian Preethi Rahul explains why it is important to know and track the general growth pattern of your toddler using growth charts.
Question: Why is it important to know the general growth pattern of toddlers?
To understand the importance of growth pattern of toddlers it is very important to understand what growth is.
Growth is defined as increase in the size of an organism or part of an organism, usually as a result of an increase in the number of cells. Growth is a physical aspect which can be quantified. A child’s physical growth refers to the increases in height and weight and other body changes that occur as a child matures. Hair grows; teeth come in, come out, and come in again; and eventually puberty hits. It’s all part of the growth process.
How do you judge your child’s growth pattern?
There are various tools that can help parents understand their child’s growth pattern. Two most widely used ones are:
The National Center for Health Statistics has developed growth charts that are used to compare a child’s measurements with those of other children the same age. By plotting a child’s measurements on these charts, doctors are able to compare individual growth patterns with data collected on thousands of children. This helps to determine whether a child’s growth is normal compared with others the same age. The charts are a series of percentile curves that show the distribution of growth measurements of children from across the country.
Designed to measure body mass, BMI charts can help to determine whether a child’s weight is appropriate for their height. To get a quick picture of a child’s weight status, the health care professional enters the height, weight, age, and gender. The resulting number is then compared to other children of the same age to see if the child’s weight falls within the normal boundaries.
Here is a good article which tells you 5 things you need to know about growth charts.
Now why is it important to understand your child’s growth pattern?
Children are constantly growing and changing and periodic assessment of their progress allows any problems to be detected and treated early. Most children are assessed by health care professionals only when they are ill, at which time growth and development is not focus of care.
Growth measurements must be recorded at regular intervals to indicate growth patterns. Height and weight when taken only once do not lend themselves as interpretation of growth status. Children generally maintain their height and weight in the same growth channels during preschool and early childhood years, although these channels are not well established until after 2 years of age. Individual children sometimes grow at faster or slower rates; nonetheless; they should follow along their same growth channel.
Regular monitoring of growth enables trends to be identified early and intervention or education to be initiated so that long-term growth is not compromised. Weight that increases at a rapid rate and crosses growth channels suggests the development of obesity. A child who appears to be overweight may be advised to boost their physical activity a bit since overweight children have a higher risk of becoming overweight adults than their lighter peers. With early intervention, a small problem need not become a lifelong struggle.
Lack of weight gain or loss of weight over a period of months may be a result of under nutrition , an acute illness, an undiagnosed chronic disease, or significant emotional or family problems.So health care professionals and parents can work together to determine the best way to get the child back on track. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also be identified and if they are in the initial stages diet alone would be sufficient to bridge the gaps.
Thus as a responsible parent you need to constantly monitor your child’s growth and take necessary action as and when needed!
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Disclaimer – Information provided in Ask The Expert column on Littlestomaks.com is intended to give you general guidance on a question related to toddler nutrition. It is not meant to be treated as medical advice. You are welcome to contact this expert for a detailed consultation on your specific situation to determine what actions, if any, you should take regarding nutrition and health of your toddlers. We do not recommend you to take any action based solely on the information presented in this column. Experts have agreed to provide their professional opinion on toddler nutrition related questions on a voluntary basis and no compensation is offered to them by Littlestomaks.com.