Growth denotes an increase in physical size of the body and development denotes an improvement in skills and function of an individual. Together they denote physical, intellectual, emotional and social well-being of an individual. Birth to five years of age is called the formative years. During these years, basic mental and physical development occurs in children. As per the World Health Organization, nutrition, healthcare and environment play a crucial role in determining the growth of a child.
The parameters used to measure growth are weight in kilograms, height in meters and head and chest circumferences. In India, we use the WHO Child Growth Standards (2006) for children to track their growth. Monitoring your child’s growth to check for deficiencies is of paramount importance.
Weight has been recognized to be the most accurate measure of growth in a child as even a change of few hundred grams can be recorded.
- It indicates body mass
- It is sensitive to even small changes in nutritional status due to childhood morbidity like diarrhoea.
- Rapid loss of weight indicates the potential risk of malnutrition.
- The height of an individual is influenced by genetic as well as environmental factors.
- Inadequate dietary intake and/ or infections reduce nutrients available to support the child’s growth. This may result in growth retardation.
- It is a regular measurement that helps you to visualize your child’s growth. This chart will help you to monitor the growth and height of your child.
- As per WHO (World Health Organization), there are separate growth charts for girls and boys see tables below.
- At infancy, your child is growing rapidly – his/her height and weight increases constantly. Hence growth monitoring should be done once every month, up to the age of 3 years and at least once in 3 months, thereafter.
- Every time the child is weighed, the weight is plotted on the growth chart and the points thus formed may be joined to form a line called the growth curve. If your child is gaining weight regularly, the line will move in an upward direction.
- Consult your doctor if the growth curve is not moving in the upward direction.
- Remember that height and weight are not the only indicators of a child’s growth, as his/her genetics, ethnicity also plays a major role.
You can easily measure your child’s growth at home
- Use a digital scale placed on a firm, even floor
- Remove shoes and clothes and place the child on the centre of the scale
- Record weight to the nearest decimal fraction and plot it on the growth chart shown below
- Height for children above two years can be measured using a measuring rod anthropometer- where the child’s maximum height is measured upon standing in line to the rod.