Healthy Infants Slow To Gain Weight Likely To Catch Up With Peers
February 25, 2013

Healthy Infants Slow To Gain Weight Likely To Catch Up With Peers

Jason Pierce, MSN, MBA, RN for — Your Universe Online

Newly published research findings from the University of Bristol found infants who demonstrated slower than average growth during the first nine months of life were likely to catch up with their peers over time. This should be reassuring to anxious parents of otherwise healthy babies who fall outside of the established growth curves.

A child´s growth is tracked using charts, such as those developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The charts are designed to be used by clinicians in conjunction with other assessment data to develop an impression of overall health. Simply knowing where the child falls on the chart is not enough information to determine whether the child is healthy or not.

Concerns about infant growth rates are common, and parents may worry slow growth means there is something medically wrong. Parents often get well-meaning advice from family and friends about how to fatten up their baby. On the other hand, steps taken to encourage rapid weight gain, such as increasing caloric intake, have been shown to predispose these young children to obesity later in life.

It is true slow growth may be due to factors such as poor nutrition, acute or chronic illnesses or disorders of the endocrine system. However, a medical professional should evaluate the child to help determine the best course of action. Slower than average growth is common even in healthy well-fed infants.

The research findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, reinforce the need for monitoring growth and development using tools such as growth charts, but suggest healthy, slow growing babies will eventually catch up to national averages.

The research was conducted using data collected as part of the Children of the 90s study, and involved over 11,000 participants who had been tracked since their birth in the early 1990s. Of the participants, 980 were slow to gain weight at some point during the first nine months of life.

The infants that were slower to grow earlier in life, before eight weeks, recovered quicker than those who demonstrated slow growth between the ages of eight weeks and nine months. The early group had caught up to the national average by two years of age. Because of a longer period of slow growth, the latter group did not catch up until age thirteen and tended to be smaller and lighter than other children their own age. There was no significant difference between boys and girls.

Professor Alan Edmond of the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol said, “Overall, parents can be reassured that well babies showing slow weight gain in the first year do eventually recover to within the normal range, but at 13-years tend to be lighter and smaller than many of their peers.”