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Normal growth and development

Alternative names

A child's growth and development may be divided into four periods: infancy, the preschool years, the middle childhood years, and adolescence . Immediately after birth, an infant normally loses approximately 5% to 10% of his or her birth weight. However, by about 2 weeks of age, an infant should start to have rapid weight gain and growth.

By 4 to 6 months of age, an infant should have doubled his or her birth weight. During the second half of the first year of life, growth begins to slow down. Between the ages of 1 and 2, a toddler will gain only about 5pounds. Weight gain will remain at about 5 pounds per year between the ages of 2 and 5.

Between the ages of 2 and 10 years, growth will continue at a steady pace. A final growth spurt usually begins at about age 11 with the onset of puberty, as the child becomes an adolescent and approaches adulthood.

Nutrient needs correspond with these changes in rates of growth, with an infant needing more calories for his or her size than a preschooler or school-aged child would need. Nutrient needs then increase as a child approaches adolescence.

Generally a healthy child will follow his or her own growth curve, in spite of variable nutrient intake. Parents and care givers should provide appropriate diets for age and be sure the diet offers a wide variety of foods to ensure nutritional adequacy.

Malnutrition has been associated with serious problems related to intellectual development. A child who is undernourished may experience early fatigue and may be unable to fully participate in learning experiences at school. Additionally, malnutrition can contribute to increased susceptibility to illness, causing a child to frequently miss school.

Children who are undernourished have unacceptable growth patterns accompanied by scholastic underachievement. A good variety of food choices and adequate intake are essential to achieving optimal intellectual development. Breakfast is particularly important as children may feel fatigued, sleepy , and unmotivated when breakfast is skimpy or is skipped altogether.

Nutrition is considered critical enough to intellectual development that government programs have been put in place to insure at least one healthy balanced meal a day for appropriate groups of children. This is usually breakfast, as the relationship between breakfast and improved learning has been clearly demonstrated. These programs are available in impoverished and underserved areas of the country.

Update Date: 5/9/2002

Elizabeth Hait, M.D., Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT