Delayed Growth In Infants & Kids – When Should I Be Concerned?

I recently shared a post written by a guest contributor about pediatric growth deficiencies in honor of Growth Awareness Week. Growth Awareness Week is championed by the Magic Foundation, who are spreading the word about pediatric hormonal deficiencies that affect growth. It runs from September 12-23.

To follow up, I’m sharing another informational post for parents who may have concerns about their child’s growth.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Child’s Growth

What Is Growth Hormone And Why It Is Important

First, it is important to understand how hormones operate in the body.

Hormones are the body’s natural chemicals, produced by glands such as the thyroid, adrenal glands and the pituitary.
It is the pituitary gland that produces growth hormone.

Hormones are essential for many body functions, from regulating sleep, managing the metabolism, and influencing the body’s immune response.

Growth Hormone: The Basics

Growth hormone, of course, is responsible for causing human growth; the lengthening of bones, and the development of muscles. Growth hormone contributes to healthy weight gain in children as well as cellular regeneration throughout the entire body for a person’s entire lifetime.

Although you cannot see growth hormones with your eyes, you see the effects of it in a child who is growing normally and gaining weight and height at a healthy rate.

Why It Is Important For Overall Health

As mentioned before, growth is not just about being tall, healthy growth is an important indicator of overall health.

Lack of growth is a symptom of an underlying problem, hormone imbalance, or growth deficiency1. Determining if your child has delayed or deficient growth might be an important step toward overall health and, if necessary, treatment.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Child’s Growth?

In the previous article about delayed growth and development, Ellen shared her story, where she noticed her son was not growing as an infant, as young as 3 months old.

However, there is no precise age for growth hormone deficiency, it can occur at any time during childhood and teen years. While it may be more easily noticed during periods of rapid growth for young children, growth deficiency can develop or show its symptoms at any time, depending on the cause.

Growth deficiency or delayed growth can happen at any time before completion of puberty, when the body’s growth plates close and growth hormones significantly reduce, around the age of 18, 19, or 20 years old.

Always discuss with your doctor if you have concerns or questions about your child’s growth.

What to look for if you’re concerned about delayed growth or growth deficiency:

1. Your child was previously growing at a healthy rate and has significantly slowed or stopped

Now, infants and toddlers grow rapidly, so some slowed growth may be normal, depending on their age. The best way to determine if growth has slowed to concerning levels is with a pediatric growth chart. A growth chart is used to plot an individual’s rate of growth from birth onward and is a good way to project future growth, too.

Your doctor may use this as a tool to determine if your child is falling behind on their present growth rate, or if they are not growing as expected for their age.

2. Your child’s growth velocity is under the normal range

While you may note your child has not increased in shoe size or clothing as expected, the best way to determine their overall growth is by growth velocity.

Children with growth deficiency often:

  • Grow less than 6 cm per year, for children from infancy to 4 years old
  • Grow less than 5 cm per year, for children 4 to 8 years old
  • Grow less than 4 cm per year, for children from 9 years old and up2.

If you measure your child’s height every 6 months or every year and notice they fit the above criteria (have grown less than 4 cm over a span of 12 months, for example), then reach out to your doctor.

3. Your child gains weight but does not grow taller, or your child struggles to gain weight.

Because the body’s hormones (not only growth hormone) play a role in metabolism, having an endocrine problem can result in abnormal weight gain or inability to gain weight, despite eating healthy.

This symptom could be related to several factors, so it’s important to discuss your concerns with your doctor.

4. Other indicators are for older children, such as delayed signs of puberty, relative to to the child’s age.

Questions About Growth Deficiency

Let’s take a look at a few questions regarding growth deficiency:

Can My Child Just Eat Healthier To Start Growing?

While a healthy diet is important, food alone cannot replace the hormones that are missing in the body.

If your child has been diagnosed with growth hormonal deficiency, a change in diet is not a sufficient treatment option.

Hormone deficiency needs hormonal therapy.

Is Growth Hormone Therapy Necessary?

Yes, hormonal treatment is necessary in order to help your child get healthy and live the highest-quality of life possible.

In the last article, Ellen shared how her son not only began to grow with treatment, but he developed a stronger immune system and had more stamina, too.

Remember, growth hormones also control cell regeneration in your body, which is a life-long ‘growth’ that occurs in all humans, long after puberty.

Some other health factors associated with growth hormone deficiency include:

  • Difficulty gaining weight
  • Or, alternatively – gaining too much weight despite healthy eating (childhood obesity), because of inability to grow taller
  • Lower bone density
  • Children are easily fatigued and have low muscle-mass
  • Issues with hypoglycemia and blood glucose regulation

Since growth hormone deficiency is rare, it is understandable that treatment might be unfamiliar, even a bit scary. If you have been referred to an endocrinologist or doctor who specializes in pediactric hormonal conditions, bring your quesitons and concerns there.

What If My Son Or Daughter Is Just Petite?

Remember, this isn’t about size – it is about health!

Only medical experts can diagnose growth hormone deficiency.

Comparing your child’s growth rate and relative size to their peers can be a clue, but it isn’t the only thing that experts consider.

Other factors include:

  • If your child’s bone age is congruent with their biological age
  • Your child’s projected height, based on the adult height of both parents (if known)
  • Testing a child’s insulin growth factor, thyroid hormone and other hormonal tests for a conclusive diagnosis
  • Hereditary conditions
  • Other health concerns

Basically, if mom or dad are on the shorter side, your doctor will take that into consideration for growth charts, but growth deficiency is about so much more than height.

How Can I Learn More?

Start with your doctor and share your concerns about your child’s growth.

I also recommend you to visit Magic Foundation’s website to get more information.

Magic Foundation offers free growth charts. Download and print one to plot your child’s growth. You can also find resources to connect with an endocrinologist in your area or print information about specific health conditions.

Magic Foundation

If you know someone with a child who has growth hormone deficiency, encourage them to join one of Magic Foundations FREE online support groups for parents. These are private groups, so parents can be sure their information is not shared publicly.

A diagnosis of Growth Hormone Deficiency, or another related condition can feel overwhelming. But remember, this is a first step in getting your child healthier and stronger. After all, healthy growth is a sign of a healthy child.

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.


About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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