The most important reason for monitoring each child’s development is to determine whether a child’s development is on track. Looking for developmental milestones is important to understanding each child’s development and behavior. Milestones can help explain a child’s behavior.
Growth curves are essential tools for monitoring the development of infants and children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they constitute the “gold standard” for monitoring the nutritional status in childhood, reflecting situations of nutritional adequacy or risk.
Measures such as weight, length or stature, and the cephalic perimeter must be put on the Growth Curves by the Paediatrician at each consultation, in order to observe and monitor the child’s growth and development pattern.
Other signs of attention that can be evaluated through the analysis of the curves is when growth or weight gain is below that expected for a period of more than a month, in children under 2 years of age, or when weight loss occurs or weight gain does not evolve as desired, for a period of more than 3 months, in children older than 2 years of age.
In this way, the follow-up of the nutritional status of children by means of the Growth Curves enables the necessary interventions to be performed in cases in which linear growth does not evolve as expected.
Growth Curves are fundamental tools
Growth curves are a fundamental tool for the evaluation of the paediatrician: weight curve, height curve, and cephalic perimeter curve. The curves used are those of the WHO (World Health Organization) and the paediatrician uses them day by day, in each patient and in each visit.
It is very important to follow the child’s growth according to these curves. In each consultation, the patient must be placed on them to analyse the symmetry between weight, height, cephalic perimeter and to detect early deviations in the curve, and be aware of possible future alterations. It is essential to follow up in all consultations with the growth curves with an adequate management.
The weight for height index does not require data on age and expresses the harmony between the dimensions of body mass and height. It is used both to identify underweight and overweight children.
In the first two years of life, nutrition is the factor which most interferes in growth. From that age on, genetic factors (such as the parents’ heights) start to influence the determination of the child’s stature. Growth is also influenced by physical activity, diseases, use of medication and psychological factors.
During the first year of life, the baby will visit the pediatrician nine times. On each occasion, the doctor will analyse the child’s growth.
Why should parents monitor their child’s growth and development?
Growth and developmental disabilities are incredibly common among children. Developmental disorders increase a child’s risk for poor school performance, frequent absences from school, as well as for having more health problems. Most of the time, diagnoses of developmental delays are picked up only when children go to school.
Benefits of monitoring the growth and development of the child
- Weight gain is the most important sign that a child is healthy and is growing and developing well.
- A health check-up can also detect if a child is gaining weight too fast for his or her age. This requires examining a child’s weight in relation to his or her height, which can determine if the child is overweight.
- If the child is underweight or overweight, it is important to examine the child’s diet and provide the parents or other caregiver with advice on good nutrition.
- Every child should have a growth chart that tracks his or her growth. It shows whether the child is growing appropriately for his or her age. At each weighing the child’s weight should be marked with a dot on the growth chart and the dots should be connected.
- A child who is not gaining enough weight over one or two months may need larger servings, more nutritious food or more frequent meals. The child may be sick or may need more attention and care or assistance with eating. Parents and trained health workers need to act quickly to discover the cause of the problem and take steps to correct it.
Timely monitoring can pick up treatable causes of abnormal growth. This prevents diagnosis at an inadequate older age, treatment by when may not guarantee normal growth or near-normal height. Early treatment can make a big difference in a child’s ability to learn new skills.