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How Tall Will Your Child Be?

Katlyn Joy |27, January 2014


A common question parents wonder about is, "How tall will my baby be?"

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, a newborn will be approximately 19.9 inches long at birth, on average. Genetics don't play the absolute defining role in a child's size at birth. This has more to do with a mother's nutrition, overall health, the uterine environment and whether mom smoked or not.

Once a child is born, an interesting growth phenomena takes place called catch-up or catch-down growth. During the first 18 months, a child's height shifts to the genetically programmed size regardless of birth height. In other words, you may have given birth to a baby who is 23 inches long, but is you are a 5 foot tall woman and the father is 5'10", you shouldn't expect baby to stay tall.

By the time a child reaches two years old, a more normalized growth pattern will be set and be consistent. However, infancy and toddlerhood are times of explosive growth.

Generally, you can expect a baby to grow about 2 and 1/2 inches by three months old. Between 4 and 6 months, expect another 2 1/2 inches, and another 2 1/2 between 7 and 9 months, and the same growth for 10 to 12 months. That's 10 inches by age 1.

After the first birthday, expect a gain of about an inch every three months. That's about a 5 inch gain in the second year. At age 2, a child is about half her adult size. From his second birthday, growth will slow down remarkably, until puberty of course!

These are averages of course, but some things you should keep in mind about baby's height. Some months your child may lag behind, then have a growth spurt and catch back up. Even more interesting; it seems kids grow more in the summer and less in the springtime. Thank goodness for shorts during the summer on a kid whose legs are growing like stilts.

Growth Charts

When you take your baby for well baby visits, the pediatrician will be measuring the child and plotting on a growth chart to determine the child's placement on the chart and to make sure growth follows expected trends.

If your daughter was at the 25th percentile at age 2, you can expect her to probably stay in that range overall throughout her life. And typically, she's not too far off from her parents' sizes either. If she dropped down to the 10th or lower, or shot up unexpectedly into the 75th, your physician would want to take a closer look to determine why that happened.

Up until 2002 the growth charts only reflected the growth patterns of bottlefed Caucasian babies. This has been updated to average size among all ethnic types and breastfed babies, whose growth is a bit smaller than their formula-fed peers.

Up to 70 percent of measurements at the doctor's office are off, usually only by about a half inch though. To get a proper measurement of a child under the age of three, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the child should be measured on a stable and firm horizontal platform consisting of a yardstick, fixed headplate and adjustable footplate. One adult should hold the child's feet while another measures.

If your child is in the 75th percentile for height, that means he is taller than 75 percent of American boys his age. If your daughter is in the 50th percentile, she is taller than 50 percent of US girls. Since boys and girls have different growth expectations, different charts are used for the genders. You will also be given a percentile which averages weight and height together, called weight for height.

By going to regular well child checks, you can help your pediatrician see how your child is growing over time and recognize any problems.

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Dawn Jul 27, 2018 09:36:13 PM ET

My nephew is 19 months, 23 days old and is 36.5 inches tall. what would be a good guess on his percentile. his dad is 6.2, mom is 5.7.

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