Navi Mumbai(S.N)-Childhood is a time of rapid growth and development, but at times, children may experience delays in their growth for various reasons. Parents often grapple with feelings of uncertainties, wondering why their child isn’t growing as expected and that can sometimes be overwhelming.
Stunted growth occurs due to either inadequate nutrient intake, which can lead to growth impairment, chronic illnesses, or environmental factors[i]. Today, across the world, there are approximately 149 million stunted children below the age of five. In fact, a report by the World Health Organization shows that India accounts for nearly one-third of the global childhood stunting burden with 40.6 million children stunted under the age of five.
Let’s deep dive into what catch-up growth is, its causes, and how parents can support their child’s catch-up growth journey.
What Is Catch-Up Growth?
Malnutrition stands as a primary cause for stunted growth in children. Children often experience growth spurt upon the restoration of adequate nutrition known as spontaneous catch-up (CU) growth. This helps kids regain their initial growth trajectory.[ii] Children who experience faltering development often need extra calories, protein, and micronutrients. These nutrients serve a dual purpose, it not only replenishes what was lost during periods of inadequate intake but also helps to support further growth.[iii]
Many children are consuming nutritious foods; however, it’s necessary to address the challenges of efficient nutrition. Minerals, such as calcium, iron, and zinc, are crucial for a child’s growth and development. Additionally, encouraging active engagement in physical activities is a key factor in nurturing children’s overall well-being.
How to Promote Growth through Nutritional Intervention
While providing proper nutrition is crucial to your child’s healthy growth and development at all stages, nutritional intervention is also essential from an early age. There is a need to understand and address undernutrition, which can result from insufficient dietary intake, suboptimal nutrient absorption, or utilization of inefficient nutrients. Focusing on a child’s life at an earlier stage will mitigate the serious consequences it can have on their growth potential, ensuring they reach their full developmental capacity.
Evaluating childhood nutrition involves more than just ensuring your child consumes his/her vegetables; it can be a multifaceted process. The key outcome of good nutrition is crucial not only for achieving optimal height but also for supporting cognitive development and bolstering immune function. Approaching a healthcare physician should be considered when treating kids who are falling behind on growth.
Encouraging Healthy and Holistic growth in Children: Children are often more physically active than adults, therefore they tend to be hungrier. Make sure they eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods and nutrients. Here are a few ways how you can ensure your child’s development with these healthy habits:
1. Measure and monitor to help your child grow: Begin by regularly monitoring your child’s growth, particularly for children aged 2 to 6 years. It is advisable to measure them every three months, and parents can opt to use tools such as a growth diary or tracker. Accurate measurement is crucial for comprehending and tracking a child’s growth. Moreover, it can aid in the early detection of growth deficiencies, enabling parents to take prompt action and address the underlying causes
2. Eat right: To support holistic growth, provide a balanced diet that includes cereals, pulses, milk, meat, fruits, and vegetables daily. This ensures your child receives the necessary protein, vitamins, and minerals for healthy bone development. Dr. Pankaj Parekh, MD Paediatrics and DCH, Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital adds “For parents of fussy eaters, consider using oral nutrition supplements for a well-rounded diet. Engage your children in shopping, meal planning, and cooking to increase their interest in eating what they’ve helped prepare. Make meals more appealing by using cookie cutters to create fun shapes with fruits and vegetables like apples and cucumbers, or serve a colorful variety of foods for breakfast and dinner”
3. Exercise: Establish a balanced play regimen for children to limit screen time. On holidays, you can motivate kids to embrace a ‘gadget-free’ day and encourage them to spend time with the entire family. Make sure children engage in a minimum of 3 hours of physical activity daily, which can include activities like swimming, running, skipping, walking, or dancing. Physical activity plays a crucial role in enhancing bone health, and promoting overall physical well-being
To promote comprehensive development, a well-rounded diet can enhance the absorption of vital nutrients. If your child doesn’t eat enough calories and nutrients, nutrition supplements can help fill some of the gaps. Supplements act as both gap-covers as well as catalysts, enhancing the body’s capability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals from the foods your child consumes. It’s like turning up the volume on nutrient absorption, so their body can make the most of every single bite.