Baby Height Predictor: How Tall Will My Child Be?

Does a baby's size at birth offer any clues into their stature as an adult? We've broken down a few ways to predict your little one's future height. 

If your baby tops the length charts, you might expect them to tower above their classmates one day. But a long infant won't necessarily become a tall adult—just like short babies don't always turn into small-statured people.

In fact, fetus size is largely determined by the placenta's health. Since the placenta's main job is to both protect and provide nutrients to a growing fetus, the availability of quality nutrition to feed the placenta is important. However, other factors during pregnancy can also impact the growth of a fetus, including gestational diabetes, which can skew toward large for an infant's weight, length, and head circumference measurements.

Once babies are out of the womb, though, all bets are off. Big newborns might soon drop a couple of curves on the growth chart—say from the 75th to the 25th percentile. It's also not unusual for small or average-size babies to grow rapidly and gain percentiles in the first two years of life.

So with all of this variability, is there any way to predict your baby's future height? As it turns out, there is no way to accurately predict the future height of your child. That said, there are factors such as genetics, nutrition, and medical conditions will likely play important roles. Here's a baby height predictor guide for parents everywhere.

How Tall Will My Baby Be?

You can look at your family tree to figure out your child's future potential: Genetic history is the number-one influence on their growth, says Lynne Levitsky, M.D., chief of the pediatric endocrine unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. A child whose parents are both 6' is likely to be the tallest kid in kindergarten. If both parents are unusually short, their children probably will be short too.

Predictions based on the growth chart

One simple method to predict your child's height is to follow the pediatrician's growth chart during routine checkups. Growth charts have been used since 1977 to follow trends in weight, height, and head circumference along a set of curved lines as your child grows. These curved lines correspond to percentages of the US population of kids to help determine the overall health of your child.

If your doctor says that your child is in the 50th percentile for height, that means that half of the children in the US are taller than your child, and the other half are shorter. But while growth charts are great at pointing toward averages, they can be inaccurate when accounting for different ethnicities, genetic conditions, and starting measurements, particularly for kids who are below the 5th percentile or above the 95th percentile.

By following a growth chart, your doctor can spot warning signs that may point to underlying health conditions. For example, if your child has been steadily growing but suddenly appears to have dips or spikes on the growth chart, that information can help your doctor pinpoint things like nutritional deficits or the need for further testing.

Predictions based on genetics

One popular method for predicting height, called the Khamis-Roche method, is calculated based on the height of both parents. The theory says that if you subtract five inches from the male parent's height or add five inches to the female parent's height, you can determine how tall your male or female child will one day be.

Many websites and parenting books claim that this method is 90% accurate at determining the future height of kids. Unfortunately, as popular as this method is, its accuracy is limited to white American kids with no known health conditions that could potentially impact their growth.

Keep in mind, though, that even kids who have average-height or tall parents may inexplicably stop growing, thanks to a condition known as idiopathic short stature (ISS). These children are significantly shorter than 99% of their peers and will remain small as adults. "Boys generally won't grow to be more than 5'4", while the girls might hit 4'11"," says Elizabeth Littlejohn, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital. Late bloomers, on the other hand, are small for their age but still growing at a normal rate and will eventually have a growth spurt and catch up to their peers.

What Factors Affect Height?

While genetics has the biggest influence on height, other factors might come into play as well. Here are five things that might affect your child's stature in the future.

Nutrition: "Without a good diet, kids won't grow normally," says Jo Anne Hattner, R.D., a pediatric specialist at the American Dietetic Association. Be vigilant about making sure your little one consumes wholesome calories. Even well-meaning parents can derail a child's healthy diet. Common problems? Incorrectly mixed infant formula, not getting enough calories when you're breastfeeding or weaning, or even efforts to keep an infant from getting "fat." Too much juice or soda can also can interfere with a child's appetite for nutritious foods.

Medical Conditions: Some children are born with or develop serious medical conditions that can stunt growth if not treated. The most common are gastrointestinal disorders such as celiac disease, food allergies, thyroid problems, hormone deficiency, heart, kidney, or liver ailments, and certain chromosomal abnormalities. Medications for common childhood conditions should also be monitored closely. For instance, Ritalin and other stimulants prescribed for ADHD have been found to affect growth. The problem is often dose-related and is usually easily fixed, says Barry B. Bercu, M.D., head of endocrine, diabetes, and metabolism at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Exercise: Regular physical activity promotes growth by strengthening bones and muscles. But beware of getting your child involved in high-impact sports such as gymnastics and running, which—when done excessively—can impede growth and even cause trauma to still-developing bones.

Sleep: Make sure your child snoozes each night soundly. About 70 to 80% of growth hormone is secreted during sleep, says Paul Saenger, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Emotional Well-Being: Kids reach their full growth potential when they're in a loving, nurturing, and supportive family environment, says Thomas Moshang, M.D., director of the growth center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Emotional neglect and excessive tension or anxiety can interfere with growth. The condition—called "psycho-social growth failure" by doctors—is extremely rare, but its consequences are as real as malnutrition.

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