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

By Cecilia Capuzzi Simon and Nicole Harris
Updated April 06, 2020

If your baby tops the length charts, you might expect him to tower above his 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 determined by the mother's diet and the health of the placenta. Other pregnancy conditions may come into play as well; for instance, a short mom with gestational diabetes can have an infant who is large for her age in terms of weight, length, and head circumference. 

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, factors such as genetics, nutrition, and medical conditions will likely come into play. 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 her 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. 

Here’s a baby height predictor based on genetics:

Boy Height Predictor: Add five inches to the mother's height, and keep the father's height constant. For example, a boy born to a mother who is 5'3" and a father who is 6'2" will likely grow to between 5'8" and 6'2".

Girl Height Predictor:  Subtract five inches from the father's height and keep the mother's height constant. The daughter of the couple above would grow to between 5'3" and 5'9".

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 percent 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 developing bones.

Sleep: Make sure your child snoozes soundly each night. About 70 to 80 percent 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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Comments (1)

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December 1, 2018
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