Does my child have the right height and weight?

When it comes to their children’s growth and development, it’s only natural for parents to compare their children with others. But what does it mean for your child to have the right height and weight for their age, and what is the role of proper nutrition?

From the moment we become parents, we are instantly hardwired into ensuring that our children are developing well. At times, we catch ourselves comparing our children with other kids – their classmates, cousins, even siblings. It’s hard to ignore when we notice our children are not the same height and weight as their peers. Have you ever quickly checked how your child’s height fares next to his or her friends? Have you noticed that your child is slightly underweight?

Stunted growth is a reality among many children, and is defined by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) as a lack of proper height for a child’s age, while underweight children are those that fall below the standard weight for their age. In the Philippines, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) has stated that cases of stunted growth and underweight in children are matters of “medium to high level” national concern.

Should you be worried?

According to the FNRI’s 2015 Updating of the Nutritional Status of Filipinos study, 1 out of every 3 children in the Philippines aged five to ten years old is affected either by stunted growth or underweight when measured against the World Health Organization’s Child Growth Standards Median.

As parents, we need to be more educated about the effects of stunted growth and being underweight. They can lead to more serious consequences such as poor cognition and educational performance.

Below is the average height and weight chart per age for Filipino children based on FNRIWhat can you do about stunted growth and being underweight?

The urgency of Filipino children’s nutritional state was addressed in the halls of the Senate recently, when “Healthy Nanay and Bulilit Act” co-author Sen. Loren Legarda, stated in a privilege speech that, "Good nutrition for mothers and babies at pregnancy and infancy stage is crucial to sustain a sturdy foundation for a child's well-being.”

According to the FNRI, despite the first 1,000 days of a child’s life being crucial for addressing maximum growth potential, ideal height can still be achieved if proper nutrition is practiced throughout the child’s development years. It is important that as parents, we ensure that our children get proper nutrition through a balanced diet consisting of nutrients vital for optimal growth.

Calcium is essential for development of strong and healthy bones. Children can get it from dairy food like milk, cheese, yogurt.

Vitamin D is another vital nutrient as it contributes to the normal absorption of Calcium. Aside from nutritious foods, letting your kids play outdoors can also help them absorb vitamin D from the sun. Let them sweat a little bit, it will help them catch up and grow taller.

Protein contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. Give your children good sources of protein daily, like eggs, lean meats, poultry, and beans.

Iron is a mineral that serves several important functions, such as carrying oxygen throughout the body and in being an important element for blood production. Examples of Iron-rich foods are green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu, baked potatoes and cashews.

Fortified drinks such as milk also contain these vitamins and minerals. Give them to your child to supplement the well-balanced meals you provide.

Seek professional advice

If you notice that your child is behind his peers, it is best to seek medical and professional advice from a pediatrician or nutritionist. For more information on stunted growth and being underweight, you can also read up online from credible sources such as Food and Nutrition Research Institute and the World Health Organization.