Your child’s height is a combination of many things: family genetics and growth patterns, sleep and nutrition.
If there were an easy way to predict your child’s ultimate height, there would be an app for that!
Pediatricians approach this question by taking a history. How tall are mom and dad? Are mom’s and dad’s heights representative for their families?
The mid-parental height is based on mom’s and dad’s heights. You can calculate it for your child here. If, for example, mom is 5’2″ and dad is 6′, then the mid-parental height for a girl is approximately 5’4″ and for a boy it’s 5’9″. The mid-parental height is a calculated height, and the range of expected heights can range from two inches shorter than the mid-parental height to two inches taller than the mid-parental height. So the girl is this example is expected to fall between 5’2″ and 5’6″; the boy is expected to reach 5’7″ to 5’11”.
This four inch spread is considerable, and the range can mean the difference between shorter than average to taller than average. For women, average height is considered to be 5’4″, and for men it’s 5’10”.
Every family has a great-aunt who is 4’10” and a great-grandfather who was 6’5″. Parents almost always hold out hope that the tall genes will prevail.
The pediatrician measures your child and plots their height and weight and reviews the growth chart. I look to see if the child is following a specific line or percentile on the growth chart.
Think of percentile this way: if your child is 50th percentile (50th%), imagine 100 kids lined up. Of these 100 kids, 49 will be shorter than your child and 49 will be taller. 5oth% is the middle, or average. Numbers below this are shorter than average, and numbers above it are taller than average. A child with a height at the 30th% is taller than 30 out of 100 children and considered shorter than average; a child with a height at the 80th% is taller than 80 out of 100 children and taller than average. Remember, the average is over all kids—your child may rank differently in their class or among peers.
The girl in the example above who is at the 50th% for height and continues along that curve should reach 5’4″, which is in the 5’2″ to 5’6″ inch range predicted by her mid-parental height.
The boy in the example above who is at the 75th% and continues along that curve should reach 5’11 1/2″ inches, which is slightly taller than predicted by his mid-parental height. If the boy in the example above is at the 10th% now (which grows up to be 5’6″), he is shorter than expected based on his parents’ heights, but if he has a family history of later puberty, there’s a good chance he may catch up as he gets older.
Children with access to healthy food generally do not fail to grow from malnutrition. To help kids reach their height potential, meals should be balanced with attention to calcium, vitamin D and iron along with all the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. A keyword search of this blog with the keyword “nutrition” will provide additional information and resources.
Growth hormone is secreted during sleep, so keep tabs on sleep time. The number of hours of sleep kids need is here.
After the second birthday, children are expected to grow 2 inches each year and to gain about 5 pounds. Growth rates change with puberty. One of the most important reasons for an annual physical is to make sure your child is progressing on the growth chart. Some children may exhibit early signs of puberty. This may affect adult height and should be carefully monitored.
There are many different growth patterns. Some kids follow their height and weight curves year after year. Others may be shorter than average as young children and have later puberties and catch up and sometimes surpass their peers. This is sometimes seen in families with men who got taller after high school and women who menstruated late.
If you have questions about your child’s height, weight or development, talk with your pediatrician.
Whatever your child’s eventual height, this metric is just one physical aspect of your child. Focusing on height alone misses the many wonders of this unique person you are raising.