Bristol study shows babies who are slow to put on weight do catch-up - but will probably be shorter than their peers
Babies who are slow to put on weight in the first nine month of life are likely to be shorter and lighter than their peers by the time they are 13, according to Bristol researchers.
But the latest findings from Bristol University's Children of the 90s study found that the babies who struggled to put on weight tended to reach the normal height and weight range by the time they reached their teens.
The data compiled from 11,499 children born in the Bristol area in the early 90s, published today in the journal Pediatrics, shows there are significant differences in the pattern of ‘catchup’, depending on the infant’s age when their slow weight gain occurs.
The study provided the most conclusive and reassuring evidence for parents to date that, with the right care, many infants who fail to put on weight quickly in the first nine months of life will catch up over time.
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The study found that, of the 11,499 infants born at full-term, 507 were slow to put on weight before the age of eight weeks and 480 were slow to gain weight between eight weeks and nine months, There were 30 children in both groups.
The infants in the earlier group recovered quickly and had almost caught up in weight by the age of two, whereas those in the later group gained weight slowly until the age of seven and then tended to have a spurt between seven and ten years, but remained considerably shorter and lighter than their peers and those in the early group at the age of 13.
At 13, children in the later group for weight gain were on average 5.5kg lighter and almost 4cm shorter than their peers; while those in the early group were on average 2.5kg lighter and 3.25cm shorter than their peers.
Professor Alan Emond, the paper’s main author said: “The reason the early group caught up more quickly may be because those infants had obvious feeding difficulties and were more readily identified at the eight-week check, resulting in early treatment leading to a more rapid recovery. However, as Children of the 90s is an observational study, there is limited information available about which infants received nutritional supplements or medical treatments.
“Those children who showed slow weight gain later in infancy took longer to recover, because of the longer period of slow growth and because their parents were smaller and lighter too.
“Overall parents can be re-assured that well babies showing slow weight gain in the first year do eventually recover to within the normal range, but at 13 years tend to be lighter and smaller than many of their peers.”
The findings highlight the importance of monitoring a baby’s weight and height gain during the first few weeks and months, but not creating anxiety with parents of slow-growing babies who are well, as most of these babies will catch up to within the national average over time.