Q: Hi Dr. Ketch, is there diet that make a baby in the womb grow tall after birth?
A: A person’s final height is as a result of a combination of factors: genetics (if your parents are short, you are more likely to be short), nutrition (during the critical growing up years and especially before birth), general health and hormones (growth hormone, thyroid hormone and sex hormones). Having said these, there’s no hard and fast rule really, as some ‘short’ parents give birth to tall children and vice versa.
As I mentioned above, the fastest period of growth is experienced before the baby is born. Thereafter, another growth spurt is experienced during puberty with boys generally growing more than girls. During this period, the growth plates (areas of growing tissues located at the ends of long bones. These are the areas where bones grow) are very active until they end of puberty when they mature, fuse and stop growing. Once the growth plates are fused, growth has been concluded and height cannot be increased. There is no specific age at which this occurs really: people who start puberty early will probably stop growing before others who started later.
‘Normal’ when used to describe height can vary from place to place with differences in ethnic groups, cultures and continents. Sometimes, there may be a medical condition associated with height variations (short or tall statures), but most people are normal and just at the lower end of normal (for the short) and at the higher end of normal (for the tall).
If the cause of ‘shortness’ is a medical problem or a hormone deficiency, this can be rectified. For instance, if there is a deficiency of growth hormone, this may be administered. However, this can only be done in children…before the growth plates fuse (at about 14/15 years for girls and at about 16 years for boys). Once this has happened, no drug can increase height. Surgery in which the legs are cut apart and then gradually separated to increase height is an option, with attendant possible complications of infection and of course, fracture. Not really advisable.
So, to your question, from the time the baby is born, focus on the right feeding. Start with breast milk. Breast milk, beyond being cheap, temperature regulated and readily available 😀 is formulated with everything your baby needs for each stage of his growth. It’s chock full of immunoglobulins (which makes them resistant to illnesses), vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and oils. So, it is indeed a complete meal! It also helps the womb to return to normal size after childbirth. From six months, baby is ready to be introduced to some other food.
For a long time, the standard teaching had been to go for rice cereal as the first add-on meal because it is bland and babies tolerate this well. Other studies question this wisdom now and suggest that foods like meats with lots of essential nutrients like iron may be a good place to start. What should you do? You can boil beef/chicken very soft and blend it up for baby. If baby tolerates this, then by the next week, you could try adding some rice cereal. Try not to introduce more than one food per week so that you have time to study how your baby adapts to it and of course, look out for/isolate food allergy. And, to start off, only one meal of the complementary feed should be given daily. The rest should be the usual…breast milk 😀 This will, of course, as baby tolerates.
From one year of age, you can add cereals and it’s also okay to introduce cow milk at this time. Full cream cow milk is advocated at this time for proper brain development. Thereafter, please switch to skimmed/1%/2% milk as full cream milk has a lot of saturated fat which may contribute to poor heart health. Grains, green leafy vegetables, cow milk, honey, whole eggs can generally be introduced after the baby turns 1 year old.
Generally, other weaning foods that can be introduced include:
Boiled egg yolk (egg whites contain substances that baby may react to), sweet potatoes, fish, chicken, beef, fruits like banana, avocados, boiled beans (with skin removed if possible etc
Simple recipes include, blend some chicken or beef with the stock or mash a banana and add to baby’s cereal.
Our local cereals can also be used and fortified with some breast milk or formula.
As baby tolerates these meals, you can get a little more adventurous.
Boiled carrots mashed with some coconut oil or a little yoghurt with mashed banana may not go amiss too.
I hope this helps!
Have a good night, y’all 😀