Normal Growth of a Child - Progressive Increase in Weight - Height as an Indication of a Child's Health - Rickets and Retarded Growth - Value of Exercise - Importance of Sleep - Regular Weighing uring the first two years baby grows very D rapidly. His mental and bodily development is progressive from week to week if he is being properly managed and begins with fair average health.
There is a certain standard of weight and height which is considered normal, and the wise mother examines her child periodically, knows whether his increase is good, and investigates his health carefully when weight and height are not up to the required standard. The importance of weighing an infant has already been considered, and now we must deal with the child's growth after the first year is over.
A child should weigh about 1 St. 5 lb. after he has passed his first birthday. A year afterwards he should be over 2 St., perhaps 2 st. 5 lb. So that during the second year he gains one stone. This, however, is only the average weight with clothes, and the well-grown child will weigh more, while the baby whose bones and build are small may weigh less, and yet enjoy perfect health.
The chief point is that the increase in weight is progressive. The child should gain a few ounces week by week, and when loss of weight is indicated, then special care must be exercised. The child may require a more hygienic mode of life, or body nourishment may have to be improved by means of some preparation of malt or cod-liver oil. Whilst baby is cutting teeth, he may not increase in weight for a time, while any digestive derangement, particularly diarrhoea, will mean loss of weight.
When a child is not gaining weight sufficiently, the food should be investigated. He may not be getting sufficient food, or it may be unsuitable or improperly prepared. Regular weighing is a valuable means of detecting ill-health from an early stage. Thus many illnesses can be warded off, because the failure to gain weight is a potent warning that the child's vitality is not good.
Increase of height is also a factor in indicating a child's condition, although it must be remembered that increase in height without corresponding increase in weight is not a good sign. A child grows rapidly in length during the first five years of life. At the end of the first year, he should measure 27 inches; at the end of the second year, 31 inches; while from two to five years he gains about 3 1/2 inches each year. By the time the child reaches the fifth year, he should be double his original length, and be about 3 feet 4 inches in height. At birth, girls are, as a rule, a little shorter than boys, and they weigh a few ounces less, perhaps half a pound less. During the first five years the growth is about the same, but a boy child as a rule weighs more than a girl.
Children grow more rapidly during spring and summer than in the cold winter months. In such a disease as rickets the child's growth is interfered with. Growth depends most upon development of the bones, and rickets is a bone disease, so that the rickety child has not the same chance of normal growth.
The organs and various structures, even the tissues, increase in size with every month of life. Exercise and rest must be carefully regulated if the highest development is to be obtained.
In the second year the child gets more active, and is so anxious to walk and trot about that there is some risk of over-fatigue. This does not mean that the child should be continually nagged at to keep still. If regular periods of the day are set aside for rest there is no reason why baby should not have exercise to his heart's content.
Exercise has a very beneficial influence upon development. Unless the bones and muscles are used they will not grow normally. Exercise also strengthens the heart and the lungs, because during exercise the heart beats more strongly and quickly. The child breathes more fully and more rapidly, and thus inhales more oxygen. This means that the food is more completely oxidised and digestion is improved. The child who does not get exercise during the second year will suffer from digestive disturbances, loss of appetite, and lassitude. Some doctors declare that rickets is due to deficient exercise and fresh air, although, of course, once the disease has been diagnosed the child should not be allowed to stand long, owing to the softening of the bones.
A child should be weighed regularly during the second year, as by this means alone can its progress be ascertained with certainty
During the second year children should exercise as much as possible out of doors. Wherever there is a patch of garden shaded from the sun, let baby run about and play. Give him an occasional little walk when he is taken out in his perambulator, and teach him to roll and romp and kick, so that the muscles are exercised and poisons are eliminated from the blood.
During the second year baby should sleep sixteen hours daily, and the afternoon nap should be kept up until four years of age. Unless a child gets sufficient rest and sleep the weight record immediately falls short of the ideal. If, however, weekly attention is paid to weighing the child, and his height is measured perhaps once a month, there is very little risk that time will be lost in attending to any cause of ill-health.
Early attention to signs of weakness or bad health may save medical attendance and illness in the future.