MANILA, Philippines — "Diba kasi ang height, genetics yan eh...depende din yan sa pedia, yun iba kasi alarmist din. Maliit lang stunted na agad.” [When it comes to height, it’s about genetics...it also depends on the pediatrician you’re talking to, some are just alarmists. Just because your child’s short, they’re automatically stunted.]
These were just some of Hannah’s thoughts when asked about her child’s unusual height. Hannah is a 28 year old mom who works at a tech firm. She has a daughter named Jane who, at 4 years old, measures at approximately 76 centimeters. The average height for a girl her age ranges from 98 cm to 104.14 cm.
On the other hand, Jackie — a homemaker in her mid-thirties — has a 6 year old son named Luke who’s thinner than most of his classmates. It doesn’t worry her though.
“He got his body built from me,” Jackie describes her son Luke. “Also because I’m underweight.”
In a country like the Philippines where being small is quite common, even obvious cases of stunted growth and being underweight are often disregarded.
According to the 2015 Updating of the Nutritional Status of Filipinos developed by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Philippines (FNRI), 1 out every 3 Filipino children, aged 5 to 10, is suffering from stunted growth. Similarly, 1 out of every 3 Filipino children, aged 5 to 10, is also underweight.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines stunted growth as the “failure to reach one’s full potential for growth.” Inadequate nutrition is one of the many causes of this. This can also result to being underweight or when a child weighs less than the average for their age and height.
It may seem like stunted growth and being underweight are just about being small. However, they can also lead to an increased risk for disease and infection, cognitive and language impairments, as well as health issues like diabetes and heart disease later in life. Underweight children are also at risk for osteoporosis at an early age, making them more prone to bone fractures.
Addressing the growing problem
It all starts with a healthy mom. Stunted growth can be addressed as early as the baby’s first 1000 days with exclusive breastfeeding. This will lay the foundations for proper nutrition. But as children grow and start going to school – the stage when the development of their height and weight plateaus – other factors like enough sleep, exercise, and healthy diet become just as important.
So, what should parents do to help their kids reach their full growth potential? Here are some tips:
Give them a healthy diet and proper nutrition
Research says that we shouldn’t blame genetics or the environment for a child’s stunted growth or underweight, but also the lack of good diet and proper nutrition throughout the developmental years.
A balanced diet ensures that children get the vital nutrients they need to reach the right height and weight for their age. Milk is an important part of this as it has nutrients for bone health such as protein and vitamin D, and other bone-forming minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Recognizing the need for proper nutrition and balanced diet, the new Alaska Fortified Powdered Milk was created with essential nutrients to help your child reach their full growth potential.
Alaska Fortified Powdered Milk Drink is high in calcium for healthy bones and teeth, vitamin D for normal calcium absorption, protein for muscle growth and development, and iron for efficient production of red blood cells.
Make sure they’re getting enough sleep
Growth hormones are developed during sleep. So if they’re not getting enough of it, kids may not be giving their bodies the time to grow and recharge. For kids aged 3 to 5, 11 to 13 hours of sleep is recommended while children aged 5 to 10 need at least 10 to 11.
Creating the right environment can help kids fall asleep faster. Once it’s time for bed, dim the lights, and keep the surroundings quiet.
Keeping electronics away from children at least two hours before bedtime will also promote the production of melatonin — the hormone responsible for making people sleepy. Light from electronic devices can hinder melatonin production.
Encourage regular exercise
It doesn’t have to be strenuous activities like running a mile or going to the gym. Kids’ exercise can be as simple as playing outside.
Being active helps their bodies grow stronger, develops their muscles, and fights obesity. It can even boost growth hormone production. At the same time, simple stretching exercises can also help improve posture and strengthen children's spines so they stand straighter and taller.
Have them checked
Most importantly, have your children regularly checked by their pediatrician. For infants, it is your family pediatrician that determines how often you need to go for check-ups — this is usually once every two or three months. For children over 3 years old, at least an annual check-up is recommended.
Click here to find out if your child has #TamangTangkadAtBigat and learn more about the importance of proper nutrition— Rappler.com