Facebook Pixel Tracking

Growth stunting and its effect on children

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines stunting as “the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.” BYY expert, paediatrician Dr. Maraschin, examines various scenarios where stunting could occur, its long-term effects, and measures to protect children from stunting.

Key Factors Contributing to Stunting

Impaired Growth

  • This occurs when a child’s height is significantly below the average for their age.

Impaired Development

  • This happens when a child fails to achieve developmental milestones like rolling over, sitting, and walking. It also includes delayed mental and social skills.

Poor Nutrition

  • Essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals are crucial for brain development, especially between weeks 24 to 42 of pregnancy and the first two years of life. Malnutrition can lead to long-term developmental issues. Factors like smoking during pregnancy also affect growth. After birth, rapid brain growth in the first two years makes proper nutrition critical.

Repeated Infection

  • Chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease, and heart disease can lead to stunting if poorly managed. Ill children may not eat well or absorb necessary nutrients.

Inadequate Psychosocial Stimulation

  • Physical, sensory, and emotional stimulation is vital, especially in the first 1,000 days. Children in neglectful environments, such as overcrowded orphanages, may not develop at the same rate as those receiving ample stimulation.

Child Growth Standards

Your child’s growth is monitored using the “Road to Health” book, which includes graphs for weight, height, and head circumference. Healthcare professionals plot your child’s growth against these standards at each visit. A stunted child will typically fall below the 3rd percentile.

Scenarios of Stunting

Baby A

  • At 18 months, Baby A was extremely small for her age, with weight and height below the 3rd percentile. Delayed introduction to solids led to severe malnutrition. With the help of an occupational therapist, dietician, and physiotherapist, Baby A improved significantly over six months.

Baby B

  • At 7 months, Baby B was the size of a newborn, suffering from severe vomiting due to Gastric Volvulus. After surgery and PEG feeding, Baby B showed slow but steady progress, although he had developmental delays due to early malnutrition.

Child C

  • At age 3, Child C experienced frequent diarrhoea, a sore tummy, and low energy levels. Tests confirmed coeliac disease. After eliminating gluten from her diet and working with a dietician, Child C’s symptoms improved, but she might not reach her full growth potential due to late diagnosis.

The Importance of Addressing Stunting

Stunting is a complex issue with many causes, including intrauterine growth restriction, growth hormone deficiencies, syndromes, and chromosomal abnormalities. Children with stunted growth can face lifelong consequences, including anxiety, low self-esteem, learning difficulties, and higher risks of chronic diseases. Early intervention and proper nutrition are crucial for reversing some effects of

stunting and helping children reach their full potential.


If you’re concerned about your child’s growth, trust your instincts. Proper nutrition and early intervention are key to ensuring your child’s healthy development. Remember, each child’s growth journey is unique, and providing the best support during pregnancy and childhood helps them achieve their potential.


Related Posts

Mental health in children

A young mind has the potential to develop into a masterpiece because of the experiences their significant adults provide. This would include love, reassurance, encouragement,

Read More »