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4 Signs Your Baby Is Going To Be Tall

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It would be so nice if parents could magically tell exactly what their babies will be like as they get older. It's impossible not to be curious about everything from their personality, to their intelligence, to their size. For the most part, parents have to wait and see, but, in some cases, they can also make some educated guesses. If you're wondering about your baby's height, for example, are there signs your baby will be tall that you can watch out for?

Do tall babies become tall adults?

It depends, according to Dr. Mona Amin, DO, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician. “The bigger factors to consider here are genetics, nutrition, and environment,” says Amin. “The scientific answer is there’s no evidenced-based scientific way to predict height.”

I can definitely speak to this being a total crapshoot. As the product of a 5'2" mother and a 6'2" father, my height genes apparently came from my mom, as I share her short stature. I've spent a lot of money in my lifetime having clothes hemmed to my tiny frame. Then again, if it had gone the other way I'd be complaining about all the pants that didn't quite reach my ankle. Such is life, right?

At first thought, you might guess that long babies become tall adults, but as Dr. Yamileth Cazorla-Lancaster, DO, MPH, MS, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician, explains, that isn’t always that case. “The average birth length in the United States is around 20 inches,” Cazorla-Lancaster tells Romper. “Most full term babies will be around this length when they are born. Birth length is not strongly predictive of final adult height. Of course gestational age may affect the size of the baby at birth tremendously, so it's not necessarily predictive of above average stature.”

Some parents definitely hyperfixate on their child's body size, be it their weight or height, but the truth is, height — even within a family — can differ in so many ways. “My job as a pediatrician is to make sure that they are growing appropriately along their curve and to reassure parents that everything is going well,” Cazorla-Lancaster says. “As long as children have access to sufficient calories they are going to be the size their genetic blueprint determines. Body size can differ greatly among siblings being raised in the same family and the same environment.”

Ultimately, height isn’t an indicator of your child’s health or worth, so spending too much time thinking about it beyond what their doctor says isn’t all that useful. “As a society we tend to value height, but I think we need to remember that this is a cultural construct,” says Cazorla-Lancaster. “We should be careful not to imply to children that being a certain size makes them more or less worthy. Also just because your child isn't tall or lean (by our cultural standards) it doesn't mean that you are a bad parent or did anything wrong. Let your child grow and develop into who they are meant to be without pressure and without expectations.”

Obviously, they'll be just perfect no matter where they fall on the growth chart.

Things That Impact A Baby’s Height

All this being said, you still might be curious if you can predict your little one’s height, even if just for some light-hearted fun. There are a few signs that your baby could grow up to be tall, though none of them are foolproof and only time will truly tell.

1

Their biological parents are tall

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You and your partner's heights do play a role in how tall your child will be — that’s just how genes work. “If both parents are extremely tall, then the baby’s genetic makeup will likely make them tall as well,” Amin says.

You can even crunch some numbers for an early estimate of your child's future height. “The best way to get an estimated range of final adult height for a child is to calculate mid-parental height,” Cazorla-Lancaster says. That is, adding together the parents' heights, dividing by two, and either adding (for a boy) or subtracting (for a girl) roughly two and a half inches to that number. Still, don’t be shocked if your kid’s actual height is different than what you predicted with this formula.

2

They're a tall toddler

No matter how big they are at birth, if a child is tall in their toddler years, there’s a better chance they will stay tall. “Another way is to obtain a projected adult height is to extrapolate a child's height percentile after the age of 2 years old up to age 18,” Cazorla-Lancaster says. “Final adult height is better correlated to height percentile after age 2.”

In fact, a 2011 study published in the Annals of Human Biology found that while the correlation between birth length and adult height was weak, by the age of 4, there was a stronger correlation (about 64% of boys and 44% of girls). Particularly for boys, kids who are tall when they’re 4 years old will likely be tall as adults. However, when it comes to puberty, those number start to be all over the place, given that puberty starts, ends, and affects height in so many different ways for children.

Again, clearly this is not a surefire predictor. The numbers indicate that sometimes height as a toddler can be a good predictor of height as an adult, but definitely not all of the time. Some kids bloom early, and some have growth spurts later.

3

They are assigned male at birth

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If you have a boy, you're already more likely to be shopping in the tall section. According to data from NCD-RisC, a network of health scientists around the world that works closely with the World Health Organization, the average height of men is about four and a half inches taller than that of women.

Even as infants, male-assigned babies will likely be bigger. As Dr. Mark Freilich, a developmental pediatrician and founder/medical director at Total Kids Developmental Pediatric Resources, previously told Romper, weight, length, and head circumference are greater in boys than in girls during that first year of life. “This is believed to be related to hormonal differences between boys and girls in this early stage of life,” Freilich explains. Although the main differences in height will start to manifest in adolescence, once boys start puberty.

But, again, this also might not be the case for your little one. These numbers are just averages, and if your child doesn’t exactly fit with the numbers, that’s totally normal.

4

Their nutrition intake is adequate

No matter what sort of genes they might inherit, your baby isn't going to reach their full height without getting proper nutrition. However, what a baby eats won’t actually make them any taller as an adult, per say — it will just support them.

“Nutrition plays into the growth of a child in several ways, including growth, body weight, height, and even cognitive development,” Amin says. “If a child consumes a diet full of fruits and vegetables, has adequate water intake, and generally stays away from sugary treats and snacks, they are setting their body and brain up for success, which allows for proper cognitive development as well as physical growth.”

The only reason nutrition would impact a baby’s eventual height as an adult is if they are malnourished. “Nutrition supports genetic potential,” Cazorla-Lancaster says. “If a child is malnourished (not receiving enough calories to support growth) then their growth may be stunted. If a child is not consuming sufficient calories, height is usually affected after weight and before head circumference. Otherwise nutrition is not going to make a child taller than their genetic potential.”

All in all, there is no exact way to predict how tall a baby will grow in terms of height — just like there’s no way to predict their unique personality — though it can be fun to guess. So regardless of if your little one grows to be of basketball player or gymnast height (or literally anything else), they will be just perfect they way they are.

Study referenced:

Cole, T. J., & Wright, C. M. (2011). A chart to predict adult height from a child's current height. Annals of human biology, 38(6), 662–668. https://doi.org/10.3109/03014460.2011.598189

Experts:

Dr. Mona Amin, DO, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician

Dr. Yamileth Cazorla-Lancaster, DO, MPH, MS, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician

Dr. Mark Freilich, developmental pediatrician and founder/medical director at Total Kids Developmental Pediatric Resources

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