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Slow-growing babies reach normal weight by thirteen, study shows

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Researchers have found that babies who struggle to gain weight are likely to catch up with other children by the time they become teenagers.

A study by the University of Bristol looked at information about 11,499 children born in the 1990s. The authors conceded that it was vital for health professionals to monitor the weight of babies but warned midwives, nurses, health visitors and doctors not to try to boost the calorie intake of infants who were slow to gain weight, as this may cause them to become obese later in life.

The research, which has been published in the journal Pediatrics, found the 507 children who grew slowly during their first eight weeks made up for their low weight gain and were almost the same size as their peers by the time they reached their second birthday.

The group of 480 children who put on weight more slowly than average between the age of eight weeks and nine months generally remained lighter than average until they were seven. But the study found these children typically experienced a growth spurt and were considered to be normal weight by their thirteenth birthday.

The authors of the report suggested that the reason the young infants recovered more quickly than older babies was likely to be because the causes of the slow weight gain were different.

Professor Alan Emond, who led the study, said it was important that health professionals did not worry parents with slow-growing babies, although he said it was important for the weight and height of babies to be monitored to spot any health or feeding problems.

And he said while the children caught up to become a normal weight, they were still likely to be smaller and lighter than many of their peers.

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