Worldwide timing of growth faltering: implications for nutritional interventions

Pediatrics. 2001 May;107(5):E75. doi: 10.1542/peds.107.5.e75.


Objective: It is widely assumed that growth faltering starts at around 3 months of age, but there has been no systematic assessment of its timing using representative national datasets from a variety of countries.

Methodology: The World Health Organization Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition includes the results of 39 nationally representative datasets from recent surveys in developing countries. Based on these data, mean z scores of weight for age, length/height for age, and weight for length/height were compared with the National Center for Health Statistics and Cambridge growth references, for children younger than 60 months.

Results: Mean weights start to falter at about 3 months of age and decline rapidly until about 12 months, with a markedly slower decline until about 18 to 19 months and a catch-up pattern after that. Growth faltering in weight for length/height is restricted to the first 15 months of life, followed by rapid improvement. For length/height for age, the global mean is surprisingly close to National Center for Health Statistics and Cambridge references at birth, but faltering starts immediately afterward, lasting well into the third year.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the need for prenatal and early life interventions to prevent growth failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developing Countries*
  • Global Health
  • Growth Disorders / diagnosis
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Growth Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Population Surveillance