Endocrinology (Hormones & Growth)

What is the Endocrine System?

Your child’s endocrine system contains hormone-producing glands that help maintain growth and development, puberty, energy level and mood. Endocrine disorders in children are caused by too many or too few hormones circulating throughout the body. In order for your child’s body to function, everything needs to be working in harmony — that is, the glands need to secrete just the right amount of hormones throughout the blood stream.

 
Glands in the Endocrine System
The main glands of the endocrine system include:
  • thyroid
  • parathyroid
  • pituitary
  • thymus
  • adrenals
Other glands that contain endocrine tissue and secrete hormones include:
  • pancreas
  • ovaries
  • testes

The endocrine system and the nervous system work closely together. The brain sends messages and receives feedback through a “switchboard” called the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that controls the endocrine system). When this system isn’t working properly, hormone and growth problems can occur.

Trusted Insights From Nemours' KidsHealth

Your Baby's Growth: 7 Months

Babies this age continue to grow — in size, physical skills, and their ability to interact with the world. Many of the new skills they're learning will come in handy for eating solid food. Although breastfeeding or formula feeding will continue to be the main source of nourishment, your baby should be exploring new tastes and textures.

As long as your baby continues to grow steadily, eating habits shouldn't be a cause for concern.

How Much Will My Baby Grow?

Babies continue to gain about 1 to 1¼ pounds (450 to 560 grams) and ½ inch to ¾ inch (1 to 2 centimeters) in length this month.

Since your child's birth, the doctor has been recording growth in weight, length, and head size (circumference) during your regular well-baby visits. The doctor tracks these numbers on standard growth charts. Ask your doctor to show you your baby's growth record. By now, you should begin to see a personal growth curve emerging — expect your child to continue growing along this curve.

Should I Be Concerned?

Is my baby big enough? Is my child destined to be tall or short? Parents often worry about growth and may compare a baby with siblings and peers. It's important to remember that kids come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

Growth depends on many factors, including:

  • genes passed on by the parents (kids tend to resemble their parents in height)
  • the amount and quality of food a child eats
  • overall health
  • the functioning of the hormones that control aspects of growth

Based on the growth chart, the doctor can determine whether your child is growing as expected. If at any time you're concerned about your baby's weight or growth in general, discuss your worries with your doctor.

In response to your concerns, the doctor may ask you these questions:

  • How many feedings a day does your baby get?
  • How much does your baby eat at each feeding?
  • How long does a breastfeeding baby nurse at each feeding?
  • What else are you feeding your baby?
  • How frequent are your baby's bowel movements? What do they look like?
  • How often does your baby pee?

The doctor also may ask questions about your baby's health and development. All of these things together will help the doctor decide if your baby is growing at an appropriate rate. The doctor may recommend tests if he or she thinks there may be a problem that needs to be addressed.

Premature babies may still be behind in size compared with their full-term peers, but they should also be growing steadily at their own rate.

What About the Chubby Baby?

With all the concern about childhood obesity, parents may worry that their baby is getting too fat. A few babies and toddlers are overweight. For these children, professional advice from the baby's doctor can be useful.

Never withhold food from a baby in an attempt to cause weight loss. To grow and develop as they should, babies need proper nutrition, including fat, in their diet. Make sure the foods your baby eats are nutritious rather than full of "empty" calories. Breast milk or formula should continue to be the main source of nourishment in the first year of life. And juice (100% fruit juice) can be introduced in a sippy cup (limited to 4 ounces, or 120 milliliters, or less a day), but juice is not a necessary food.

Introduce puréed vegetables and fruits without added sugar and don't give your baby desserts or other sweets that are high in sugar and offer little nutritional value. Also, look for cues that your baby is full and don't use food to keep your little one quiet or occupied. A crying baby may just be looking for some attention.

If you're concerned about your baby's weight — or even if you're not — encourage activity. For a baby this age, that means plenty of time to move around in a safe space rather than being confined to a carrier, stroller, or other equipment that limits movement.

What's Next?

Your baby's rapid growth will slow down as the first birthday approaches. But expect big changes in the coming months as your little one becomes more mobile.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 26, 2016