The Truth Behind the Old Wives' Tales You've Heard About Kids' Growth

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As modern parents, we're more likely to believe the results of a scientific study about kids' development than what our grandmothers might have told us, but we might still wonder ... is there any truth to those old wives' tales? It might seem silly to believe that, say, a sip of a latté will stunt your kid's growth, but what if it's true? 

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We took a look at some of the most prevalent myths we've heard about kids' growth and development in an attempt to separate fact from fiction.

Old Wives' Tale #1: Playing basketball (or other sports) makes kids grow taller.

Here's the truth: Despite what your gym teacher might have claimed, "Jumping and stretching will not make you taller," S. Daniel Ganjian, MD, a pediatrician at Providence Saint Jonh's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells CafeMom. 

However, "exercise and good health will help a child remain healthy emotionally and physically," he adds. So it's still important for kids to stay active.

More from CafeMom: Unmistakable Signs Your Toddler's Having a Growth Spurt

Old Wives' Tale #2: Kids grow when they're sleeping.

Here's the truth: If you've ever told your kids they have to go to bed because otherwise they "won't grow big and tall," it turns out you might have been telling the truth! Sort of. A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics found that 90 percent of bone growth in lambs occurred while they were asleep or resting -- and researchers believe the same is true for human children. Interestingly, almost no growth occurred while the lambs were standing or moving around. Scientists believe that when the body is at rest, pressure on the growth plates is eased and the bones are able to elongate. All the more reason to put the kids to bed early!

Old Wives' Tale #3: Caffeine stunts kids' growth.

Here's the truth: We kind of wanted this one to be legit -- it makes telling kids that mocha frappucinos are off-limits so much easier! -- but "caffeine does not stunt growth," says Dr. Ganjian.

Still, the stuff that keeps you going all day isn't kid-friendly -- caffeine can cause "upset stomach and gastritis in children," he says. And of course it can mess with their energy levels and their sleep.

Old Wives' Tale #4: Holding a baby in a standing position will make his legs grow crooked.

Here's the truth: This particular misconception is as old as it is unfounded, apparently -- though moderation is key. 

"Babies will not develop crooked legs unless they're placed in a standing position for long periods of time, as in some toys, standers, swings, [or] bouncers," says Dr. Ganjian. There are no official recommendations for how long babies should stay in these devices at one time, but generally 20 to 30 minutes is fine. Don't go too crazy with them.

More from CafeMom: How to Know If Your Toddler's Growth Is Normal

Old Wives' Tale #5: Lifting weights interferes with kids' growth.

Here's the truth: No need to ban your kids from borrowing your dumbbells (though you might want to make sure they're careful not to drop them on their toes!): Research has suggested that lifting weights will not stunt children's growth. In fact, it actually makes kids stronger and can decrease their risk of injury. You want them to grow big and strong, right?

Old Wives' Tale #6: Kids need to eat meat to grow.

Here's the truth: This line might have convinced you to clean your plate as a kid, but according to the American Dietetic Association, a "well-planned" vegetarian diet is nutritionally adequate at every stage of life, including infancy and childhood. So as long as your child is getting all the crucial nutrients (check with your pediatrician to be sure), eating meat is not a necessity for development.

Myths aside, the basic facts remain: We may not be able to predict when and how much our kids will grow, but we can help them to stay on track by making sure they eat, sleep, and play as much as they need!

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