Babies are just smaller, cuter versions of adults, aren’t they? So, wouldn’t it make sense that they have the same number of bones as a fully-grown human? But, in saying that, we know that babies’ teeth and hair grow in later. So, is it possible that they have fewer bones than adults do when they’re born?
These are all valid questions, and their answers are very interesting. But, these answers do need a bit of explaining. The following guide will help you better understand the skeleton of a new-born baby as well as provide a few tips on how to properly care for your baby’s bones.
First Things First: How Many Bones Does a Baby Have?
Since all babies are born with no teeth and some with less hair than adults, you would certainly be forgiven for wondering if babies have fewer bones than adults. And, if this is something you believe to be true, you’ll be happy to learn that you are correct… in a sense. That being said, if you thought the opposite, you’re still correct.
The truth is that babies are born with a lot of cartilage in their skeletons, which some choose to see as bones. This cartilage outnumbers the amount of adult skeletal bones initially, but it lessens as it fuses together during the child’s adolescence.
The number of ‘true bones’ in a baby’s body, discounting cartilage, is lower than the number found in adults. But, the total number of bones, including cartilage, is higher.
So, what is the total number of bones in a baby’s body? True bones total 176 while cartilaginous bones total around 300.
Depending on how you choose to see it, the number could be less than 206, or it could be more. But, generally, the cartilage is seen as skeletal tissue and so the number of bones in a baby is thought to outnumber those in an adult’s skeleton.
When Does This Number Change?
As babies grow, some of the cartilage in their skeletons starts to harden and some bones start to fuse together. A baby’s skull, for example, is made up of five different parts of cartilaginous bone, which accounts for the ‘soft spot’ of a newborn’s head. As the little one grows, these grow together to form a solid, unified skull.
The hardening process typically lasts for the entirety of a child’s growing process. This begins shortly after birth and continues until around the age of 20. Girls might stop growing a year or two before this mark, and some boys might stop a year or two after. But, generally speaking, by the time a child stops growing, his or her bones have mostly finished fusing together.
How to Protect Your Baby’s Bones
There are two very important factors when it comes to the health of your little one’s bones. These are diet and exercise.
The foods that you give your baby should provide the right nourishment for bone growth. Similarly, your child’s activities should be aimed at promoting bone strength.
Here are some tips for diet and exercise that will help your little one grow up with a strong, healthy skeleton. We’ll start with bone-strengthening foods:
Best Diet for Your Baby’s Bones
A child’s bones need the right amounts of nutrients and vitamins in order to grow properly. If you’re currently breastfeeding, you’re doing a perfect job of providing those things. This is because breastmilk’s ingredients are absolutely ideal for a growing baby. There are loads of vitamins and minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, amino acid, and much more in breastmilk.
However, if you’re not breastfeeding, don’t worry. Baby formula is specially designed to give babies what they need. Vitamin D, for example, is very important for bone growth, and the right amount of this vitamin can be found in around half a liter (500 ml) of formula per day.
Vitamin D is so important for a child because it helps with the absorption of calcium, and calcium aids the bones in strengthening and fusing. As your child gets older and moves onto solid foods, it is important to keep supplying vitamin D through foods.
Foods containing vitamin D include:
- Certain breakfast cereals
- Drinks fortified with vitamin D, like orange juice
- Some dairy products, such as cheese
- Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna
Vitamin D is also created through sunlight touching skin, through overexposure to sunlight can be dangerous. If in doubt, it’s preferable to give your child vitamin D supplements so that you can monitor the dose.
Activities to Promote Bone Growth
Physical activity is really important for your baby’s skeleton. This helps the skeleton realize that it needs to strengthen in order to cope with the physical demand. When your baby starts walking, the act of walking alone will be enough, provided your little one is active for more than 3 hours a day.
But, how do you promote activity before your baby starts walking? Here are a few tips:
Laying your baby on its back will allow for leg and arm movements, which are excellent bone-strengthening exercises.
Use toys to help get your little one grasping and tugging. This exertion will be enough in the early stages of bone development to promote healthy growth.
Take your baby swimming with you and promote splashing and kicking. This is great for bone-development and is heaps of fun for your baby.
Once your baby starts scooting or crawling, encourage this action as much as possible. The movement that places a light demand on your baby’s bones is excellent for the hardening process.
Help 300 Become 206 Strong, Healthy Bones
Your baby may have been born with around 300 bones, but those need to fuse together over the next couple of decades to become 206 strong, well-formed bones.
The best way to help this process is by encouraging the skeleton to harden naturally through exercise and by giving them the nutrients they need through a balanced, nutritious diet.
Hopefully, the knowledge and tips contained above will help you to provide the best starting block for your baby, allowing you to contribute to those 300 cartilaginous bones growing into a resilient and healthy adult skeleton.