At birth, the spinal column comprises 40% of the total length of the infant - identical to the adult. However, the average length of the spinal column in the newborn is just 24 cm or 9.6 inches. The spinal column grows 50% in length during the baby's first year of life. Over the following 4 years, the spine will continue to grow another 15 cm reaching a length of 51 cm or 20.4 inches. From ages 5-10, the spine grows an additional 10 cm. Once puberty is reached and until the age of 18 the spine will typically grow another 20 cm in males and 15 cm in females.
The shape of the spine at birth is similar to the shape of the letter "C". At around the age of 3 months, as the baby raises it's head, the cervical spine gains it's "lordosis" or reversed "C" shape curve. Around 6 months of age, the infant adopts a seated and standing posture and the lower back - lumbar spine - also becomes lordotic or "C" shaped in nature.
During the birthing process, there is a relatively small area to pass through considering the size of the infant. During the delivery process, in order to minimize discomfort of the mother and baby, abnormally excessive and unnatural forces are commonly used. This can and commonly does result in injuries to the infant's spine - especially the cervical spine. As the months and years go by, the spine grows and develops at a very rapid pace. When the baby begins to crawl and then walk, a number of seemingly minor falls and collisions will occur as balance and the knowledge of physics is still developing. As the youngster proceeds through childhood, the minor collisions become severe and more frequent. The physical traumas will continue into adolescence especially in the active and athletic youngsters.