Background In very-low-birth-weight infants IGF-I plays an important role in postnatal growth restriction and is probably also involved in growth restriction in childhood. We compared IGF-I and its relation to growth in early childhood in very-low-birth-weight infants and term appropriate for gestational age born infants. Methods We included 41 very-low-birth-weight and 64 term infants. Anthropometry was performed at all visits to the outpatient clinic. IGF-I and insulin were measured in blood samples taken at 6 months and 2 years corrected age (very-low-birth-weight children) and at 3 months, 1 and 2 years (term children). Results Over the first 2 years of life growth parameters are lower in very-low-birth-weight children compared to term children, but the difference in length decreases significantly. During the first 2 years of life IGF-I is higher in very-low-birth-weight children compared to term children. In both groups there is a significant relationship between IGF-I and (change in) length and weight over the first 2 years of life and between insulin and change in total body fat. Conclusions Considering the relation of IGF-I to growth and the decrease in difference in length, higher IGF-I levels in very-low-birth-weight infants in early childhood probably have an important role in catch-up growth in length.