Abstract Background Growth hormone (GH) plays an incompletely understood role in the development of the central nervous system (CNS). In this study, we use transgenic mice expressing a growth hormone antagonist (GHA) to explore the role of GH in regulating postnatal brain, spinal cord and body growth into adulthood. The GHA transgene encodes a protein that inhibits the binding of GH to its receptor, specifically antagonizing the trophic effects of endogenous GH. Results Before 50 days of postnatal age, GHA reduces spinal cord weight more than brain weight, but less than body weight. Thereafter, GHA ceases to inhibit the increase in body weight, which approaches control levels by day 150. In contrast, GHA continues to act on the CNS after day 50, reducing spinal cord growth to a greater extent and for a longer duration than brain growth. Conclusions Judging from its inhibition by GHA, GH differentially affects the magnitude, velocity and duration of postnatal growth of the brain, spinal cord and body. GH promotes body enlargement more than CNS growth early in postnatal life. Later, its CNS effects are most obvious in the spinal cord, which continues to exhibit GH dependence well into adulthood. As normal CNS growth slows, so does its inhibition by GHA, suggesting that reduced trophic effects of GH contribute to the postnatal slowing of CNS growth. GHA is a highly useful tool for studying the role of endogenous GH on organ-specific growth during aging.