HOW TO READ GROWTH CHARTS
Knowing your baby is growing well is a big deal, but so is knowing exactly what his growth chart means
There are few aspects of parenting that create quite as much anxiety as making sure that your baby if getting enough food and growing the way he should. Because so much of parenting is immeasurable, it is tempting to look to growth and weight gain as a measure of your success as a parent. Weighing and measuring your baby weekly can verge on an obsession if you are feeling anxious. The reality is that growth charts need to be kept in perspective and used with common sense.
GROWTH CHARTS ARE FOR INDIVIDUALS
Growth charts reflect the average growth and weight of babies. Many growth charts use American statistics and may not be relevant to your baby, especially if he was born prematurely. In addition, the growth chart of a healthy breastfed baby will not follow the same trajectory as a bottle-fed baby. The growth charts for boys and girls also differ. So if you are going to use a growth chart, be sure it is appropriate for your individual baby.
HOW TO USE THEM
In the first month, especially if your baby was premature, you will probably weigh your baby at a clinic or doctor weekly and plot these measurements on the chart. It is important to weigh your baby on the same scale each time as scales can differ, resulting in undue cause for concern. It’s also important to watch for the trend over time and not to panic if your baby has poor weight gain for a week. If your baby has gained weight steadily in the first month, you can weigh him monthly until six months and thereafter every second month until a year.
Your baby’s height and weight should be recorded on a growth chart. (Your baby’s vaccination card has a growth chart on the back.) The growth chart contains centile lines, which reflect how many babies weigh that amount. If your baby is on the 75th centile line, it means that out of 100 babies, only 25 weigh more than him, in other words, he is a big baby.
On the day that your baby is born, his weight will be recorded on the chart. Your newborn will lose weight in the early days but most babies will have regained their birth weight by 14 days.
Once your baby has regained his birth weight you can expect steady growth over the next year. Some months your baby will gain more, and others he’ll gain less. The important thing is that your baby should be on a continuous upward trend.
If your baby is happy, sleeping, feeding well and has eight to 10 wet nappies a day, his growth is probably fine. There is nothing to worry about.
WHEN TO WORRY
Speak to your doctor or clinic sister:
If your baby was premature or had a very low birth weight. Your baby will be carefully monitored in this case – you don’t want your baby to lose weight, but you also don’t want him to gain weight too quickly.
If your baby’s growth curve has a sudden change in path over two weights, gaining much more than usual or much less.
If your baby’s growth curve starts to cross a centile line above or below the centile they have been on (in other words your baby has always been on the 50th centile and puts on so little weight that he is now in the 25th centile range).
If your baby’s weight and height proportion changes – for example, his weight increases a lot but his height does not keep up with this growth – this would indicate he is becoming too fat for his height. If your baby loses weight from one weigh-in to the next, this needs to be explored.
Baby growth is an emotive issue and if you find the growth chart is causing undue stress, try to go with your instinct and rely more on your baby’s activity level and happiness as an indication of his health.