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

Your Baby & Toddler - - Your Baby Files - BY ME­GAN FAURE

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.

NOR­MAL GROWTH

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.

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