The last thing you expect to monitor, are charts that illustrate how beautifully your baby is growing. After all, your children aren’t another ‘project at work’ but rather, the ‘love of your life’. However, a pediatrician could do well with charts that serve as a standard reference for them vis a vis your baby’s general development.
If there’s one thing you can be absolutely sure of during every visit to your pediatrician, it is this: your child will be measured and weighed, and then those measurements plotted on an infant growth chart that will help keep tabs on how your little one is growing over time, and with relation to national averages.
What is an infant growth chart?
An infant growth chart, in a nutshell, is nothing short of being a ‘height and weight chart for babies’. Charts of this type have been used since 1977 to track the development of babies. In fact, the charts used today come from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
These charts are used to calculate things like ‘baby weight percentile’ and the ‘height percentile’ for babies. Your child’s measurements are plotted against standard averages to see how well they are growing over the years.
Note: What’s ‘normal can vary greatly from baby to baby, on account of things like genetics, environment and even their activity level.
What do Growth Chart ‘percentile’ mean?
Here’s an inside look at how the percentile thing works. At your next visit to the pediatrician, you will go through the usual: baby’s height and weight will be measured, along with their head circumference, and then plotted on a growth chart.
What you need to know is, any number between 5 and 95 (in terms of percentile) is considered normal. For instance, if that baby weight percentile is 60, it will mean that they are as tall, or taller than, 60 percent of the children in their age group. The same goes for that height percentile for babies.
The most important thing you need to realize is this: that baby growth percentile does not really matter in terms of the relative position it occupies on the infant growth chart. What truly matters is that it should follow a consistent curve on the growth chart over the first year.
In a nutshell, then, the ‘curved lines’ on your baby’s growth chart, will serve as an indication of the patterns of growth of your child. In the long run, it only really matters if your child is following these curved lines. This is an indication, that they are growing well over time.
Why is the Head Circumference measured?
A good question, indeed. The ‘head circumference’ is one of the ‘measurements’ that needs to be taken when it comes to determining that baby growth percentile, because it serves to give some clues about the child’s brain development. If, for instance, the baby’s head is bigger or smaller than most other babies’, there might be a problem. The case is similar in babies whose heads stop growing, or grow too quickly.
A head that is unusually large might serve to indicate hydrocephalus – a buildup of fluid inside the brain. A smaller brain might indicate that the brain is not developing properly.
Should baby’s weight and height be in the same percentile range?
Yet another great question! That height and weight chart for babies usually reflects figures pertaining to their height, weight and head circumference, that are in the same percentile range. Traditional wisdom would serve to indicate that your baby is developing well, when you get figures along these lines.
That being said, there’s no need to panic if you find that the above values are out of whack. For instance, it’s perfectly natural for a child to suddenly shoot up in length, or have a sudden weight gain, leading to contrasting growth-chart percentiles.
When there could be a problem
While you should generally find no cause for alarm when comparing that baby growth percentile with the last recorded value, there are certain results that might signal a health problem.
When the percentile changes from a pattern it’s been consistently following
While we have already established that it’s normal to see fluctuations in height and weight percentiles, you might wish to stay on the safe side by checking to find if everything’s all right, if that deviation is a tad abnormal. For instance, if your baby’s weight and height percentile has been 60 for the first 5 years of their life, and it suddenly drops to 30 in their sixth year, it might just be a matter of concern.
When they don’t get taller at the same rate at which they are gaining weight.
To take an example, if a boy’s weight is in the 40th percentile and their height in the 90th percentile, and this is more or less the same over time, that might just be a deviation from the expected. On the other hand, if the child’s height and weight are both in the 90th percentile over time, all it means is they are simply a ‘healthy child who is larger than average’.
What if your child is not growing?
Parents are more concerned about that percentile being ‘lower than expected’; of their children ‘not growing’. If, for example, your child does not gain weight and height at an expected rate, or if they undergo a significant amount of weight loss, it might be a good time to talk to your medical health provider, who will, in all probability, tweak baby’s diet in accordance with the same.
The term commonly used by pediatricians to describe a condition like this is: Failure to thrive. This ‘failure to thrive’ is not only because of lack of sound nutrition. There are other underlying causes that might serve to bring about this condition: things like infections, hormonal issues, allergies or even a chronic illness such as diabetes.
Note: Don’t worry if your baby might not be getting enough sleep. That has nothing to do with that baby growth percentile.
Sudden Change in Baby’s Growth Patterns: What if your Baby’s Height and Weight are not in the Percentile Range
It’s not only a significant amount of weight ‘loss’ that we should be concerned about, where it comes to our little ones. Your baby might suddenly see a rapid growth spurt as well. There are plenty of factors, ranging from genetics to the environment, that might account for these ‘sudden changes.’
This is where you do not wish to take those growth charts ever so seriously. What you need to do here, is to not get too hassled by those sudden increases or decreases in growth. Monitor their progress over a slightly longer period of time, and if they are growing well, there will be nothing to worry about.
At EuroKids, we work towards the holistic development of children. This includes giving parents vital pointers on the kind of nutrition that’s best for their little ones. We continually strive to work towards the sound development of healthy, happy kids.