Written by Aparna Hari
Every time you take your baby to the doctor, they will check the height, weight, and general growth and development to ensure they are on track. This helps doctors keep track and identify issues if any, at the earliest. Doctors use baby growth charts as an important tool to check and track your little one’s overall growth and health.
As parents, these check-ups are important for you to ensure your baby is growing fine and there is nothing to worry about. It is natural for parents to constantly worry about the baby’s growth even if everything looks. Infant growth charts come in handy to remove such unnecessary worries.
In This Article
A baby growth chart helps the doctor compare and verify if a baby is growing “normally” and if the growth parameters such as weight, height, and head circumference are all within the normal range. This range has been derived by WHO and CDC. Indian pediatricians use the baby growth chart by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics.
All medical entities have certain parameters that a doctor can compare a baby to and understand the baby’s rate of development. How can you be sure if your growing baby is on the right track or not? These charts combine multiple aspects and take into account genetics, environmental factors, and even the infants’ intake (breastfed/formula-fed).
A typical baby growth chart will measure the baby’s
These parameters will then be marked against the infant growth chart to make sure that the growth curve is going as expected.
Babies have growth spurts, meaning one month they may suddenly grow faster than usual. At such times, they may look bigger than babies their age and within the next two months, they may match the size of the other baby. So, how can we know if your baby’s growth is affected or if the other baby is having a growth spurt?
Baby growth charts enable you to measure your baby’s growth in percentile when compared to the ideal range. So, by tracking this chart, your doctor can derive at the growth rate of your baby and determine if the baby is having any growth-related issues.
However, parents must remember, these charts are just for reference and not a strict guideline. If the doctor feels the baby is growing and developing fine despite the high or low percentiles on the growth chart, then there is nothing to really worry about.
The chart considers the fact that all babies are unique, and they all can’t fit into a single mold. So, they use percentile for more accurate measurement or understanding of the baby. Percentile refers to the position your baby is in, for some particular parameter.
If your baby is in the 15th percentile for ideal body weight, it means 85% of the babies of a similar age are heavier than them and 15% of the babies weigh lesser. Similarly, if your baby is in the 75th percentile for height, then they are longer than 75% of the babies their age, and 25% of the babies are shorter than them.
The percentiles will keep changing as the baby grows. The doctor will check and analyze multiple values over a period of time to assess your baby’s growth according to these charts.
[Read : Your Newborn’s Weight]
The growth charts will have a clear demarcation indicating the measurements on the left margin and the baby’s age either the top or bottom line.
Now, find the baby’s age, and the measurement on the respective margins. Draw a straight line from each of the points parallel to the other margin. i.e. from the left margin towards the right side, one straight line parallel to the age margin on top or bottom. Similarly, for the age- one straight line going up or down, parallel to the left margin.
Where both the lines intersect is where your baby is on that particular growth chart (height/weight/head circumference). The chart will generally have some of the percentiles marked with a curve (25th, 50th, 75th, 95th, and so on). When you compare to this curve, you will understand which percentile your baby is at for that particular measurement.
[Read : Baby Head Circumference Charts]
A growth chart though shows multiple readings or measurements, should not be read individually. A “healthy result” can vary drastically as there is no one ideal curve or measurement. This type of assessment is exactly what the chart aims to curb.
If your baby was predominantly below the 50th percentile from the beginning, it means they were below 50% of the babies their age, in terms of growth. One should understand, in such a case, the baby will continue to be somewhere slightly above or below the 50th percentile. Parents should accept the fact that their child will be around the average height or weight when compared to children their age and it is not right to compare them with children in the 95th percentile.
Some of the important factors that influence a baby’s growth chart are:
It is normal for a baby to go through ups and downs in their growth. It is also normal for parents to start worrying if the curve of the growth line changes even a little when compared to the curve of the baseline. However, understand there is nothing to worry about unless your baby’s growth changes by at least 2 major percentile lines.
Let’s try to understand this with an example-
If at 2 months of age your baby is at the 70th percentile of the height chart, it means 30% of the babies of this age group are taller than your baby and 70% are shorter. If your baby slips down to the 60th percentile in the next couple of months, it is ok. Your baby probably had an early growth spurt and slowed down to the normal range. However, if your baby goes down below the 50th percentile, meaning they show a change of more than 20 percentiles, your doctor will look into the issue with more focus and may even check various other parameters.
To be very clear, you don’t have to worry about the growth chart unless you see a drastic change either upwards or downwards. Even then, discuss it with your pediatrician and get their professional input rather than misinterpreting it on your own and worrying about unnecessary “what-ifs”.
An infant growth chart helps parents and doctors understand if the baby is healthy and growing as per expectations. Identifying a delay in growth or other issues, at an early stage can help address it more effectively.
It means your baby is in the lowest range when compared to other babies of similar age. 1st percentile in weight means, the baby weighs lower than 99% of the babies their age.
Not necessarily. If your baby’s weight is above the 85th percentile, it indicates they could be overweight. Anything above the 95th percentile can indicate obesity. So higher percentiles are not always better for a baby.
Your baby could be experiencing a growth spurt which will eventually come back to normal ranges. If the sudden change continues, consult your pediatrician and ask them to look into it or explain the possible reasons behind the change.
Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.
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