Along with being told your child’s weight, head circumference and length or height (depending on the child’s age) at well-child visits, you will probably be told what growth chart percentile those numbers fall in.
What exactly do those numbers mean, and what is normal?
Growth chart percentiles are a way at looking at how a child is growing. To develop these charts, thousands of children were weighed and measured and the results recorded. [Infant growth chart]
When the first charts were developed, infants who were fed formula were used as the norm; newer charts are now available which use breastfed infants as the norm.
There are four different charts: girls from birth to 3 years old, boys from birth to 3 years old, girls from ages 3 to 18 years, and boys from ages 3 to 18 years. Special charts are also available for premature infants.
The 50th percentile divides the groups in half: half of the children fell above this point, while half fell below. The same goes for the other percentiles.
For example, 25% of the children were above the 75th percentile, while 75% of the children fell below that number. The typical percentile points are 10th, 25th, 75th and 90th. Healthy children can be found anywhere on this scale.
What your pediatrician will be looking for at well-child visits is a pattern. A child who remains within the 10th to 90th percentiles is generally healthy; children will often remain in the same general percentile range, or slightly increase their percentile.
The pediatrician will also look for patterns which can signal problems, such as a pattern of decreasing percentile numbers, for example a child who over the course of visits moves in weight from the 75th percentile down to the 10th percentile, or a sudden increase which indicates unusual weight gain or growth in head circumference.
It is important that all growing children get the nutrition they need for proper health. If you are concerned about your child’s weight, talk with your pediatrician. [Baby Weight]
It is important to remember that these measures are only tools, and are only one means of evaluating your child’s health.