Health professionals use standardized growth charts to assess the health of infants, children and teenagers. If you are a parent you may want to understand growth patterns and how to interpret growth charts for yourself. Growth is measured by checking your child’s length/height and weight. It is also useful to measure head circumference in infants and toddlers.
Many things influence growth including nutrition, physical activity, genetics, environment, medical health and parent size. If your child isn’t getting enough good quality nutrition they could experience stunted growth, reduced immune function, and slowed intellectual development. If your child is getting too much food, this can predispose them to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Plotting your child on growth charts can allow you and your health professional to identify nutrition and health issues early to get your child’s health back on track.
I am sure it is no surprise to you that kids come in all shapes and sizes. Your child will have a pattern of growth that is unique to them. Even though your child may be heavier or lighter or taller or shorter, researchers have determined there is a predictable pattern that growth in height and weight occurs. The most important thing to remember when tracking your child’s growth on a growth chart is to look for patterns.
Growth charts display percentile curves that can be used to identify your child’s position of growth relative to other children of similar age and sex. For example, if your child’s weight is on the 85th percentile, it means that 85 of 100 children (85%) weigh less and 15 (15%) weigh more than your child. If your child has been following the 85th percentile over regular intervals over time this is very healthy if they continue to follow this trend. If however your child suddenly fell below the 85th percentile or alternatively accelerated abruptly to a much higher percentile it is good to discuss this change with your doctor. Significant changes in percentiles could be a sign of health or nutrition concerns.
Below is a chart of the various growth charts for girls, boys at various age groups. Suggested monitoring intervals are within 1-2 weeks of birth, at 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months, then once per year for children over 2 years and for adolescents.
|Birth-24 months||Length for age –|
Weight for age
|Head circumference –|
Weight for length
|2-19 yrs old||BMI (Body Mass Index)|
|Height for age –|
Weight for age
Source: Promoting Optimal Monitoring of Child Growth in Canada: Using the New WHO Growth Charts: A Collaborative Statement from Dietitians of Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and Community Health Nurses of Canada. 2010.
*Note: the growth charts above are not appropriate for very low birth weight infants (<1500g) or premature infants or children with special health care needs or medical conditions.
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