Track Your Baby's Growth

You can track your child's growth using the growth charts. The yellow checkbook contains charts for girls and for boys. On the first page, some parents' data is used as a guide, followed by percentile curves for weight, height, and growth rate. The head circumference is also measured regularly.

In the yellow issue you will also find:

  • The results of the ten child examinations as well as the results of other examinations.
  • Notes on the child's growth

The current results are entered in the notebook at each visit to the doctor (DH 2009). You should always have it with you, in case you have to go to another pediatrician.

The vaccination certificate is not integrated in the yellow issue, it is often placed in the cover fold in the back.

How is my baby's growth measured?

When you go to one of the doctor's checkups, your baby is weighed, his height and circumference measured. It is also possible that new development milestones will be queried or reflexes tested (RCPCH 2009a).

The measuring points are entered in the yellow booklet in the tables. The points can be linked together to give your child's personal growth and weight curve (RCPCH 2009b).

  • The weight of your baby is checked and recorded at each visit to the doctor because that is the best control of whether your child is thriving. Continuous weight gain gives you the assurance that the diet is right and your baby is in good health (RCPCH 2009b).
  • Your baby's head circumference is measured regularly, but not necessarily on every exam. If the head grows too fast or too slow, this is a sure sign of a medical or developmental problem (RCH 2013, RCPCH 2009b).
  • Your baby's body length is measured at each screening exam. If it looks like your baby is gaining too much or too little weight then it can also be used to determine if the proportions are right (RCPCH 2009a).

Girls and boys have different tables (NHS Choices 2013). Prematures and babies with certain chromosomal abnormalities also have their own tables (DH 2009, Willacy 2013).

To get a feel for your baby's growth, look at the yellow booklet and look for the following:

  • How often do you feed your baby?
  • How fast does it grow out of his clothes?
  • When will it reach its development milestones?
  • Is your baby happy, alert and comfortable?

What can I read from the growth charts?

The growth charts are designed to provide a long-term overview and comparison with other babies of the same age and gender (RCPCH 2009b, Willacy 2013).

growth charts can:

  • give you confirmation that your baby is growing as you expect.
  • Show nutritional problems.
  • show if your baby is growing fast or slow.
  • in good time if certain health problems crop up (RCPCH 2009b).

Creating a growth chart is not a test you pass or fail. There is also no curve your baby needs to reach to be healthy (ABA 2014).

Your doctor uses the growth graphs to:

  • to see if your child is continually gaining weight and height
  • to monitor if your child is growing too fast. This could mean that he later becomes overweight (Dietitians of Canada 2014, NCT 2010, Crawley and Westland 2013).

The percentiles are compiled on the basis of child data from German statistics (CDC 2010, de Onis et al 2004).

Growth charts are a useful support, but they are not all-inclusive. They can not detect diseases or diagnose specific health problems. And they can not include all the factors that affect your child's growth. Sometimes statistics may also include misjudged baby measurement data and sometimes it may not be possible to identify babies in need of special support (NSW Health 2014, Willacy 2013).

Some parents, as well as physicians, find that experts are often too faith-ful and rely more on the baby's condition and physique when diagnosing than on weight (Healthtalk Online 2013).

What do the curves in the growth charts mean?

The curves in your baby's growth charts are called percentiles. They represent the statistical data of German children of the same age and gender, which are considered to be normally developed. The different curves show what percentage of the children belong to this category on average.

Each of the growth tables has seven curves:

  • the 3% percentile
  • the 10% percentile
  • the 25% percentile
  • the 50% percentile (the average of all children of the statistics used) (RCPCH 2009b)
  • the 75% percentile
  • the 90% percentile
  • the 97% percentile

Let's say your baby's weight is on the 25% curve, then it means 25% of babies weigh less than their baby, and 75% of babies weigh more than that (Willacy 2013).

Any weight measurement between the 3% curve and the 97% curve is considered normal (RCPCH 2009a, Willacy 2013). In practice, it can be seen that the growth of your baby depends on many factors.There are no two babies whose growth history is identical. So do not feel tempted to compare your baby's charts with those of other babies.

Your baby's curve will probably be in the same range during the observation period, but rarely on any given percentile (NHS Choices 2013). It is also perfectly normal for your baby's curve to sometimes move between percentiles (ABA 2014).

It becomes noticeable when your baby's curve crosses two percentiles. This indicates a problem. Your doctor will then ask you about the feeding habits and examine your baby. This is absolutely necessary because your child then either grows too fast or too slowly (RCPCH 2009a).

It's understandable that it upsets or frightens you. But there is no reason for that for the time being. Most babies who go through these stages have no health problems. The causes are usually easily solvable.

How do I know if my baby is growing normally?

On the one hand, you can keep track of the growth charts as well as your eating habits and your behavior and general condition.

Babies who grow normally:

  • drink regularly
  • ""ask"" for their meal when they are hungry
  • look full and happy after the meal
  • are basically happy, alert and ready to play
  • reach their milestones (Healthtalk Online 2013)
  • have a healthy skin color
  • have six to eight wet diapers a day (if they are older than five days) (ABA 2014, Healthtalk Online 2013)

When Whenever you are worried about your baby, do not hesitate to contact your doctor or midwife. You will weigh and measure your baby and provide you with the necessary support.

Sources

ABA. 2014. Baby weight gains . Australian Breastfeeding Association.

CDC. 2010. WHO Growth Standards Are for Infants and Children 0 to 2 Years of Age . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.

Crawley H, Westland p. 2013. Infant milks in the UK: A practical guide for health professionals . London: First Steps Nutrition Trust.

de Onis M, Cutberto G, Victora CG, et al. 2004. The WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study: Planning, study design, and methodology. Food & Nutrition Bulletin . 25 (1): -26S (12).

de Onis M. 2011. New WHO child growth standards catch on . Bulletin of the World Health Organization Past issues. 89: 4. 241-316.

DH. 2009. Using the new UK-World Health Organization 0-4 years growth charts . London: Department of Health.

Dietitians of Canada. 2014. Is my child growing well? Questions and Answers for Parents.

Healthtalk Online. 2013. Breastfeeding: monitoring baby's growth .

NCT. Of 2010. How can I tell if my baby's thriving? NCT information sheet. London: National Childbirth Trust.

NHMRC. 2012. Infant Feeding Guidelines . Information for health workers. Commonwealth of Australia. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.

NHS Choices. 2013. Your baby's screening pattern . NHS Choices, Health A-Z.

NSW Health. 2014. My personal health record . New South Wales Government, Australia.

RCH. 2013. Child growth and growth charts in the early years. Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne.

RCPCH. 2009a. Understanding growth charts: what they tell you about your child's growth . UK-WHO Growth Charts - Fact Sheet for Parents. Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health.

RCPCH. 2009b. What are growth charts and why do we need them? UK-WHO Growth Charts - Fact Sheet 1. Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health.

Willacy H. 2013. Centile charts and assessing growth . Patient UK.

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