Understanding growth charts

In order to work out whether a baby is gaining weight in a healthy way, the World Health Organisation and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health growth charts were developed. There are 2 different ones. One for boys and one for girls.

It’s not about baby being healthier if they are heavier, it’s about following the growth line (called a centile) to see whether the weight gain is steady. It’s not helpful to compare your baby with other babies when it comes to weight. We are all different. Our babies are all different.

So what are we looking for?

Say for example when your baby was born you plotted their weight on the chart* and found they were on the line which said 25th, you want them to continue to grow along the 25th centile. It’s not a big problem if they drop a bit or go up a bit but they need to grow along whichever centile they get to rather than keep jumping up or down the centiles. Weighing them monthly can help you to keep an eye on their weight. If you are concerned, speak to your health visitor or GP and they may suggest weighing more regularly.

It is common when baby starts solids for them to change the centile (the line) they are following. The important thing is that they find a line and stick to it roughly as they grow. Their weight gain naturally slows around 5-6 months old but the growth line (centile) will guide you as to what a healthy weight gain is. If they drop the centiles at repeated weighing sessions, it might be an indicator that they are not getting the right nutrients. If they go up the centiles at repeated weighing sessions, it might be an indicator that they are having too much food or milk.

As ever, it’s also important to look for signs of health as well as weight. Things like plenty of wet and dirty nappies, baby is alert and active, and generally seems well. If you have any concerns, seek advice.

* find the age of the baby along the bottom of the chart and use your finger to go up to where your baby’s weight is. The line they are nearest to on the chart is their centile

This article does not replace individualised medical advice.

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