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Understanding Growth Charts

Understanding Growth Charts

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When you were discharged from the hospital after your baby’s arrival, you would have got immunization card with growth chart. Wondered what is growth chart is all about?

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

What is a Growth Chart?

A growth chart is an important tool for monitoring your child’s growth. It compares your child’s growth (weight, height and head circumference) against children of the same age.

Monitoring Growth in Indian Children

In India, the WHO charts are recommended for monitoring growth. These charts were developed using information obtained by measuring and weighing thousands of children. The average height and weight for each age and gender was established with the help of this information.

What Indicators of Growth are Measured in this Chart?

Until your baby is 3 years old, the following indicators are used to measure growth:

  • Weight - measured in grams or kilograms
  • Height/length - measured after making the child lie down. In children over 3 years, the height is measured while standing upright.
  • Head circumference - It is a measurement of the head size and is done by wrapping a measuring tape around the back of the child’s head above the eyebrows.

What does a Growth Chart tell you about Your Child’s Growth?

Your doctor will weigh and measure your child at every visit and plot your child’s measurement on the graph; the result is called as percentile. Percentile tells you how your child compares with others.

Growth chart will help you find out whether your child is developing at a healthy rate. This chart also provides an early warning if your child’s rate of growth is deviating from his/her normal pattern.

The growth charts are separate for boys and girls as they grow in different patterns and rates.

What is percentile?

Your doctor will weigh and measure your child at every visit and plot your child’s measurement on the graph. The doctor will see which percentile line (the coloured lines on the graph) does your child’s measurements fall on. At each visit you will know your child’s percentile.

Plotting measurements for subsequent visits, will give a curved line indicating growth pattern of your child.

The green line that is shown in the graph is the average or 50th percentile. The higher the percentile number, the bigger is your child compared with other kids of his or her age and gender; the lower the percentile, the smaller is your child.

Homemade foods, fortified cereals along with mother’s milk, stimulating environment and your loving care are needed to promote optimal growth in your child.

Let’s Understand Percentile with the help of an Example.

If a 2-year-old boy’s weight is in the 3rd percentile, it means that 3% of 2-year-old boys weigh less than he does and 95 % of boys of that age weigh more.
However, there is no ideal number. So being in a low or high percentile does not mean that your child is healthier or has a problem. For example, a child 
who is in the 5th percentile can be just as healthy as a child who is in the 95th percentile if he 
or she is continuing to grow along his or her pattern always.

If a child is smaller than average than also there is nothing to worry provided his or her parents are also smaller than average and there are other signs 
that the child is developing well and is healthy.

What could Indicate a Problem?

The following changes in your child’s growth pattern indicate a problem:

  • Your child’s height and weight percentile changes from the particular pattern it’s been following previously.
  • Your child is not getting taller at the same rate at which he or she is gaining weight.

Feel free to talk to your child’s doctor if you have any concerns about your child’s growth.

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