Gender, genetics, hormones, environment, nutrition, physical activities, health issues, and several other factors determine the rate of a child’s growth. While most of these factors differ from family to family, each child is unique and grows at their own pace.
That brings us to some crucial questions – How do doctors understand whether a child’s weight and height growth is healthy? Whether the overall mental and physical development is on track or if there are any medical hindrances adversely affecting the kid’s growth? To answer such questions, doctors use charts for girls and boys that depict the average growth measurements of kids. Let’s take a closer look into child growth chart facts and how they can be great indicators of a child’s health.
Why Growth Charts?
Child growth charts are a standard and essential aspect of children’s regular check-ups. These charts indicate how a child is growing compared to other children of the same gender and age. Additionally, the growth charts help understand if growth is proportionate to age, since the chart illustrates a child’s height and weight changes/patterns over time. For instance, if a kid had the same growth pattern until say 3 years of age, and thereafter, suddenly starts slowing down in growth compared to other kids of the same age, it could indicate some issue that a doctor could assess by looking at the growth chart.
Different kids, different charts
For babies, one set of growth charts is used from birth going up to 3 years, and the next set is used for ages 3 and up. Special growth charts can be used for premature children or those with special needs.
Since boys and girls grow at a different pace and in very different patterns, they are measured on different growth charts as per gender.
Varying growth patterns
A varying growth pattern on a child’s chart need not necessarily be alarming. Growth charts are taken into consideration by doctors in sync with various other factors such as the kid’s genetic background, overall environment and well-being. Some questions that could come up here include:
What are the physical attributes of the child’s parents and siblings?
Are there any additional signs to show that the child is not healthy?
Are other essential and important developmental milestones being met?
Was the child born premature?
From birth to 36 months, doctors measure how much the baby weights, how tall he/she is, and the circumference of the head – This measurement is extremely important since it gives insights about the child’s brain development.
As children grow older, doctors measure body mass index (BMI) in addition to height and weight for age. Drawing comparisons in measurements over time gives a complete picture of the child’s overall growth and development.
Percentiles - illustrated as lines drawn in curved patterns on a growth chart - show a child’s growth compared to other children. When doctors plot height and weight on a child growth chart, they check the percentile line those measurements land at. Lower the percentile number, smaller is the child. Naturally, a higher percentile number translates to the child being bigger (in height and weight both) compared to others of the same gender and age.
Being in a low percentile does not certainly mean the child is smaller or has a weight problem. Other factors count, such as parents and siblings having a smaller build than average. If other signs show that the child is developing well and is healthy overall, doctors most likely will assure that there’s nothing to worry about.
Healthy kids come in all shapes and sizes and there’s no “ideal” number. A child in the top 10th percentile could be as healthy as another in the 95 percentiles, all factors considered.
These basic facts about child growth charts will give you some idea on how your child is developing physically as well as mentally. For further queries on your child’s growth and development, it is best to consult your paediatrician.