Is My Child Too Small? Here’s A Guide to Your Baby’s Growth Chart

Is My Child Too Small? Here’s A Guide to Your Baby’s Growth Chart

Happy parents watching their baby crawl on floor at home

The first 12 months of your baby’s life is a period of amazing growth. By the time she smudges her face with her first birthday cake, she probably has tripled her birth weight and has grown about 10 inches. This development may be hard to notice on a day-to-day basis. But you will see the proof at her well-baby check-ups. Your doctor will closely monitor your baby’s weight, height, and head circumference to make sure she is growing at a healthy rate. Meanwhile, you will probably have questions about how your child is doing and how she compares with other babies her age.


Weight Gain

Cute little baby lying on scales at home


You will remember your baby’s birth weight forever, but in reality, it is temporary. Newborns lose up to 10 per cent of their weight in the first several days. After that, a healthy infant will gain half an ounce a day (a pound or so a month) for the first six months, then she will slow down a bit.


Preterm babies grow more slowly and do not catch up until age two. Initially, breastfed babies may not put on weight quite as quickly as formula-fed ones. Many mothers produce very little milk when they start nursing, but it is okay because early milk is rich and babies arrive with fat reserves to hold them over. If your doctor thinks your baby is not gaining weight at a good rate, she may weigh her before and after a feeding. If she is not getting enough to eat, you may need to give her supplemental formula.



Plotting the Growth Chart

At each check-up, your paediatrician will plot your baby’s statistics on growth charts that assess how much she has grown compared with other children. For example, an infant who is in the 15th percentile for weight is heavier than 15 percent of babies the same age.


Some parents view growth charts as if they were grades in school — they want their children to fall above the 90th percentile. However, you should not think of them that way. Like adults, babies come in all sizes, and there is a wide range of normal. What paediatricians look for is whether a child stays around the same percentile from one visit to another, not where she is on the curve.



My Baby looks Chubby!

A baby in a striped shirt lies shocked on the white carpet.


You should expect your baby to be rounder by the middle of her first year. Your baby will probably get the feeding thing down but has not started moving much. Once she begins to crawl, she will probably thin out. But if your child’s weight is creeping up the charts while her height stays at the same percentile, it could be a cause for concern.


A recent study found that children whose weight gain outpaces gains in length in the first six months have a 40 per cent risk of being obese by the time they are three years of age. In that case, the paediatrician may suggest that you watch her portions and that you make sure you are giving her food for nutrition, not comfort.



Growth Spurt

Baby sleeping in co-sleeper crib attached to parents' bed


Your baby may be going through a growth spurt, which paediatricians say some, but not all, babies have. The growth spurts often happen at roughly two weeks, six weeks, and again around four months. Here are some of the signs to look for.

  • Your baby’s appetite is insatiable.
  • Your baby is fussier than usual and she wakes up more often for feedings.
  • Your baby takes longer naps during the day to make up for the sleep she is losing at night. After all, sleep is absolutely essential for growth. Studies show that babies release 80 percent of growth hormone during sleep.



Does my Baby’s Size have any Bearing on her Adult Stature?

The above is a common question paediatricians hear. The answer, in most cases, is ‘No’. Several factors affect a person’s ultimate height, including nutrition, health habits, and, of course, genetics. Tall parents tend to produce tall kids, and short parents have small kids. If one parent is tall and the other one is short, all bets are off. So who knows? Your tiny infant could very well grow up to be a statuesque adult.



Baby’s Head Circumference

Doctor examining baby on scales in room


An infant’s head grows four to five inches in circumference during the first year. As with babies’ other stats, there is a lot of variation in size, but what doctors look for is a steady increase. Head circumference is a pretty fair indicator of brain growth. The main thing that makes the head get bigger is the brain growing under it. Tracking head size lets doctors know that nothing is hindering the brain growth, such as fluid build-up or pre-mature closure of the skull bones (a condition that requires surgery to correct).



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