One of the most common worries for parents is whether or not their children are growing and developing at a healthy and normal rate.
Doctors often use growth charts and body mass index (BMI) charts to help track the child’s progress and to be sure that they are within the normal range.
Not only are these charts helpful for doctors, but they can be a great reassurance for worried parents.
Growth charts were developed by tracking the heights and weights of literally thousands of children to establish a norm.
At their check ups, babies and children are weighed and measured and then the doctor will compare their statistics against those of children the same age. Children are then ranked according to percentiles.
For example, a child who is in the 60th percentile for height is taller than sixty percent of other children the same age and shorter than forty percent.
There are separate charts for height and weight and especially as they grow, the statistics vary for boys and girls.
Many factors can contribute to a child’s growth and paediatricians look for an overall pattern to analyse the progress and development of each individual child.
If a troubling pattern begins to emerge, it will alert the doctor to look for an underlying cause.
For example, if a baby ranks in the 65th percentile for weight at six months, drops to the 35th percentile by 9 months, then to the 20th percentile at one year, the doctor may want to keep a close eye on nutritional and other factors than may be contributing for the decline.
Although children almost always experience some variances in their growth pattern, there is usually a quick rebound to their previous position on the charts.
If a child continually becomes heavier than his peer group, doctors may advise the parents to monitor the child’s diet and activity level to be sure that a healthy weight is maintained.
Overweight children experience difficulties, both physical and emotionally, so helping them to head off possible problems early on is wise.
Additionally, overweight children are at risk of become overweight adults, so it is best to approach the problem and establish healthy habits in childhood.
Being underweight can also be a problem for growing children. In babies and very young children, paediatricians look for a failure to thrive when growth is consistently under that of other children of the same age or when a baby loses ground in growth.
Since there can be a wide variety of causes for slow growth, from simple to serious, the use of growth charts provides a valuable tool in helping keep children healthy.
BMI charts measure the body mass index. To get your child’s BMI number, your paediatrician will enter the statistics for height, weight, age and gender.
From there, the figure will be compared to that of other children of the same age. Parents can then quickly determine whether their child is underweight or overweight.
If a child is not within the normal range, whether underweight or overweight, the parents can work with the doctor to determine the cause and decide on treatment, if advised.
Although the variances are most often attributed to diet and exercise habits or simple genetics, some growth problems can indicate illness or infection, so a thorough follow up is advised.
This is especially true for children who seem to be developing a trend for either gaining or losing percentile rankings.
If you have any concerns about your child’s growth and development, the best thing to do is to schedule a consultation with your child’s paediatrician.
They can help to assess not only your child’s place on charts, but also their overall health and fitness level.