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Child Growth Charts Overview of Child Growth Charts and Percentiles

Overview of Child Growth Charts and Percentiles | Weight for Age Percentiles | Weight for Stature Percentiles | Stature for Age Percentiles | Head Circumference for Age Percentiles | Body Mass Index Percentiles


Overview of Child Growth Charts and Percentiles

First: Record your child’s body measurements

Record your child’s weight

For infants (less than 2 years)

Weigh your child using either a home pediatric scale (which is more accurate) or a regular bathroom scale. If you are using a home pediatric scale, your infant should be weighed naked but be careful to limit a newborn's exposure to a cold environment. If you do not own a pediatric scale, you can calculate your child's weight by holding your baby and standing on a bathroom scale. Write this number down; then stand on the scale without the child. Subtract the first number from this number, and you'll have your baby's weight.

For children (more than 2 years)

Once a child is able to stand erect and maintain balance, a pediatric scale is no longer necessary. Remove the shoes and as much clothing as possible. If you are tracking your child's weight, weigh the child at the same time each day, wearing the same type of clothing, using the same scale.

Record your child's height

For infants (less than 2 years)

You can use a simple tape measure to check your baby's length at home. To obtain a correct measurement, it will be necessary to lay your baby on his or her back. Position the baby's head against a wall. Holding the baby's knees together and pressing them gently, place a tape measure from the wall down to the infant's heels. It may be necessary to have one person hold the infant while another measures. Record the baby's length in inches or centimeters.

For children (more than 2 years)

Once a child begins to stand erect, measurements of length are more commonly referred to as height. Many different devices are available for measuring your child's height but the one that is most commonly used in the home is the wall-mounted growth chart. These charts are secured to the wall and the child is measured standing in front of the chart. Before measuring your child's height, remove the shoes. Ask the child to stand up straight with back against the chart, looking straight ahead. Place a ruler on top of the child's head and mark off the corresponding spot on the chart.

Record your infant's head circumference

The correct procedure for measuring your infant's head is to place the measuring device around the largest area of the head, beginning above the eyebrows and ears, and continuing around the back of the head. The technical term for this measurement is occipital-frontal circumference (OFC) and it is recorded in centimeters. When performed in the pediatrician's office, a stiff preformed tape-measuring device is used. It is also possible to obtain this measurement at home, using a non-stretch tape measure.

Second: Calculate your child’s measurement percentiles

There are 2 methods to calculate your child’s measurement percentiles

Growth charts

The measurements are plotted on standardized growth charts to see where your child falls in relation to other children. Growth charts are graphs that you can use to compare your child's growth to that of many other normal children. They are used to determine whether children are growing too fast or too slowly, or whether they are too thin or too fat, too short or too tall…etc..

Online Growth Calculators

You can assess and track your child's growth at home with the NetPediatrics online growth calculators, but it is important to be accurate at measuring your child otherwise a pediatrician should be consulted. Each calculator has 3 sections, the first for conversion of measurements from pounds to kg and from feet and inches to cm, the second to enter your child’s measurements and in the third at the bottom of the page you will find the results in percentiles. The following child growth calculators are available:

Infant's Body Measurement Percentiles Calculator

Children’s Body Measurement Percentiles Calculator

Children's Body Mass Index Percentiles Calculator

Children's Adult Height Prediction Calculator

Third: Interpretation of the results

What do these percentiles mean? How are they and interpreted? Are they normal or abnormal?

Percentiles are a way of relating your child's size to that of a normal population of the same age and gender. For example, if your 5-month-old is in the 60th percentile for height, that means that 40 percent of the 5-month-olds are taller and 60 percent are shorter.

Determining what is normal and what is abnormal, needs a specialist consultation, but you should know when to consult your physician. Generally talking, consult your physician if any measurement is less than the 5th or more than the 95th percentile or if it is crossing two major percentiles (in serial measurements), for example, going from the 80th percentile to the 40th (crossing the 75th and 50th percentiles).

This does not necessarily mean that your child’s growth is abnormal, but you should always discuss this with your physician. Most children grow at a fairly steady rate and hence do not cross percentiles. Percentiles can be crossed in an upward or downward direction. Often this is a sign that the growth pattern could be abnormal. Sometimes it is just a temporary change, for instance, when the baby is sick and not feeding well. There is one circumstance where crossing percentiles is normal during early childhood. This occurs when the child is born with a birth weight and size that are relatively small, but he or she has tall parents. To reach the genetic potential for height, the baby must cross percentiles. This occurs during the second year of life, after which time most children stay on their given percentile. The same circumstance can happen with a child who is large at birth but has small parents. In this case, the child's height will correct to a lower percentile, usually during the second year of life.

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Overview of Child Growth Charts and Percentiles | Weight for Age Percentiles | Weight for Stature Percentiles | Stature for Age Percentiles | Head Circumference for Age Percentiles | Body Mass Index Percentiles