I have heard many parents stress about the growth chart and about their baby “falling off the curve” or not gaining enough weight quickly enough. Even health care professionals get worried if their baby is falling from the 90th percentile to the 75th, then the 50th and so on. Older growth charts are based on the growth of formula fed babies. All growth charts before 2006 include babies that were not exclusively breastfed and that may have started eating solid foods before 6 months old. In 2006, the WHO (World Health Organization) released a revised growth chart that represents healthy breastfed babies throughout the world. Many doctors’ offices continue to use the older, pre-2006 growth charts. Talk with your Pediatrician about the growth chart he/she uses. The AAP and the CDC both recommend following the WHO growth charts for children ages 0-2, to avoid mislabeling infants as failure to thrive or underweight.
Healthy breastfed babies tend to gain more weight than formula fed babies in the first 2-3 months, then less rapidly from 3-12 months. When using the pre-2006 growth chart, this natural, less rapid growth (in the 3-12 month range) for the exclusively breastfed baby can sometimes be interpreted that baby isn’t eating adequately, when in fact it is that the baby’s growth measurements are being made against averages for the formula fed baby.
Remember that the growth chart isn’t a test and the 100th percentile isn’t the best score. If your baby is in the 98th percentile for weight that means that only 2% of babies that age are heavier than your baby. At the 50th percentile, 50% of babies are heavier than yours and 50% are lighter than yours. Genetics plays a part in your baby’s growth patterns too.
Look at the whole picture…
- How tall are other family members? What were the growth patterns of the parents? Genetics will play are part in the growth of your baby.
- Is baby meeting other growth and developmental milestones?
- Does baby show signs of adequate milk intake? Obvious swallowing while breastfeeding, 6 or more wet diapers and 4 or more soiled diapers per day after the 1st week?
- Is baby gaining weight and growing taller consistently even if not on the curve?
- Is baby alert, happy and active?
Healthy babies come in all shapes and sizes!