A growth chart is a tool that is used by pediatricians to follow a child’s growth over time. They are developed by observing the growth and development of healthy children over time. This makes it possible to compare the growth of your child with the expectations of children of the same age and sex to determine whether your child is growing appropriately.
Why is the growth chart important?
- It is an essential educative tool for a child’s healthcare
- It is an indicator of the child’s nutritional and health status
- It allows you to detect early changes in a child’s growth
Growing too fast or too slow may give parents a clue about their child’s nutritional or other health problems.
What do growth charts measure?
Here are the main things that will be measured with the growth chart:
- Measuring the weight
- Measuring the head circumference
- Measuring the chest circumference
- Measuring the length of a non-walking child
- Measuring the height of a walking child
How to measure
The process of measuring these parameters is called growth assessment. The healthcare provider will measure each item on each well-child visit.
From the age of 2, the child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) will also be calculated. The BMI is used to estimate your child’s body fat.
Formula for BMI (Body Mass Index) = Mass (kg) / height2 (m)
Each measurement is placed on the growth chart and compared with the standard range of measurements from children of the same sex and age.
How to understand a growth chart
The measurements on the growth chart can make some parents anxious about whether or not their children are developing as they should. Here are some things to keep in mind as you look at the growth chart:
- The measurements are not 100% accurate. For example, the baby can squirm on the scale, leading to mistakes in the measurement
- One measurement is not enough to paint the whole picture. Babies can lose and gain weight rapidly, for example, because of an illness
- The range for “normal” is very wide and should not be a cause for alarm unless the doctor says so
- The measurements do not predict whether the child will grow to be tall, short, fat, or skinny
The following changes in your child’s growth chart may be cause for alarm:
- When the child is below the 10th percentile or above the 90th percentile for their age
- When the head is growing too slowly or too quickly over time
- When the measurements are not staying close to one line on the graph. For example, is the baby is in the 75th percentile at 6 months, 25th percentile at 9 months, and 10th percentile at 12 months.
Once all the information has been gathered and plotted on the chart based on gender, you can present the growth chart to your child’s doctor to discuss the assessment.
References: MyHealth (Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia)