Very few things mystify, perplex and worry parents as much as their baby's growth by percentile. Parents endlessly stare at charts and try to determine whether their baby's development is normal or if they are too short, too skinny or too heavy. Let's take a look at growth percentiles to see what they show us, how they can be helpful and clear up some popular misconceptions.
Doctors use paediatric growth charts to check how a baby's growth rate compares to other babies of the same age and gender. Beginning at birth, they plot the measurements on a chart and assign percentiles to this growth. For example, a baby who falls into the average category would be assigned 50 per cent weight and 50 per cent height.
Percentile comparison allows doctors to determine whether there might be an issue with a baby's health. If an infant suddenly drops off the chart in weight, it might indicate that he is having some type of underlying health problem that needs to be thoroughly examined.
Boys and girls are measured by different charts since their growth patterns tend to differ as are older children and those under 3. Head circumference is also plotted on another chart as are stature and weight when children are older.
Percentile growth is just one factor that doctors use to discern any type of medical or developmental issues in a baby or child. Patterns that fall outside the range of "normal" are not necessarily a concern if they are not accompanied by any other issues.
Having a low or high percentile of growth is typically not a problem if your baby predictably stays within the same percentile. Doctors become concerned when a baby's rate of growth "slips" or begins to deviate within the chart. There are certain ages when it is normal for a baby or young child to adjust her growth rate.