Your child's height and weight percentiles are important factors in determining your child's overall level of health. These percentiles allow you to compare a child's growth with the growth of other children of the same age and gender. They also allow you to chart a child's growth over time. Determining these percentiles will also help to determine your child's body mass index, another important health indicator that replaces the percentiles as your child matures.
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Take your child to the paediatrician. Although you can measure yourself and may choose to do so over time, it is important that you get a documented, medical checkup for your child. Ask the nurse to measure your child's height and weight if you are visiting during a time period that is not a normal check-up. Ask the nurse to provide you with a copy of the growth chart. The chart will show a graph with a dot for your child's height and weight.
Continue to have your child's height and weight charted. Compare your child's height and weight percentiles between doctor visits. Note any extreme differences between height and weight as this difference can mean that your child is gaining too much or too little weight.
Talk to your doctor if you notice a change in your child's growth pattern. Remember that no special percentile exists that indicates your child is healthy. A child in the fifth percentile can be as healthy as a child who is in the 90th percentile, depending on the children's growth over time. If your child is showing a growth pattern that is in the 10th percentile for height and weight over time that may not indicate a health problem, but rather a genetic growth pattern or simply that your child is smaller than most children that age. If your child's growth suddenly dips, this may be an indicator of a growth problem. Discuss any major changes with the paediatrician.
Determine your child's BMI. The American Academy for Pediatrics suggests that parents should determine their children's BMIs starting at the age of two. Remember that a child's BMI is used to assess whether your child is at a healthy weight, but can not be used alone to determine any type of growth problem. Use an online BMI calculator. Type in the child's height and weight. Read the information that follows to see where the child's BMI falls and whether or not this measurement is healthy.
Compare your child's BMI to the growth chart. The calculator device should show your child's charted BMI placed on the growth percentile chart. The Center for Disease Control usually considers a child that is under the fifth percentile underweight, a child in the fifth to 85th percentile at a healthy weight and a child over the 95th percentile obese. Contact your paediatrician if you feel that the BMI measurement indicates an unhealthy level for your child and to receive nutritional advice.
Tips and warnings
- Remember that a child's height and weight percentiles are only one of many factors that indicate overall health. Many factors can influence a child's height and weight including genetics, nutrition, level of physical activity and hormones. Discuss any concerns with a paediatrician.
- Do not get overly alarmed if a child's percentiles suddenly change. Puberty can have a dramatic change on a child's percentiles and weight may increase before height or vice versa.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Weight: Assessing Your Weight
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk
- Baby Center: Baby Growth Percentile Calculator
- Kids Health: Growth Charts
- AllNutrtionals.com: Body Weight and Height Percentiles Calculator for Children
- Disabled World: Height and Weight Percentile Chart Measurements