Thursday, October 14, 2010

Three Things You Should Know About Growth Curves

When you go in for a well-child appointment, one of the most anticipated little bits of news is your child's current height and weight and where they fall "on the curve" or "on the chart". But, really, how much does this matter? Here are a few things to keep in mind while digesting that latest bit of information from your doctor...

  1. What matters most is consistency. While we parents of tiny preemies spend a lot of time in the early days just trying to get our babies ON the chart, the vast majority of children naturally fall somewhere between the 3rd and 97th percentiles. Babies in the 95th percentile are not necessarily any healthier than those in the 5th, nor are they necessarily overweight or obese. What doctors do not want to see is a baby who has consistently been in the 70th percentile suddenly plummet to the 30th or a baby who has always been in the 50th percentile jump up to the 85th.
  2. Height and weight do not need to fall in the same percentile. Babies are little humans and, as such, they have unique little bodies. There is a very wide range of normal- and healthy. My former micropreemie has, ever since she got ON the charts, fallen in the 3rd percentile for weight and just over the 25th for height. And that's fine. I have a niece who was, consistently, in the 85th percentile for height and 10th percentile for weight. That's just her normal. As long as she "stays the course", there's not likely much need for concern.
  3. It is the doctor's job to question and analyze significant changes. Try not to be offended if your pediatrician asks you questions about your child's diet or activity level. Take it in stride if you're asked to come back in a month or two for a follow-up check. The doctor isn't insinuating you're a bad parent- he's trying to make sure there's not a bigger reason for concern (like a metabolic issue, hormonal imbalance, or disease). If there ARE changes that need to be made in your child's diet or activity level, just consider yourself lucky that it's such an easy fix!

I am raising children who are all over the map, size-wise. My son is in the 90th percentile for weight and, because of that, I think of him as "big". In reality, he's just tall. His height is way over the 97th percentile. Those charts can mess with your head sometimes! I'm guilty of being eager to hear the news each time I go in... but I'm lucky to have had enough smart doctors that I don't fixate on it.

How about you? Do you look forward to or dread those details? Or do you just not care? Have you ever had any worries about your child's growth?

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