Child Growth Charts: All Your Questions Answered

Kids are meant to grow up fast in the first decade of their lives. Although a child’s size will be largely influenced by their dominant genes, age-appropriate growth still applies. Growth will always vary slightly per child because of individual differences. To set a standard, child growth charts are freely available for anyone to use. But what is it exactly? And is it reliable enough?

At a Glance

  • The standard child growth charts provided by the CDC and WHO cover ages 0-20.
  • Parents can use the children’s growth size charts to get an idea about their child’s nutritional status in general; it may also help in the early detection of diseases that affect growth.
  • The growth size charts for children does not apply to those with special care needs or those with medical issues that affect growth; children with special care needs have their own growth charts.
  • Breastfed babies normally weigh more than the standard.
  • Do not be overly conscious or obsess about your child’s growth every month because each child grows differently. Use the tables as a guide and reference only.

What are child growth charts?

Standards are a must in the medical field. For healthcare providers around the world, following these standards help to identify possible anomalies or health issues. When it comes to a child’s growth, standards exist as well for the same reason. For a unified reference, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) created a standard child growth chart that even parents can use to monitor their kid’s proper growth.

However, like all other health charts, the reference developed for child growth should not be used as a diagnostic tool. These charts are only created to give healthcare providers a general clinical impression about a child’s physical development. Implemented since 1977, these charts have also been revised and updated through the years and is widely used by pediatricians and nurses around the world.

There are 2 standard child growth charts:

  • the WHO growth chart for 0 to 2 years old
  • the CDC growth chart for children 2 years old and above

Both charts use percentiles as indicators of growth based on a reference population. As a parent, looking at the chart for the first time can be easily confusing. But then again, that is why we have made this guide for everyone’s reference. First, let’s break down all the significant bits.

Dad measures growth of her child daughter at a wall

The importance of child growth charts

You will probably be asking, “why should I use a child growth chart?”. Well, let us enumerate the reasons:

  • A child’s growth is a general indicator of their overall health. This means any delays or excessive growth may indicate an underlying health problem.
  • Monitoring a child’s growth can help with the early detection of certain diseases.
  • Through early detection, medical issues can have a higher rate of being cured.
  • Standard charts eliminate the need for guessing between what is healthy and not.
  • Growth charts can also be used to indicate nutritional status such as malnutrition.

Child Growth Charty by Height, Weight, and Gender

The growth charts implemented by WHO and CDC are further organized into charts for each gender and age groups:

Infants, birth to 36 months, by gender:

  1. Data Table for Length-for-age 

Data Table for Weight-for-age

1.1 Percentile Chart For Boys 

1.2 Percentile Chart For Girls 

2. Data Table for Head circumference-for-age 

Data Table for Weight-for-length 

2.1 Percentile Chart For Boys 

2.2 Percentile Chart For Girls

Children and adolescents, 2 to 20 years, by gender:

  1. Data Table for Stature-for-age

Data Table for Weight-for-age 

3.1 Percentile Chart For Boys

3.2 Percentile Chart For Girls

4. Data Table for BMI-for-age

4.1 Percentile Chart For Boys 

4.2 Percentile Chart For Girls 

Preschoolers, 2 to 5 years

5. Data Table for Weight-for-stature

How to Use the Child Growth Charts:

You can download and print the corresponding data tables and percentile charts for your child’s gender and age for quick reference. Copies of these tables and charts are also available in pharmacies. If your child regularly sees their pediatrician from birth, you will probably have this already in the form of a card or booklet.

Percentile Charts – Use this to plot your child’s monthly measurements. Fill up the information first to identify which child it belongs to. The printed graph indicates a healthy growth, which should serve as a guide for you. Keep in mind, however, that your child does not need to have the exact points. As long as their growth is steady, you should be on the right track. Use the formula for BMI included in the data to calculate for your child’s BMI or Body Mass Index.

Data Tables – Refer to these tables to find out if your child’s growth is within the standard range. Lower percentiles mean your child is in the lower bracket of growth. For example, if their weight falls under the 5th percentile, that means they weigh similar to 5% of the population.

Note: Breastfed babies can be heavier than the standard, which is completely fine. Children with special health care needs also have their own growth chart. If your child has any genetic disorder, understand that there are chances of an altered growth process.

Are growth charts 100% reliable?

Child growth charts have limitations like other scientific data available out there. In general, however, these charts are reliable for all children unless they have health conditions that affect growth. Gender-specific charts also make the standards more reliable since it addresses the difference in growth progress between boys and girls. These charts also apply to all racial and ethnic groups.

When your child’s measurements do not comply with the charts

A minimal deviation from the standard should not be a cause for concern. However, if delayed growth persists for months, or if your child is always at the 5th percentile or lower, consider consulting with a pediatrician as soon as possible.

The Pros and Cons

While these charts are based on years of continuous scientific studies particularly by the CDC, there are still limitations that may be considered a negative for some. On the good side, however, the pros still outweigh the cons for the general population.

Pros:

  • Provides parents with a reliable reference that is used by professionals as well.
  • Allows parents to monitor the growth of their children right from home.
  • Creates a higher awareness among parents when it comes to their children’s health and growth.
  • May empower parents to take steps in maintaining child’s health at home.
  • Covers the larger population including all races.
Cons:

  • Does not readily address children with special needs and genetic disorders.
  • May not cover all cases, such as the expected heavier weights of breastfed babies.

Tips for Parents

  • Tip#1: Do not be overly conscious or obsess about your child’s growth every month because each child grows differently. Use the tables as a guide and reference only.
  • Tip#2: Pay more attention to your child’s nutrition, specifically what they eat every day, and the rest shall follow.
  • Tip#3: When your child can understand enough, involve them in the process by encouraging a healthy diet and calorie intake and commending growth progress.
  • Tip#4: If you have concerns, do not hesitate to talk to a doctor.
Child Growth Charts: All Your Questions Answered
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