What is a growth chart and how do I read it?

Maria E. Rivera, MD MPH

The first three years of a child’s life are a time of tremendous growth! For the first two years of life it is important for you, your pediatrician, and Foublie Coach (if you have one!) to track your child’s weight, height, and head circumference. The tools health professionals use to do this is called a growth chart. As your child gets older it will also be important to track their Body Mass Index, or BMI. We’ll take this on later.

So first, how do you read it? There are different charts for different ages. Here we go over how to read the chart for months 0 to 3.

 

Step 1: First find your child’s age

Growth charts are divided in those for kids less than 2 and for kids greater than 2 years.

Let’s say you have a 6 month old, first look at the bottom of the grid, follow it from left to right and find 6 months. 

picture of a growth chart

Step 2: Go to the right side of the grid

Then, look at the left side of the grid. This graph is in both kilograms and lbs. Let’s say your 6 month old is 20 lbs. The circles on the growth chart here show you where to go.

 

Step 3: Connect the dots on the growth chart

Next, follow the line up from their age, to meet the line across of their weight.

Step 4: Read the percentile

You’re doing great! Now, follow the line where the two cross to figure out what percentile of weight that is for a 20lb six month old. In this case it meets at the 90th percentile!

You then follow the same method for length, head circumference, and BMI.

 Got it! I want to plot my own growth chart, what do I do?

Step 1: Get the right growth chart

FIRST you should know there are different growth charts for different kids (yeah its super confusing I know). The first thing you have to consider: Is my child a special case? For example: were they a premature infant or do they have Downs Syndrome or other genetic syndrome? If the answer to any of these is yes- they may have their own special growth chart! Find that one. If your child doesn’t have any medical problems, then you can use the following:

  Height and Weight Weight for Length/BMI Head Circumference
Boy Age 0-24mo Download Here Download Here
Boy Age 2y-20y Download Here Download Here N/A
Girl Age 0-24 mo Download Here Download Here
Girl Age 2y-20y Download Here Download Here N/A

 

Step 2: Read and watch trends 

THEN you want to interpret the percentiles and most importantly observe trends.

Let’s look at weight growth charts made by the CDC to explain percentiles. The CDC took a survey of many many kids of the same age to come up with averages to create a growth chart. The 40th percentile means that 40% of all the kids surveyed at that age have a lower weight than those kids at the 40th percentile, and 60% have a higher weight. It is really really hard as a parent to not worry about the percentile numbers. However, remember there have to be kids in every percentile! For example, if your child is in the 3rd percentile when they are born, and continue to be on the 3rd percentile as they turn two months, 4 months, 6 months and are known to be eating ok and not have any medical problems- they are ok being at the 3rd percentile!

Pediatricians and other health care professionals will look for TRENDS in your child’s growth chart. One single point in time is not very valuable.

You can ask your pediatrician to print out your child’s growth chart when you are there! 

 

Want some more help with growth charts?

Connect with a Foublie coach. These nutrition experts are here to help you out.

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