WHAT DO GROWTH PERCENTILES MEAN ANYWAYS?
As parents, we often talk about how much our children weigh and compare them to other children. We watch as our babies get bigger and outgrow their clothes, with great pride. They especially grow fast in their first year of life!
As a public health nurse, part of my daily duties is to measure the weight, height and head circumference of children. I take the measurements and plot them onto a growth chart and then discuss with parents their child’s percentiles.
Typically in life, higher percentages are often better right? Like when there is an awesome sale on shoes for 90% off…that’s great!! When we take a test, 100% is best mark you can get! When it comes to my baby, is 95 percentile best?
NO NO NO!!!
I hope I can clarify what we are measuring and why!
We measure your children at every vaccination appointment and your doctor will likely measure when your child goes for a visit. We take these measurements and plot them on a growth chart over time. Looking at the chart, it can be used as a tool to measure healthy growth and development.
So, as you may notice, there is a BOY growth chart, which is printed with blue ink, and a GIRL growth chart, which is printed with pink ink.
When we say that your baby girl is in the 25%ile for weight, this means that 25% of girl babies who are the same age, weigh less than her. It also means 75% (75 out of 100) girl babies who are the same age weigh more than her.
OH NO! Does that mean my baby is too small?
I want to emphasize that being on the 50%ile is not the ‘best size’ and not what we expect each child to be. Due to genetic differences, some children are made to be lighter, heavier, taller, or shorter than average.
What is most important is looking at growth patterns. For most children, they will plot consistently around the same percentile line, as they get older. What we are usually looking for on the chart is steady growth.
Usually you can get a copy of the growth chart for your records and to put into their baby book! Please visit your community health nurse or doctor if you have any concerns with growth of your little ones.
Both my boys are low percentile children but are happy and healthy. And that’s what’s most important!