Growth curves: what they are and how to read them

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Catherine Le Nevez
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Growth curves

Is the child growing regularly? Is he a weight and height appropriate to his age? Is he perhaps skinny? Or low? Or too chubby? Pediatricians ensure that physical development takes place satisfactorily, thus signaling good general health, using the growth curves. But what are they and how are they used?

In this article

  • What are growth curves
  • How percentile diagrams are constructed
  • What the percentiles indicate
  • How much does genetics affect growth
  • 3 rules for good growth
  • How to understand if the child is growing well

What are growth curves

Growth curves are graphical representations that allow you to compare the weight and height of a single child with the weight and height of other children of the same age to determine if their growth is normal. These curves identify the so-called "percentiles"and the percentiles define the range of growth considered acceptable at a given age.

This range goes from the 3rd to the 97th percentile, that is, it covers a wide range of possibilities, but it could not be otherwise given that there are no absolute values ​​for an "ideal weight" and an "ideal height". The growth curves they are periodically renewed and updated by commissions of experts, as the growth trend of the infant population undergoes changes with the passage of time.

Read also: Calculate your child's percentiles online

How percentile diagrams are constructed

I Percentile diagrams are constructed like this: 1000 children of the same age are "cataloged" in increasing order of both weight and height, and then divided into 100 groups, each of which is made up of 10 children. Each group of 10 represents one centile and corresponds to 1 percent of the infant population of that particular age.

What the percentiles indicate

In the first centile there are children with the most modest dimensions, in the last the more robust and taller children. Most babies are in the 25th to 75th percentile, so that's it "medium" range. However, both a height and a weight that lie between the 3rd and 97th percentiles are considered normal.

Children who are over one of the two thresholds in terms of weight and height or both should undergo pediatric checks more frequently than other children because they may have a problem. For example, a weight above the 97th percentile is a sign of overweight, a weight below the 3rd percentile indicates one poor growth, which is almost always linked to familiarity (mom and dad thin and minute) or to a low birth weight, more rarely to nutrition. However, it is up to the pediatrician to decide when it is appropriate to carry out more in-depth investigations.

Percentile diagrams help to understand not only if the growth rate is correct, but also if the body is developing harmoniously. The latter condition is confirmed by the proportion between height gain and weight gain.

How much does genetics affect growth

Two children of the same age can have significant differences in height and weight, with the same perfect health conditions and harmonious growth trend. It all depends on genetics which, especially in relation to height, plays a role of great importance.

In fact, it is unlikely that the child of two short parents could become as tall as a peer who has a mother and father with opposite characteristics, without this being the expression of a growth problem. It is true, however, that the stature of the parents alone is not enough to determine that of the child, since even grandparents and uncles, who in turn can be very tall or very short, can influence it. In general, throughout the first year of life, height gain is not as important as weight gain. In fact, it is mainly from the weight gain that the pediatrician judges the growth trend.

Calculate online how your child is growing

See also the tool that calculates the height of the child based on the height of the parents. Click here And the online service for calculating growth curves. Click here

3 rules for good growth

In relation to height, every child has a genetically determined growth goal, which a wrong lifestyle could hinder. On the other hand, there are habits that can favor the achievement of the goal decided by nature. Here's what they are:

  • opt for breastfeeding at least up to six months of life. Don't overdo the protein when weaning. For example, do not give more than half a jar of homogenized meat a day and do not associate meat or fish with cheese.

  • in the evening, put the child to bed by nine thirty, to ensure a number of hours of sleep adequate to the needs which, in infancy, is more or less equivalent to ten hours a night

  • from weaning onwards, ensure the child a varied, well-balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, low in animal fats, simple sugars, proteins

  • organize the child's life in such a way as to offer him the opportunity to run, jump, move freely. Make him play often outdoors, preferably away from traffic.

How to understand if the child is growing well

Here is the easiest way to get an idea of ​​your child's growth trend. As a guideline, everything is fine if:

  • in the first trimester of life, weight gain should be at least 125 grams per week or at least 500 grams per month
  • at six months of age, birth weight should have doubled
  • at one year of age, birth weight should have tripled
  • from 2 to 9 years of age the average weight corresponds to the age of the child multiplied by two (at 9 the average weight is 18 kilos)

Advice from Dr. Marco Grana, family pediatrician in Pavia

  • growth curves
  • what are growth curves
  • child growth
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