Feature Archive

Growing Pains: What Baby Growth Charts Really Mean

Growing Pains: What Baby Growth Charts Really Mean

WebMD Feature

Parents are a competitive bunch. So when the pediatrician whips out a growth chart and ranks baby's height and weight in percentiles, it's easy to wonder if something's wrong.

Tenth percentile? Something must be stunting his growth. The 95th percentile? Omigod, she's huge, so much bigger than the neighbor's little bundle. Many breast-feeding moms worry needlessly -- and even give up on the breast -- because their babies fall in the low percentiles for several months compared to bottle-fed tots. (The breast-feeders catch up later and have fewer health problems in the long run.)

But growth percentile rankings aren't meant to pit your kid against the neighbor's; they're designed to help doctors ferret out potential health or growth problems. No matter where your child fits on the chart, the important thing is that height and weight are proportional, and that growth progresses at a fairly steady pace over time.

The Yellow Springs Standard

"One mark on a growth curve means nothing," says Tampa, Fla., pediatrician F. Lane France, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "You're more interested in the trend. You'd like to see them at a certain percentile and then stay along the curve."