Your Baby’s Development

All parents want to hear the good news from their child’s pediatrician: “Your baby is healthy and growing well!” To make that determination, doctors check ears, eyes, nose, mouth, reflexes, spinal alignment, and more. But one particularly important tool for tracking your baby’s development is the standard growth chart.

What it is
Pediatricians use the World Health Organization’s (WHO) international growth chart to assess the progress of newborns to 2-year-olds. The chart shows the average height, weight, and head circumference of boys and girls at each month. When children fall within the expected range for their age, it’s generally a sign of good health. But if your baby doesn’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad news -- healthy children come in all shapes and sizes. Your doctor will be in the best position to determine how your child is growing and thriving.

After your child turns 2, your pediatrician will use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s growth charts to monitor growth through age 18.

How it works
At each well visit, your health care provider will track your baby’s height and weight on a percentile chart and tell you where she is compared to other babies her age. What would, say, 40th percentile mean? If there were 100 babies in the United States, your child would be taller than 39 of them and smaller than 59 others. Don’t get too caught up in comparisons with your neighbors, though -- the chart is just a way for doctors to uncover potential problems. If your baby is gaining weight, getting proportionally longer and growing at a steady pace, she’s likely doing great!

Good to know
The WHO charts are based on the growth of infants who are breastfed for at least four months, so your formula-fed baby may measure slightly differently. For example, healthy breast-fed infants tend to gain weight more slowly than formula-fed infants after about three months. However, it’s important to remember that the range of what’s considered normal is wide. What’s more, babies grow in fits and spurts, so the trend of overall growth is more important than the measurements taken at any one visit.

With every doctor visit comes the exciting news of hearing all about your baby’s growth and development. Cherish every minute with your little one -- she won’t be little for long!