Takes the confusion out of reading a growth chart

Have you ever taken your child to the pediatrician and looked at the growth chart and thought, “It looks like the controls of an airplane, I do not know how to fly”?

There is no shortage of potentially confusing information when it comes to your child’s health. But understanding your child’s growth patterns does not have to be one of the confusing parts. Asma Khan, DO, an OSF HealthCare pediatrician, breaks down how to remove the confusion by reading a growth chart.

Selecting your chart

First things first: Find the right chart. Start by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for a series of growth charts.

If you live in the United States, you’ll probably be looking at charts for the 5th and 95th percentile. This chart is widely used by pediatricians.

Second, decide if you need a chart for a boy or girl.

“Girls and boys have different growth charts because they grow in different patterns and at different speeds,” said Dr. Khan.

Then choose the chart that fits your child’s age group.

“In children born up to 36 months, we measure weight, height and head circumference. In children aged 2 years and older, we look at height, weight and body mass index (BMI), “said Dr. Khan.

Then choose which measurement you want to find.

Want to know your child’s weight and length percentiles? Select the length-for-age and weight-for-age chart. Want to know your child’s perimeter perimeter? Select the head circumference-for-age chart.

Finally, you are left with some basic preferences. There are English, French and Spanish options. You can also choose whether you want to see the chart in color or black and white.

Reads the lines

Now you are ready to find your child’s goals.

Download our “how to” guide.
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Age is at the top and bottom of the chart, and length and weight are along the left and right sides. The curved lines show the percentile numbers or the growth patterns.

The percentage means that your child’s growth exceeds that percentage of other children their age. If your child is in his 75sth percentile for weight, this means that your child weighs more than 75% of children of the same age.

It does not matter if your child is measuring at a low or high percentile. It only means that your child is following the curved lines, indicating that your child is growing healthy over time.

To find your child’s growth percentage, follow these simple steps described by Dr. Khan.

  • Step 1: Find your child’s age at the bottom of the grid. Draw a vertical line (up and down) at this point.
  • Step 2: Find your child’s weight on either the right or left side of the grid. Draw a horizontal line (side to side) at this point.
  • Step 3: Draw a dot where the two lines intersect.
  • Step 4: Find the curve that is closest to that dot. Follow the line of the curve up. Go all the way to the end. The number at the end of the curve is your child’s percentile ranking for weight. Your answer will be at the end of that curve.
  • Repeat: Find your child’s length on each side of the grid. Draw a horizontal line (side to side) at this point. Find the intersection of your child’s height and age.

Knowing what is healthy

“Being in a high or low percentile does not necessarily mean that a child is healthier or has a growth or weight problem,” said Dr. Khan.

The percentage is not the most important thing your child’s pediatrician is looking for. They just want to know that your child is growing at a healthy pace.

“There is no ideal percentile. Healthy babies come in all shapes and sizes, and a baby who is in the 5th percentile can be as healthy as a baby who is in the 95th percentile,” said Dr. Khan .

The pediatrician is the leading source for tracking your child’s health and growth. If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s weight or height, your child’s pediatrician will have all the answers.

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