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Growth charts and your baby's first year
From the time your baby is born, her weight, length (height), and head circumference will be charted to make sure her growth is on track.
Growth charts show normal ranges for babies of the same age and sex and tell you what percentile your child is in. Fiftieth percentile means your baby's size is average. Anything lower means your baby is smaller than average. Anything higher means your baby is larger than average.
Remember that percentile ratings in a growth chart aren't like grades in school. Genes play a large role too, and numbers matter less than patterns.
Your doctor wants to see that your child follows a particular growth curve. She will check that your baby is gaining weight appropriately (no big dips, for example), and the doctor will keep an eye on his weight to make sure it isn't excessive for his length. An imbalance might indicate potential weight problems down the road.
But percentiles for weight, length, and head circumference may not match up, as bodies are not usually perfectly symmetrical.
It's also normal for a baby to have small spikes and dips in her growth. Illness or a change in eating habits can lead to slower growth, while a growth spurt will cause a spike.
And why does the size of your baby's head matter? Because the size of her skull reflects the growth of her brain.
But don't stress over these numbers too much. There's a wide range of healthy shapes and sizes among babies. What's most important is that your baby is making steady progress.
Video production by Steff Lee.