Pediatric Growth Charts

Pediatric growth charts are meant to track one child’s growth over time, not to compare children with each other.

You’re likely familiar with the standard annual weight and measure procedure followed by plotting on the growth chart for pediatric well visits. ⠀

The CDC growth charts (2000) are used for children age 2 to 20 and were developed using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 1963-1994. ⠀

The purpose of the growth chart is to track one child’s growth over time, based on the expected pattern of growth determined by population studies. Therefore, there is no right or wrong place to be on the growth curve. It is simply expected that one child will follow his own curve. That means that the child consistently tracking along the 5th percentile and the child consistently tracking along the 95th percentile are both right where they need to be. Body diversity is expected, normal and natural. How boring would the world be if we were all the same!? ⠀

When parents have concerns around their child’s body weight, the first thing I do is consult the pediatric growth chart. If the child is not following his/her curve and has jumped up to a higher percentile, a number of developmental factors that have nothing to do with eating could be at play: ⠀

  • the child is gaining weight in preparation for a growth spurt⠀

  • body weight is increasing in preparation for puberty ⠀

  • The female child is gaining weight in preparation for menses (a minimum body fat % is required for menstruation to occur). Menarche (the first menstrual period) may occur between age 9 and 16, with an average age ~12yo. ⠀

For a child that has fallen off his/her curb:⠀

  • Is the child restricting food?⠀

  • Is the child getting enough time to consume adequate meals? ⠀

  • Is there excess pressure to eat at mealtime?⠀

  • Are family meals the norm? ⠀

  • What has changed lately? ⠀

What questions do you have about pediatric growth? Download my tips to raise an intuitive eater: