Infant Growth Patterns
When a baby is healthy and is eating and sleeping well, many dads next focus on how well their baby is growing. Is he keeping up with other kids his age? What are his percentiles on the growth charts? Is he too big or too small? For kids with medical problems, the concerns about growth can be even stronger.
Normal Growth Expectations
No matter how big or small a baby is at birth, most dads expect that he will quickly grow into a big, bouncing, bundle of joy. But how big will he get? And how quickly will he get there? Although growth patterns vary from child to child, you can expect that your infant will:
Regain his birth weight by two weeks and then gain one and one-half to two pounds a month
Gain about one pound a month beginning at three months
Double his birth weight by five months
Triple his birth weight by twelve months
Grow about ten inches in his first year, although he won't double his birth height until he is three to four years old
And you can expect that a baby's head will grow about four inches in his first year. However, keep in mind that your baby may grow a little slower or faster than these averages.
Infants can grow normally in many different ways. A baby's growth can be normal at either the 5th percentile or 95th percentile. It can even be normal if your child is changing percentiles early on. Failing to gain weight or to grow taller are more reliable indicators of poor growth in early infancy than your baby's percentile ranking.
Your baby's weight at birth and his very early growth both usually represent conditions during your partner's pregnancy. After a few months, genetics often take over.
At this time, a big baby born to small parents will often slow down in his growth, while a small baby born to big parents might grow more quickly and move up on his growth charts.
Growth Charts and Percentiles
An important part of your baby's well-child visits to his pediatrician is recording his height, weight, and head circumference on a growth chart. It's common for parents to get confused trying to understand these growth charts.
Keep in mind that the 50th percentile represents the average child. But whether they are above or below the 50th percentile does not indicate how well or poorly they are growing. By definition, one-half of kids are below that percentile, and one-half are above it. So kids at the 5th, 25th, and 95th percentile can all be growing normally.
What do those numbers mean then? Well, a child at the 5th percentile is bigger than 5 percent of kids at the same age. Likewise, a child at the 95th percentile is bigger than 95 percent of kids.
Parents are often more concerned about percentiles than pediatricians are. Since the percentile doesn't really indicate whether a child is growing normally, pediatricians look more to the fact that a child is staying at the same percentile or growth curve. Steady growth along a growth curve is usually the best indication that a child is growing normally.