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Growth Charts

Growth charts are in the office of every pediatrician, family physician, and nutritionist. You’ve probably seen them, but not quite understood what everything means. How are these charts used? Do I need to check my child’s growth rate? Answer these questions and more by reading here about growth chart guidelines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) makes health recommendations for people of all ages around the world. They have a set just for children, focusing on the first years of life as a healthy foundation. Their growth charts are used around the world to track growth trends in children. This chart was just updated in 2007 with an important change included.

According to the WHO growth chart guidelines, breastfed babies are now considered the norm. Breastfed babies are leaner in general, and the WHO’s updated growth curve has changed to reflect this. The WHO recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Vaccinations and other good health habits should be practiced. They also advise pregnant women and mothers to avoid tobacco.

The WHO refers to something called the double burden of malnutrition. Highly processed foods have low nutritional value and a high caloric level. Eating this kind of food in large amounts contributes to obesity. Because of the cheap price, these foods are often bought by low-income families. When pregnant mothers eat this way, they deprive their growing fetuses of nutrients. This leads to low birth weight, a major factor in infant death.

It would not be unusual to see obese adults and older children in the same house as a malnourished baby. As these children grow older, they tend to consume lots of empty calories. This puts them at risk for becoming obese themselves. Unfortunately, family life patterns contribute to this cycle for many children at risk for obesity.

Growth chart guidelines are used by professionals for several important reasons. They are used to spot unhealthy growth and nutrition trends across populations. Practitioners and policymakers need updated information about the health of their communities. Information about growth rates help these professionals make an impact on maternal health, child mortality, poverty, and hunger in their regional area.

Doctors use growth chart guidelines in regular examinations to chart growth and weight gain in children. This is crucial in the early years of life for tracking the risk for obesity or malnourishment. When a growth rate problem is caught early, it is easier to put things back on track. Nutritionists who would help these families also use these guidelines to give recommendations and track progress.

The World Health Organization’s Child Growth Page is available through this link. As a parent, you can use the growth chart to learn more about how you child should be developing through age five. Remember that it is more important that your child follow a consistent growth curve, rather than aiming for a specific percentile. If you see something of concern, share this will your health care provider.

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