Graphing growth ... Charts are used to measure the weight, height and head circumference of babies and toddlers as they age.

Graphing growth ... Charts are used to measure the weight, height and head circumference of babies and toddlers as they age.

Growth charts are widely used by paediatricians and child development experts to track and compare a child's height and weight against the World Health Organization standards for babies and children.

Many growth charts, including the interactive growth charts for babies and toddlers on Essential Baby, plot your child’s growth against a series of percentile curves. The curves illustrate the distribution of selected body measurements in children at different ages amongst the population. They have been used around the world since the 1970s.

Not every child can be ‘average’, so it makes sense that some will be bigger and some will be smaller 

Understanding the graph curves
The percentile shows how your infant's development in height or weight compares to other infants. This percentile tells you what percentage of babies weigh less or are shorter than your baby.

In this chart, the baby's weight is depicted by the blue circle sitting on the 85th percentile. This means the baby is heavier than 85 per cent of babies his age, while another 15 per cent weight more than him.

In this chart, the baby's weight is depicted by the blue circle sitting on the 85th percentile. This means the baby is heavier than 85 per cent of babies his age, while another 15 per cent weight more than him.

For example, out of a sample of 100 babies, a percentile value of 60 per cent means your baby weighs more/is taller than more than 60 babies, while another 40 babies weigh less/are shorter than yours. A percentile of 50 per cent represents the average or mean weight/height.

A value below 50 per cent means a baby weighs less or is shorter than the average child of that age.

Is my child overweight or underweight?
All children develop at a different rate - not every child can be ‘average’, so it makes sense that some will be bigger and some will be smaller!

A value greater or lower than 50 per cent doesn't mean your baby is overweight or underweight. What's most important is that they're growing at a consistent rate for them. Any concerns should be discussed with your child’s doctor or an early childhood nurse. 

Measuring up
You can find height and weight charts in your baby’s Blue Book, or online at Essential Baby for babies and toddlers.

If you don’t have scales at home, you can weight your child at an early childhbood health clinic or at your GP’s office. Many pharmacies also now have visiting childhood health nurses who can measure your child for you, and help you understand their place on growth charts.