That baby is bigger than mine, oh my!
Last week I wrote about the many issues parents have to consider with infant feeding. This week I will be moving onto toddler feeding, but first I want to address an issue that affects both infants and toddlers and that is comparison of size in infants and toddlers. I remember as a first time parent going to the pediatrician’s office for check-ups was like getting a performance evaluation. I always enjoyed talking about the developmental milestones that they were meeting and seeing how they were tracking on the growth chart. Growth charts were always of interest to me because as pediatric dietitian it is one of the tools we evaluate to assess nutrition status. It is one of the ways to determine if your child is getting enough to eat.
Since my kids were born I have noticed many parents and grandparents proudly announcing where their child falls on the growth chart and then several others will chime in to share where there little ones fall on the growth chart. This is a concerning trend for few reasons:
This is your child’s personal health information. In the age of social media and oversharing I think it is good if parents get in the habit of not over sharing their child’s personal health information.
It makes it ok to discuss size as a primary means of health. It is true, weight is one of the factors considered when looking at one’s overall health, however, there is a lot that goes into health status. When looking at only weight it does not take into account muscle mass as someone gets older. As children age and especially as they get more involved in sports their weight may be higher than one thinks is healthy because of muscle mass, but they are actually very healthy. Therefore, as we are helping to shape the next generation let’s stop talking about size from the start as a way to stop body shaming in the future.
Some parents may question their baby’s health based on information from another parent. As one parent states that their 9 month old is at the 75th percentile for weight another parent may wonder why their child is only at the 10th% tile. First, of all there is nothing wrong with being at the 10th% tile, unless it is due to a drastic unintentional weight loss and second the 10th% tile could be where that child has tracked since they were born. Some parents may not realize that the higher number may not always be better.
The growth chart can be a great tool used to determine your child’s nutrition status. This discussion is appropriate between you and your child’s healthcare provider and not the play group. I recommend that you make sure your primary care provider is using the World Health Organization (WHO) growth chart for children less than 2 years of age. The reason for this is that this chart is based on breastfed infants from developed countries. Also, ask questions about what trends are normal for children and what is abnormal. It is not advised to use one growth point to determine nutrition status so if you change care providers or are seeing a specialist discuss having previous growth records sent to allow a healthcare team to provide the best assessment possible.
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