Healthy Growth in Baby’s First Year
Healthy babies come in various shapes and sizes, and every newborn develops at a different pace. If your baby’s growth proceeds too quickly or too slowly when compared to the norm, however, your pediatrician may want to monitor his or her length and weight closely to spot signs of current and ongoing health problems.
What is ‘normal’ growth?
According to averages used by the Mayo Clinic, a baby can be expected to add one-half inch to an inch in height each month and from 5 to 7 ounces each week during the period from birth to 6 months of age. Between 6 months and a year, expect increases of 3/8 inch in length every month and gains of 3 to 5 ounces in weight every week. A doubling from birth weight can be expected by 5 months, and a tripling of birth weight is normal at 1 year.
What influences a baby’s growth?
Genetics, being a boy or a girl, home and broader environment factors, nutrition and activity levels all influence how quickly a baby grows. Your pediatrician can use specialized charts that take these variables into account to gauge whether your child is at a healthy size for his or her age.
Interpreting the growth chart
Recording your baby’s length and weight allows your pediatrician to compare his or her measurements against the average for babies of the same sex and age. This comparison places your child into a percentile of similar babies. For example, if your 3-month-old girl is in the 25th percentile for weight, 25 percent of girls the same age weigh as much as, or less than, what your baby does. The other 75 percent of 3-month-old girls weigh more.
If your baby is a preemie, your pediatrician will compare his or her size with that of babies who are at the corresponding gestational age.
Identifying growth spurts
Babies do not grow at a steady pace. Your child will probably experience a growth spurt within 3 weeks of being born, another between the sixth and eighth week, and then at 3, 6 and 9 months. If your baby suddenly begins acting ravenously hungry, wakes up more often to eat at night and acts particularly fussy, he or she may be having a growth spurt. Fortunately, periods of rapid growth last only a couple of days.
Being in a low or high growth percentile isn’t necessarily risky if a baby is regularly in that range. At the same time, spikes or sudden drops in a baby’s growth chart percentile cannot be used by themselves to diagnose health problems. What tracking and comparing an infant’s physical development does is alert a pediatrician to a potential problem and prompt further testing.