How to read your kiddies growth chart

My 12 year old daughter is terrified of puberty, she doesn’t want to grow up, because:

“puberty is disgusting and being an adult is boring. All grown ups do is talk and pay taxes”

I think I’ve been a bad role model: too much work not enough fun

But many teen girls fear puberty, the main reason is because part of normal growth is weight gain, both on the scales and in the amount of extra fat that their body gains. Girls go from an average of 10% body fat to 20-30% body fat after puberty. And it’s normal for girls to continue gaining weight until they are 20.

Gaining fat mass is a perfectly normal part of puberty but in our fat phobic society, instead of it being normal and healthy, it’s feared.

Normal growth looks different on each and every one of us, some of us are tall, some are short, some have small petite bodies, some are larger. All of this is largely controlled by our genetics.

Doctors and dietitians and plunket nurses use growth charts to determine whether a child’s growth is normal for them.

Growth Charts:

Growth charts plot height and weight on separate charts. Your child’s height or weight versus their age, gives a percentile.

The percentile tells us where your kid sits compared to others. For example, if your kid is in the 50th% for height, it means that out of 100 kids 50 kids will be taller and 49 will be shorter.

If your kid is in the 97th percentile it means that 3 kids will be taller and 96 will be shorter.

If your kid is in the 5th percentile it means that 95 kids will be taller and 4 kids will be shorter.

Looked at as one point, it’s not particularly helpful. Kids can be in the 99th percentile or the 3rd percentile and be perfectly healthy.

What we want to see is the trend. We want kids, where ever they are on the chart, to be following an expected pattern of growth. Pictured is the CDC growth chart, normal growth is generally following those lines in a pattern of growth. I have plotted Miss 12’s most recent numbers, on their own they are relatively meaningless, seen in context with all her other growth points at different ages and her medical history and parental size, it gives a better picture. Miss 12 is well at 3% for weight and 10% for height. Given that I am 5 foot, she is still likely to be taller than me!

It’s important to remember that we are all individuals and won’t necessarily follow this pattern exactly. Some kids start puberty earlier than others, meaning they will grow at a faster rate than others at an earlier age.

This growth chart can be used to help determine if there are problems with a kids growth. For example, if they get unwell and their weight and height either accelerates faster than normal or their height stops and weight drops (eg weight loss), then this may be an indicator that something is not right with your kids health or their eating.

Generally, a kid needs to cross two percentiles to cause concern.

In my clinic, I often see teens in for restrictive eating, leading to weight loss. Their weight often plummets affecting how their body functions. For example, periods stop, they can feel really tired, be unable to concentrate in school, be unable to perform in their sports and can be really emotional. With these kids, we discuss normal growth and size diversity and how we can be healthy at any size. We talk about how important it is to fuel our body so it can work properly and allow us to function.

Having these conversations with our kids is important, exposing our kids to different types of media and show them different body sizes, colours and shapes so they realise that we are all unique. Teaching them about how media images are 99% lies – every picture is photo shopped so much that the original person is barely recognisable.

Worried about your child and their eating or weight? Get in touch, I can help!

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