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Growth rates

AS a paediatrician, I often have parents approaching me with many questions about their children’s growth. One mother was concerned about how small her son looks compared with other kids in his class, while another was worried that her daughter’s picky eating habits would affect her growth in the long run. Just the other day, a couple wondered if their son’s rapid weight gain was a sign that he would have weight problems later on as a teenager.

As parents, we are all concerned about our children’s growth, especially during their formative years. However, questions on your child's growth cannot be answered off the bat as every child grows at his or her own rate. Comparing your children with someone else’s isn’t a reliable way of gauging growth and could lead to unnecessary worry. What you can do is keep an eye on how they’re growing and this is best done using the growth (or anthropometric) chart.

Growth charts enable parents to track their children’s growth over time and monitor how they are growing in relation to other children in that same age group. By using a growth chart to plot your child’s growth, you can detect under-nutrition, overweight and obesity, and other growth-related conditions and address them at an early stage.

There are different weight and height charts relative to age for boys and girls because their growth rates and patterns differ.

Children aged two years and above should have their weight and height measured every six months. All you need is a reliable weighing scale, a measuring board (e.g. a measuring tape properly stuck to the wall from the floor level) and the appropriate weight-for-age and height-for-age growth charts. Visit download and print the latest World Health Organisation growth charts. Specific instructions are available online to show you how to properly measure your children’s height, weight and how to plot your results on the chart.

Just because a reading is high or low on the chart doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a problem. Growth charts are designed to show your child’s growth patterns over time. This is more important than what his weight or height is at any one time.

After the first two years of life (when growth is the most rapid), children should grow along the same percentile. For instance, if your child’s weight is within the 15th percentile, he should be gaining weight steadily within the 15th percentile throughout. It is cause for concern if his weight were to drop suddenly or gradually.

Growth disturbances

How well your child grows is influenced by several factors, namely nutrition, genetics and hormones. Here are some things to watch out for when plotting your child’s weight and height:

Sudden weight drop or spike

The first thing to look at is your child's nutrition. Is he eating well? Is he lacking any nutrients? Apart from nutrition, parents should see if their children have any illnesses like urinary tract infections, a chronic illness or if they’ve just recovered from an episode of diarrhoea. All these things can cause weight loss. If the height of the child has crossed the centile lines, he may have a chronic illness.


If your child’s weight is above the 85th percentile, it means your child is overweight. It’s also useful to look at your child’s weight gain trends. For instance, he was within the 50th percentile a year ago and the figure climbed up to the 60th percentile three months later and up to the 70th percentile in another three months. This clearly means an increasing weight problem.


A weight measurement below the 15th percentile is a sign of underweight. Similar to the point above, if your child’s weight seems to be declining at each measurement.

Too tall

Is your child unusually tall for his age? This is rare and may be due to genetic factors or hormone problems.

Too short

Being short isn’t necessarily a problem as a child’s height is often influenced by his parents’ heights. However, you may be concerned if your child doesn’t register any height increases for two consecutive measurements.

In such cases, parents should bring their children to the paediatrician for a more thorough examination. The paediatrician will be able to detect if there’s something seriously wrong with your child and address the problem early on.


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