My baby’s weight gain in the first year – charting and monitoring

baby weight charting and monitoringWeight is a big topic amongst parents, especially new parents.

“How much does your baby weigh?”

“Oh well, MY baby at that age…” or “Her brother at her age…”

We’ve probably all said something similar at some point in our parenting journey. You meet other parents at the Children’s Centre or at the park, and comparing babies’ weight is quite a normal topic of conversation.

But sometimes for a parent, rightly or wrongly, their baby’s weight can be a reason for concern. When a parent feels or has been told that their baby is ‘too small’ or ‘not gaining enough weight’, or, probably more rarely ‘is too big’, it can be worrying.

What’s important to remember is that all babies are different, and babies do not grow or develop at the same rate. Way too many factors come into the equation to determine at which pace a baby grows and develops, and most babies will reach their milestones just when they’re ready to, without the need for their parents to worry.

Often times this is easily said than done though, as books, health professionals and even parents all seem to go by the data presented in the all-encompassing growth and development charts.

So in this post we are going to give you a little more information on what these charts are and what you need to watch out for when considering your baby’s weight.

The Personal Child’s Health Record – The Red Book

In the UK, The Personal Child’s Health Record, also known as ‘the Rered bookd Book’ (because it IS a red book) is currently given out to all parents after the birth of their child. The booklet is designed for both parents and health professionals to record information about the child from birth up to the age of 5 years old.

The Red Book includes the ‘UK WHO Growth Charts for 0-4 years’ for boys and girls, and, as they say on the tin, the charts are used to plot a child’s weight until the age of 4 years. The charts are made of lines called ‘percentiles’, which indicate the average weight of a baby (according to their birth weight) at any given age.

They also include head circumference and length up to the age of 2 and height measurements between the ages of 2 to 4. For those who are interested, they also include a BMI centile lookup and an adult height predictor.

Why do we weigh babies and what is ‘normal’?

Weighing a baby is important, as a baby’s weight and weight gain rate can be used as indications of how well they are doing, but we always need to remember that each baby is different, and they are not expected to always gain weight at the same pace.

It’s widely accepted that babies go through growth spurts, when they seem to feed more often and quite simply more, and obviously, at those times, put weight on at a faster rate. These phases are quite naturally followed by phases of slower weight gain.

What’s important is that overall, and in the absence of any particular illness, a baby’s weight in the first year doesn’t decrease. The increase might be very gradual and slow-paced, and it might not be at the pace that ‘the charts’ would want to see it at. So effectively you might see your baby’s weight ‘dropping’ a percentile line or two, but your baby is still, overall, putting weight on.

If your baby’s weight indeed drops a line or two, your Health Visitor might advise you to keep an eye on your baby’s weight and ask you to return to the clinic after a couple of weeks. They might also be able to discuss your feeding situation, give you the opportunity to address any concerns, and advise you on any tweaks you may want to make to try and improve the weight gain.

But you certainly shouldn’t start worrying too much if your baby’s weight seems to have slowed down slightly compared to their usual pattern or compared to the last time you went to get them weighed.

When should I take my baby to be weighed?

Although it’s completely normal for a baby’s weight to go up and down, having your baby’s weighed regularly in the first year will help reassure you that everything is fine, and in case any concerns arise, your Health Visitor will be able to advise you.

We recommend that if you want and can, you try and attend your Health Visitors’ clinic at the times and intervals that they suggest. You will notice that weighing is very frequent in the first few weeks but doesn’t happen as often as your baby grows and approaches their first birthday.

So in the absence of any concerns, we really encourage you to try and not to compare your baby’s weight with any other siblings, relatives, or friends of the same age.

Trust your intuitions!

As always, when it comes to your baby’s weight and size, our advice is that trust your instincts and intuitions. If your child is well, thriving and growing, try not to focus too much on the numbers and the charts. Equally, if you are worried, your Health Visitor and GP are there to address any concerns you might have.

And if your neighbour’s baby at the same age was so much chubbier, that’s great for them too!

What was your experience? Do you or did you find yourself worrying about your baby’s weight? How did this impact your experience as a parent?

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