Monitoring growth

The growth of babies is measured in the following ways:

  1. Mass (kg)
  2. Length (cm)
  3. Head circumference (cm)

The growth of babies in all three of these measurements can be monitored using percentile growth charts.

Graph showing the upper and lower percentiles of height growth from age 0 to 20.A percentile growth chart for boys' height

If a baby is born on the 50th percentile for height, then in every hundred babies, 50 will be taller and 50 will be shorter. If a baby is born on the 10th percentile for mass, then in every hundred babies, 90 will be heavier and 10 will be lighter.

Health visitors often visit parents with new babies to take these growth measurements. Health visitors and parents tend to worry more when babies change their position on these charts over time. They would probably be more concerned about a baby that drops from the 50th to the 10th percentile than one that remains on the 10th percentile. This change could be an indication of a health problem.