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Growing Pains: What Baby Growth Charts Really Mean

Growing Pains: What Baby Growth Charts Really Mean

When Baby Fat Isn't Cute

By watching the numbers, doctors may begin to suspect a chronic and metabolic illness, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism or growth hormone deficiency. Another possibility is a condition called "failure to thrive" in babies whose weight plummets out of proportion to their height.

Pediatricians are also on the look out for toddler obesity as the national battle with the bulge filters down to its youngest citizens. If your child shows a big discrepancy between your weight and height percentiles, advises Hattner, you may want to consult a registered dietician. A child under 3 years isn't likely to be put on a restrictive diet because her brain is still developing. But a dietician might suggest alterations that would help the chubby child become more height-weight proportional.

Merely being in a high percentile part of the chart doesn't mean your little one has a weight problem, however. Due to improved nutrition in the United States, babies are bigger than they were decades ago, when the infant chart data were collected. Another factor, Evers notes, is that doctors these days advise women to gain slightly more weight during pregnancy, resulting in bigger babies.

"It used to be we could predict children would end up somewhere between their mom and dad (in height)," Evers says. "Now a lot of kids are taller than mom and dad." She adds with a laugh, "My daughter's 13 and she's two inches taller than me already."

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