Charting a course for your growing baby’s development

Most babies have similar growth rates, but with the use of a growth chart, your pediatrician can track your child’s development more accurately.

Growth charts allow you to compare and contrast your baby’s physical development with that of others who are the same age and/or gender.

Remember, though, that every child has his or her own growth rate. Don’t go panicking if your child has a low weight at birth, or if he or she is born prematurely and has a slower growth rate than other babies of a similar age. Most babies are fully caught up and on track by the age of five.

Getting a proper read

When evaluating a baby’s growth, three important things are measured: weight, length and head circumference. These numbers allow doctors to study patterns regarding kids' heights and weight gains over time, and whether yours is developing proportionately.

Boys and girls are measured on separate growth charts, as they develop at different rates. It’s important to take measurements as age progresses because it allows us to visualize growth from childhood to adulthood, making it an essential part of the child’s medical record.

An average baby’s monthly growth should be around:

  • 1 kg (2.2 lb.) per month from birth until the age of three
  • 500 g (1 lb.) per month from four months until six months
  • 250 g (0.5 lb.) from seven months until one year old
  • After that, the child should gain about 1.8–2.3 kg (4-5 lb.) during his or her first and second year of life
  • At 4–5 months, your child should have doubled his or her birth weight, and tripled it by his or her first birthday

Growth rate chart for boys aged 0 to 36 months (PDF) 

Growth rate chart for girls aged 0 to 36 months (PDF)

How often should my child be weighed and measured?

If possible, have your child weighed and measured:

  • A week or two after his or her birth
  • At one, two, four, six, nine, 12, 18 and 24 months
  • Between the ages of four and six
  • Older children and teens should also be weighed and measured once a year

Source: Canadian Pediatric Society

Other uses

Growth charts can also provide important clues to explain the gravity of certain problems or symptoms. For example, if a parent thinks his or her child isn’t eating enough or is a picky eater, the doctor will check the child’s evolution on the growth chart. If everything appears normal, the child is likely getting enough calories to grow, fussy eating habits aside.

In case of illness, or if your child is showing symptoms, growth rate (normal or abnormal) can also provide your doctor with important info.

To see if your baby is drinking enough milk, you can count the number of wet diapers in a day. A week after birth, your baby should go through about six diapers in a 24-hour period (three minimum).

The baby’s stool will start out black (the first stool is called “meconium”), becoming brownish, then yellowish over time. A baby can make stool 3–4 times a day and, during the first month of his or her life, will gain 20–30 grams per day.

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