Measuring growth

From birth, your baby’s height will be recorded so that their growth can be monitored. These measurements are generally recorded on a growth chart. 

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your baby or child is growing well and at what rate. As you are with them all the time, small changes in height and development are not always noticed. Clothes sizes can vary considerably, so the best way to monitor growth is by measuring height and recording it using a growth chart.

Measuring growth

How to measure your child’s height

  1. Find a flat wall with no moulding or obvious slope. Choose an area where the floor is not carpeted.
  2. Remove your child's shoes and any bulky clothing (e.g. coat, thick jumper). If your child has hair ornaments (clips or bands) remove these, and take any plaits out. This is so your child can stand with their back flat against the wall. 
  3. Ask your child to stand against the wall with their feet together and heels touching the wall. 
  4. Make sure your child’s legs are straight, their arms are at their sides and their shoulders are level.
  5. Ask them to look straight ahead.        
  6. Place a ruler at a right angle above the head, and lower it until it touches the crown of the head.
  7. Make a mark where the ruler meets the wall. Then, use a metal tape to measure from the floor to the mark.

Babies are generally measured lying down and on a flat surface. Your healthcare professional will regularly measure and record your baby’s height and development to see what stage they are at. You may be given a baby development chart and weight chart from your doctor or nurse, so you can see how your baby is developing.

You can download a PDF of the above checklist here.

Growth charts

Once you have your child’s height it is a good idea to keep a record of it so you can see how it is changing over time. Children grow at different rates and keeping a log of how your child’s height changes will help you see any height changes as well as growth spurts.

Pre-printed growth charts often show a range of heights so you can see where your child’s height fits on the scale compared with the ‘average’ height of other children in his or her age group.

Click on the links below to download the right growth chart for you, courtesy of the World Health Organisation:

Girls

Boys

These child growth charts are based on children in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America and so are truly international, showing that children (of whatever race) can grow equally well.

A growth chart has the age running along the bottom and height along the side. You can see that as a child gets older, their height increases too. There are different charts for boys and girls and for babies and small children, so make sure you use the correct type of chart. 

When you have your child’s height, simply find their age measurement along the length of the graph and line this up with the height. You should mark a point on your graph where the two values cross.

Growth chart

Example of a growth chart for boys aged 5-19 years. Percentiles reflect the percentage of children that lie within a growth curve. Growth chart illustration adapted from World Health Organization: Height-for-age BOYS, 2007

When you plot your child’s height against their age, you can see how close they are to the average height for their age. The chart shows the growth curves for average height (50%) and growth curves on either side (3rd, 15th, 85th and 97th). The growth curve of most children is usually within the 15th and 85th lines.

As children tend to grow in spurts at different times in the early years, you may find that your child temporarily falls outside of the “normal” range. This can happen so don’t worry too much about it.  If you notice that after several months, your child is still outside of the “normal” range, it is a good idea to see your doctor.  

To help you to prepare for a visit to your doctor we have drawn up a list of useful questions to ask them, as well as likely questions they will ask you.   

There are tests your doctor can perform to find out whether your child has problems with their growth. If you are worried about your child’s height or growth, please see your doctor.

Height is only one measurement of your child’s physical development. Other types of growth measurements include: weight, head circumference and Body Mass Index (BMI). These may also be recorded by health care professionals at different stages of your child’s development to ensure they are developing properly.

 

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