Children, just like adults come in lots of different shapes and sizes.
Unfortunately though, with many children being overweight and obese in Australia, it can be hard to distinguish which children are underweight, those who are a healthy weight, and those who are overweight.
What weight should my child be?
The answer to this question is that it depends on how tall they are. Tall children will be, and should be, heavier than shorter children. If your child is still attending regular Maternal and Child Health Nurse sessions, they will be plotted on a growth chart to check how they are tracking for height, weight, and their head circumference (in younger children). For older children, you will most likely only have weight recorded when your child sees a doctor, and height checked against previous measurements on the door post at home.
Which Chart to Choose?
Children aged between 0-2 years should have their weight and length recorded on World Health Organisation (WHO) charts. These charts have used growth data from only breastfed babies to provide information about how babies SHOULD be growing.
Children aged from 2-20 years (I know! Not really children anymore!!) should be plotted on CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) charts. These charts include children from a range of different backgrounds and early feeding choices (ie. both breast and bottle fed babies are included in these charts).
Contrary to popular belief, we do not want, or expect, every child to grow on the 50th centile for height or weight. There are a number of variables that will influence which centiles a child with travel along, with the most influential one being their genetics.
If a child’s parents are below average height, we would similarly expect their children to be below average height and equally, if a child’s parents are six foot tall, we would expect their children to also be tall.
Your child’s height more or less determines where their ideal weight should be. We hope that most children’s weight will be within two major centile lines of where their height lies.
For example, if your child’s height is travelling along the 50th centile, they might be considered overweight if their weight was above the 90th centile, or underweight if their weight was below the 10th centile.
When do you need to modify your child's diet?
If you have concerns that your child is either underweight, or overweight, it is best to measure them and put their measurements on a growth chart (see above). If you have any previous measurements on hand, put those on the charts too so that you can see if there has been a change with regard to the centile your child is now growing on in comparison to their previous measurement.
If your child’s weight is moving rapidly away from where it was (either up or down), it is best to make an appointment to review their dietary intake to make sure that it is enough (for those who might be moving toward underweight) or not too much (for those who might be moving toward overweight). Sometimes these changes in growth could also be tell-tale signs of some medical conditions so it is best to have it checked if you are concerned.