My husband was a shoe box baby – meaning that he was born small enough to fit into a loafer box. I was born big and chunky, but by sixth grade, still maintained the record as the smallest elementary school student – ever. It is any wonder that all of my babies weighed in at under 7 pounds, and maintained a delicate weight well into toddlerhood? My favorite pediatrician used to tell me, “Two poodles never produced a great dane.” This sentiment always made me feel better about the fact that my kids struggled to get onto the growth charts, and once there, clung unto the bottom rung.

One of my favorite Moms, Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC, gives her take on the 1977 U.S. infant growth charts most commonly used in our pediatric offices. According to her website and the Texas Medical Association, those 1977 charts were based on the growth of children who were primarily:

  • Caucasion
  • Formula-fed (with the commercial formulas developed during that time)
  • Middle-Class
  • From Southwestern Ohio

Kelly and the CDC go on to conclude that the sample of infants used to develop national growth standards did not accurately reflect the nation’s cultural and racial diversity, nor did it account for the growth rates of breastfed infants.

Kelly goes on to compare these growth charts with the newest charts of the World Health Organization (WHO), as they represent growth standards of infants from around the world and who are primarily breastfed. (After looking at these charts, my son could be seen as average in height and weight.)

What does all of this info mean for your baby? It means that unless your infant is showing signs of Failure to Thrive or other nutritional or developmental disorders, there may be no need to worry if he’s too small to chart or charts well under the national average.

After weighing my baby at his last appointment, my new pediatrician commented on his dainty fingers, his brilliant smile, and his bright blue eyes. “But isn’t he small?” I asked. “He’s perfect,” assured the doctor. “He’s in the 5th percentile and beautiful in every way.”

I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. My short 5’1” frame can easily slip into a pair of size 6 jeans, even after 4 children. The BMI chart, however, tell me that I’m fat. I don’t feel fat or look fat, but that’s what charts do, I guess. The same goes for infant growth charts.

As people continue to come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, our view of healthy and beautiful should accurately reflect this. Parents can take solace in knowing that there are many different definitions to “average.” If you don’t agree with your doctor’s view of what makes your baby healthy, maybe it’s time to switch offices.