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Understanding Growth Charts

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Pediatricians are using two completely different growth charts—one developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and another by the World Health Organization (WHO). Who knew? The one your doc chooses could make your baby seem too big or too small. Fear not—Jennifer Trachtenberg, M.D., pediatrician and author of The Smart Parent's Guide, sorts it out:

Q: Why two growth charts?

A: The CDC chart is based on American babies, most of whom are formula-fed. The current WHO chart represents breastfed babies in six different countries as of 2006. Docs previously used the CDC chart, but now the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using the WHO one for kids under 2 years old.

Q: So why the change?

A: We now know that breastfed babies grow faster in the first three months and then slower through age 1. So on the CDC chart, breastfed babies suddenly fell off the normal curve. Doctors would see this drop and suggest supplementing, but that was a faulty conclusion.

Q: What are pediatricians looking for in these charts?

A: Your baby doesn't need to be in the 50th percentile across the board. Doctors just want a child to stay relatively on the same path from visit to visit without big variations up or down.