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Weight and height growth in children

Looking at the stories in the newspapers and on TV it's hard not to worry if you think your child is over or under weight. We sift through the facts and figures to help you find out if your toddler on the right track...

Everyone knows the importance of keeping to a sensible weight for your health – and it's just as important for your little one as it is for an adult. Recent figures show that nearly a third of children aged 2–15 in the UK are overweight or obese making childhood obesity a major public health concern*.

Because an overweight child is more likely to become an overweight adult, it is vital that steps are taken early on if your child is gaining too much weight.

Your overweight child may be similar in body shape to you or your partner or their brothers and sisters, but it is important to step back and look at the diet and exercise habits of everyone in the family, rather than assume that nothing can be done to change things.

Checking their weight yourself

The first place to look if you're worried about your child's weight is your hospital record book that was given to you by your doctor when they were born.

Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) provide growth charts for Indian children aged zero to 18 years which were revised in 2015. WHO India first published growth standards for Indian children and the Government of India and Indian Academy of Pediatrics adopted these standards for children under-five (Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism**).

Before the age of two the growth charts in the book provided by the hospital are a good guide to see how well your child is growing as they show an expected range of weight and lengths/heights.

You can work these out by measuring your child with your own scales and a tape measure.

What you should be looking for on the growth and length/height charts is your child's growth following along a similar line (or centile) – the average is marked as the 50th centile and 99 out of 100 children who are growing well will be between the two outer lines (0.4th and 99.6th centiles).

If you measure your child on a regular basis the marks along the graph should more or less follow along one of these lines.

After the age of two, BMI or body mass index is considered a better indicator of being under or over weight.

This is because at the age of two a child's height can now be measured. (This will initially come out slightly less than length as their spine is squashed a little when they start standing up and walking, but don't worry about this change as the charts take account of this.).

Working out BMI

A child whose weight is average for their height will have a BMI between the 25th and 75th centiles. A BMI above the 91st centile would suggest that a child is overweight and a child above the 98th centile would be very overweight (clinically obese).

On the other side of the scale a BMI below the 2nd centile is unusual and may reflect under nutrition.

If you believe that your child has gained too much weight or is underweight, you should always speak to your paediatrician for a more accurate assessment and to confirm that there is a problem.

Checking with the experts

As well as their BMI, your paediatrician, or other health professional such as a dietician, will look at your child's growth starting with their birth weight and whether they were born full term (at 40 weeks) or earlier.

They will then look at their weight and length/height measurements from birth until their current age, as well as asking you questions about their health, amount of physical activity they do and what they eat – and will check if there are any other health complications.

If there is a problem and your doctor agrees that your child's weight is too high or too low, they will work with you, sometimes together with a dietician who can give specialised advice, to devise a diet and activity plan especially for your child.

An activity plan will be based around your toddler being physically active for at least three hours a day: simple activities such as walking, running, climbing, dancing, swimming, playing on a bike or playing football may be suggested.

You should also limit your toddler's time spent watching TV or playing computer games to less than two hours in total a day. In some areas, you will also be able to access exercise classes and healthy eating support for families – so always ask what is available locally.

It's also worth checking that you and other members of your family are the right weight too – as your child will have a greater chance of success if they are following a healthy eating and exercise plan alongside their parents.

A rough guide to toddler height and weight

These show the average weight and height for girls and boys from 1 to 5 years

AVERAGE WEIGHT 1-5 YEARS KG

 

AGE GIRL BOY
1 9.5 10.1
11/2 10.8 11.4
2 12 12.5
21/2 13 13.5
3 14.2 14.6
31/2 15.2 15.6
4 16.2 16.5
41/2 17.2 17.5
5 18.2 19

AVERAGE HEIGHT 1-5 YEARS CM

 

AGE GIRL BOY
1 74 75
11/2 80 82
2 86 87
21/2 90 91
3 94 95
31/2 98 99
4 101 102
41/2 105 106
5 109 110

Once you've got your child's height and weight you can then find out their BMI – either on the chart above or by visiting.

*Source: Public Health England

** Source Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism

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