Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I didn’t breastfeed, or I stopped early – are these charts still right for my baby?
A: Yes they are!
The charts show how breastfed babies grow if they are healthy and there are no problems. Babies grow most naturally when fed on breast milk. If you use infant formula milk, you want to ensure your baby is still growing in the same healthy pattern as they would on breast milk. This chart helps you see if that is happening.
Q: My baby was born prematurely. Is this taken into account?
A: Yes it is!
If your baby was born early, weight and head circumference will be plotted on preterm charts until they are 2 weeks past your due date. This will help you and the health professionals tell how your baby is doing compared with other preterm babies. After this, weight and other measurements will be plotted on the main chart. Two centile values will be provided – one plotted at your baby’s actual age and the other at his/her ‘corrected’ age (taking into account the number of weeks your baby was born early).
Q: How do I know my baby’s weight is OK in the first 2 weeks?
A: Through your responsible clinician.
Weighing in the early days is important. Regaining weight after birth helps show your baby is healthy, and feeding is going well.
If your baby loses a lot of weight or regains their birth weight slowly, it's a sign to look a little closer. In this case, your midwife or health visitor will calculate the weight loss as a percentage of their weight. A baby who loses 10% (a tenth) or more of their birth weight will require a visit from the midwife or health visitor, who checks how baby is feeding.
For both breast and formula-fed babies, your midwife or health visitor will suggest tips to help the baby feed more effectively to improve weight gain and may recommend medical assessment. If issues are identified, a referral to specialist feeding services or a doctor may also be required. Making changes to how your baby is fed may take a little time for weight to improve. Your midwife or health visitor might weigh them again to track progress.
Q: My baby’s weight was on one centile, but now it's nearly down to the next line – is this normal?
A: Yes, it's normal!
It's normal for the dots of your child’s weight to ‘wiggle’ up and down a bit, or to move gradually from being near one centile to the next one (up or down).
It's less common for a child’s weight to cross two lines; if this happens, your health visitor may keep a closer eye on your child for a while.
Q: My child was ill and lost some weight, what should I do?
A: Wait a few weeks and weigh them again.
Children often lose some weight when they are not well. Once your child recovers from the illness, their weight should go back to the centile it was on before the illness within 2–3 weeks. If this does not happen, speak to your health visitor. The health visitor may measure your child’s length or height or investigate other issues.
Q: When should length or height be measured?
A: Length before 2 years, height after 2 years.
For babies and children under 2 years, length rather than height is measured. This can be helpful if there is any concern about weight gain. However, it's difficult to measure length accurately, so this will not be done every time your child is seen. It's not usually necessary to measure length or height if your child is growing as expected.
Q: My baby's head size has risen to the top of the centile chart – should I be worried?
A: No, it's common!
British children have relatively large heads compared to the WHO standard, particularly after the age of 6 months. It's fairly common for the head centile to be at the very top of the chart or even above it. This should only cause concern if the head centile goes on rising after the first few weeks, or if there are other concerning signs or symptoms.