You love watching your child grow and kissing her chubby little arms and belly. But, given that obesity is such a big problem in this country, it’s natural to wonder at some point if your fleshy toddler is overweight. Know this: It’s completely normal for toddlers to appear chubby.
“Toddlers are short and compact, giving the appearance of a fat belly,” says Ashanti Woods, MD, a pediatrician at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center. There are a few other factors at play. Babies and toddlers usually have intestines that are a little oversized for their bellies, making those little tummies stick out, says Peter Greenspan, MD, vice chair in the Department of Pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital. They also have a forward curvature in their spine that pushes their bellies out, explains Danelle Fisher, MD, FAAP, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. “As the child grows, the curvature straightens out,” she says. Combine all that with the fact that it’s just normal for little kids to have more body fat, Greenspan says, and you have all the ingredients for a round tummy.
As your child gets older and taller, the belly and chubby arms and legs tend to disappear, Woods says. Your child’s pediatrician is also tracking your child’s height and weight on a growth chart to see how they stack up against other children their age. If they suspect there’s a weight issue, it will be discussed at a well-visit. Still, it’s important for you to be aware of what’s considered average, and what’s not. Here’s what you need to know about the child growth chart, plus how to read it.
How Does The Child Growth Chart Work?
The growth chart looks at your child’s age, weight, and height and plots them on a chart, Woods explains. Once your child is plotted on the chart, his plot point falls on or near a percentage line that compares your child’s numbers with those of other children his age.
How often is a child’s growth measured?
Children are usually measured every time they have a well-visit, Greenspan says. That means children have their measurements taken every three months until they’re 18 months old, every six months until they’re 3, and then every year after that, per recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Fisher says.
What does growth chart percentile mean?
After your child is measured, you’ll often hear your pediatrician say that she’s tracking on a certain percentile for height and weight. The 50th percentile is average, Woods explains. “So, once a child is plotted on the weight chart, if her dot is above the 50…