Healthy Growth

Is my child a healthy weight?

Healthy growth is one of the most important indicators of overall health, development and wellbeing of children but parents and carers find it hard to know whether or when they should be concerned. We know that families of children with weight or growth issues often find it difficult to identify these issues and, when they do, are unsure about what to do next. Approximately 24% of Australian children aged between 5 and 14 years are classified as overweight and 8% as underweight. The information below is based on the best evidence we have for supporting healthy growth in children and reducing the risk of weight issues and eating disorders.

(see also: ‘How do I know if my child is eating too much or not enough?).

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healthy growth

A child’s growth is highly variable

Like adults, children come in all shapes and sizes and their growth varies greatly from one child to another. There are two distinct stages of rapid growth: 1. the first year of life and 2. puberty. However, at all ages and stages a child's rate of growth can be variable and growth spurts can occur at any age. We often don’t notice growth changes until children grow out of clothes or shoes - or until their height increases past an obvious landmark, such as the kitchen bench or another family member!

The pattern of growth over months and years is more important than weight

Growth charts are used by health professionals to check children’s growth by plotting height and weight on graphs that span from birth to 20 years. One-off weight and height measures only describe size, not growth. Growth patterns are assessed by plotting serial measurements of weight and height. Minor changes in growth patterns in an otherwise healthy and alert child is likely to be of no immediate concern. However, unexpected changes in growth patterns, such as moving across more than 2 percentile bands on the growth charts, may be an early indicator of underlying health or developmental issues. Growth charts are not intended to diagnose a problem and interpreting growth charts needs to be done by an experienced GP or qualified health professional.

Weighing children regularly at home is discouraged as it can create an unnecessary focus on numbers on the scales, rather than on healthy family habits that are vital for their growth. If you want to understand your child’s growth, you could measure your child’s height at home and ask your doctor about weighing during check-up appointments. If there is a sudden change in your child’s growth, particularly accompanied by other symptoms that indicate a health concern, discuss this with your GP or Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Would you like more support?

Click Get Support to provide your details to our Care Support Team who will match your needs with the appropriate level of support.

Signs that children may not be growing in a healthy way:

  • Wearing clothes more than two sizes bigger than their age
  • Consistently eating just as much, or more, than adults
  • Having distinct fat around their middle, or tummy
  • Constantly looking for and asking for food.
  • Spending more than 3 hours per day on a screen (smart phone, tablet, computer, TV, gaming console)
  • Lacking energy and not keeping up with other children during higher intensity play or sport.

If you notice any of these signs, you may find it helpful to discuss your concerns with a GP, paediatrician or Accredited Practising Dietitian who can provide a comprehensive assessment that considers your child’s medical history, eating patterns including mealtime experiences, physical activity and genetic factors.

Would you like more support?

Click Get Support to provide your details to our Care Support Team who will match your needs with the appropriate level of support.

Further support

www.ellynsatterinstitute.org

Find an Accredited Practising Dietitian with experience in infant and child growth - https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/find-an-apd/