What is a normal growth rate?

When you look at any group of people – kids or adults – you’ll see a bunch of differently sized humans. Some are taller, some are shorter, some are fatter and others are slimmer.

With so many different shapes and sizes, how can we – and doctors – know if our kids are growing normally? What are potential signs or problems with the way our children are growing? And when should we be worried about height and growth?

What is normal growth?

Your child’s growth is tracked on a development chart from the moment he is born. Measurements of his length, weight and head circumference are taken in the first minutes of life and these measurements are then put onto his own development chart to begin mapping his growth and development.

Doctors have been tracking the growth of children over many years and growth charts have been developed to reflect the information that has been gathered. Growth charts are used to compare the growth of children of the same age and gender as well as to follow the pattern of your child’s height and weight growth over time.

Growth charts use percentile bands to plot your child’s growth. These percentile bands cover the variations of ‘normal’ growth – and most children consistently fall somewhere between the 5th and 97th percentile bands which are all normal. If your child is in the 40th percentile for weight and length, it means that he is heavier and taller than 40% of other kids of the same age and sex. A child in the 80th percentile for weight or length is heavier or taller than 80% of other kids of the same age and sex – both children, though, fall comfortably within the ‘normal’ range.

Having a child high or low in the percentile bands doesn’t indicate that he is more or less healthy than other children. Consistent growth along any percentile band shows ‘normal’ growth and may indicate nothing more than the fact that your child may be on the shorter – or taller – side of average.

What do growth charts show?

Mostly, growth charts show consistent growth from baby to older child, but in some cases, they can be used to detect development problems. For example, if your child is growing disproportionately – height and weight percentiles becoming vastly different – a growth chart will swiftly pick up on this and clearly highlight the growth pattern changes on the chart for further review.

What affects your child’s height?

While genes play a huge part in predetermining how tall your child will be (eg short parents usually have short children) other factors have an impact on how much your child grows. These include:

  • Gender
  • Nutrition
  • Hormones
  • Physical activity
  • Environment
  • General health


  1. SarahBlair 31/03/2019 at 11:13 pm

    My youngest son isn’t a big boy, a little shorter than most in his class and skinny, he has really large tonsils and find eating to be rather difficult, the specialist at the hospital took one look and decided to schedule a removal even though he has never had an infection, so his lack of eating is probably a significant reason for his size, I often feel grateful for him being so big at birth (11lb 3oz) giving him such a great start!

  2. kymmage 31/03/2019 at 11:12 pm

    I found when the kids were little too much was made of the growth charts. I mean both of them are tall and skinny. So we were always on the outer for Plunket visits, etc. It is helpful to see your child’s growth and seeing that they are getting taller and staying in their normal range (rather than worrying about the charts normal range).

  3. dawnblyth 31/03/2019 at 10:42 pm

    My son, at 4, is in the 98% for both height and weight. I was told by the nurse he was largely overweight for his age and I was putting him at risk for all sorts of health complications. I was very upset by this as my son is very healthy and physically active.

  4. felicity beets 31/03/2019 at 8:53 pm

    It is good to have an idea of how your child is tracking for height and weight. It is also good to have catch ups to track other milestones as well early on.

  5. Bevik1971 28/03/2019 at 9:54 am

    My daughter was really little when she was born 6 pound 1 and only 49cm long (avg is 52). I expected her to be small but she grew like a mushroom and is above average for her height now 🙂 I put that in part to breastfeeding for 3 years and eating really good foods, including Organic where possible and not eating too much in the way of refined foods 🙂

  6. MuddledUpMolly 26/03/2019 at 11:48 am

    Although I don’t like to compare my children to others, it is still great to have the well child provider tracking our children’s growth from birth. It’s also great to have the tracking chart in the book to see how they are doing at home 🙂

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