Measure – What & How often?

What should be measured.

Your child is growing in many ways, and while some first-time parents may wish to document every new development and progression, there really are only a few important things to measure to get a good general idea of your child's overall growth.

Height

Height is most traditionally been considered the main measurement of a child's growth.  Many factors may affect a child's growth, including height of the parents (and other genetics), nutrition, chronic illness, certain medications, and health status during critical growth periods.  For suggestions on how to best measure height, please click here.

Weight

Weight is often the most variable of all the measurements.  It goes up and down over the course of a day (depending on hydration, when the last bladder or bowel movement was, when the last meal was, and recent or intense activity).  It is also usually the first measurement to begin to change with a recent illness or developing growth problem.  For suggestions on how to best measure weight, please click here.

Head Circumference

The growth of a child's head circumference is a general (albeit imperfect) indicator of brain development.  While the vast majority of children will never have any concern raised by this measurement, having a growth that either does not keep up with the expected growth, or grows faster than would be expected for normal growth are good reasons to see your child's qualified health professional (physician, pediatrician, nurse practitioner, dietitian, etc).  There are a number of (treatable) factors that may cause abnormal increases in head circumference beyond normal growth patterns, and similarly there are a variety of causes that may restrict head growth that would be important to address as soon as possible.  For suggestions on how to best measure head circumference, please click here.

How often should I measure my child.

Your individual country and jurisdiction may have specific routine intervals for measurement.  Typical schedules involve measuring head circumference, height (or length for infants) and weight at:

  • Birth
  • 1-2 weeks after birth
  • 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18, 24 months of age
  • then yearly from the age of 2 through adolescence.

Depending on circumstances around the pregnancy, delivery, or post-natal period, more frequent measurements may be required initially.  If there is any concern with a growth parameter, the first step is usually to take regular, frequent measurements (for example, daily or weekly when in the first few months of life, every 2-4 weeks later on in the first year of life, or every few months if the child is older still).  The specific frequency would depend on your child's age, his or her specific health circumstances, and the severity of growth decrease.  Because of this, you should always ask your child's health professional for direction if you become concerned for his or her growth, or if the growth begins to cross multiple growth curves (percentiles) over more than one measurement.

If you are concerned about the growth of your child, please see see "Is my child's growth normal?"

The Canadian Pediatrics Society has a brief answer sheet for parents (English;French/FrançaisSpanish/Español;Traditional Chinese/ 正體字/繁體字)

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