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Mama’s Milk: World Health Organization Growth Chart for Breastfed Babies

The Tiny Dancer is happy and healthy and like any child we’ve had our feeding issues.  We dealt with bottle rejection and transitioning to solids.  I was successful at breast feeding the Tiny Dancer for one-year but any sense of accomplishment I felt was completely diminished whenever I went to the pediatrician’s office.  At every well check, the Tiny Dancer was under-weight.  And not just a little under-weight, like “off the chart making her own curve” under-weight.  This definitely worries me, but there’s also a part of me that’s not worried.  My husband and I are petite people – we were under-weight as children, our parents were under-weight – why would she be any different?

A few weeks ago, I came across an article on Babble and breathed a sigh of relief.  In a nutshell, the article surmised that the growth charts used by pediatricians in the U.S. are not reliable for children who are breastfed for 1 full year.  The charts in the U.S. are based on children who were fed formula for a year – and formula, unlike breast milk does not change according to the child’s needs.  Caloric intake remains the same in formula whereas breast milk’s nutritional content varies throughout the first year.  Furthermore, as the Center for Disease Control states: “Clinicians often use the CDC growth charts as standards on how young children should grow. However the CDC growth charts are references; they identify how typical children in the US did grow during a specific time period. Typical growth patterns may not be ideal growth patterns. The WHO growth charts are standards; they identify how children should grow when provided optimal conditions.”

When I checked the Tiny Dancer’s weight on the WHO chart she was finally on the charts!  What a relief.  We were so worried about her weight that we had to run many tests – we had to have her blood drawn three times!  The battery of tests are not over – the pediatrician wants to rule out any possible issues. So far we’re in the clear and the next time I see the Tiny Dancer’s pediatrician I’m going to ask her about the WHO growth chart.  But until then, I’m going to keep on feeding her as much as I can and hope that she’s just like her parents.

You can download the WHO growth charts on the CDC website.

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