growth charts be gone.

where my heart resides*sigh*

First things first, I am writing this down confession style because last Wednesday I blogged about our solid food escapades, while in the same day learning that Everett has dropped to the 2% for weight. Clearly I should not be giving anyone advice on how to feed their child because I am a failure at feeding my own.

So, the backstory….at Everett’s six month appointment our pediatrician told us that Everett’s weight had dropped from the 25% to the 5%. She seemed concerned and threw out a number of suggestions: start pumping every day, drinking more water, taking fenugreek, and maybe supplementing with formula. I took two of those suggestions and started pumping every night, drinking more water, and as the months progressed, giving Everett more solids.

When we brought him in for his 9 month appointment on Wednesday, I was honestly shocked to find out that he had dropped even lower to the 2%. Our pediatrician (who I like, but did not like in that moment), started asking me about nursing and my milk supply. I’m currently nursing Everett four times a day and as far as I know, everything is fine. He doesn’t cry when he’s finished or give me any other signals that he is still hungry. He’s also eating three solid meals a day, aka SEVEN meals total per day, every two hours.

I immediately got defensive.

But, he’s crawling now! He’s super active!

He poops 4 times a day! He used to only poop once a week!

I’m small! I was a small baby! We are a slender family!

She didn’t really seem to care, and kept pointing to the growth chart.

Which, I know I’m not a doctor, or a nurse, or medically trained in any capacity, but WHAT IS UP WITH THE GROWTH CHART? I realize it would be awesome if Everett was smack dab in the middle, but he’s not.

And I guess if I had even the tiniest of inkling that there was something wrong with Everett, I would be grateful for our pediatrician’s attention to the growth chart. But I don’t have the tiniest of an inkling. Everett is, literally, the happiest baby on the block. He smiles 90% of the day. He only fusses when he’s tired. He’s crawling and babbling and loves to be outside and play with his blocks. He’s a happy, active little boy.

But our pediatrician doesn’t see any of that. She sees a number on the scale, a percentage on the chart, and a reason to lecture.

And I can’t help but feel like this is crazy sauce. The idea that a doctor can see my son once every three months for fifteen minutes at a time and use a stupid growth chart to size up (pun intended) how healthy he is, seems bananas to me. At what point do we stop using these growth charts? I’m 26 and last time I checked, there wasn’t a growth chart for me to adhere to. Adults come in all different sizes and shapes according to diet and exercise and their natural disposition, right? And if Everett’s clearly not malnourished or lethargic or crying from starvation, is it possible that he is just…..small? And that maybe he’ll stay small or have a growth spurt next month or grow bigger when he’s a toddler?

Maybe I’m the crazy one. Maybe I should be worried. Maybe there is something wrong, and maybe this is what they call motherhood denial. Who knows? Being a parent is hard. It feels harder today.

I’m stepping down from my soapbox now. If you need us, Ev and I will be drowning our anxieties in yogurt and cheese.

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39 Responses to growth charts be gone.

  1. Darlene says:

    I have been battling that damn growth chart for 5.5 years! Since Jasper was a baby. ANd now with Tindra (9.5 months) My kiddos tend to fall in the 85-90th for height and 10-20th for weight. When Jasper was 1 the ped tried telling me that I needed to butter on EVERYTHING to ‘chub him up’ Since when does chubby automatically mean healthy? Tindra recently dropped from 20th to 15th in weight and my ped tried to talk to me about formula. She nurses 6-7 times a day, and eats at Least 3 meals a day, consisting mainly of fruits and veggies so I don’t worry about it. If she would see a picture of my immediate family and see my three brother who are all over 6 feet tall and weighing like 150 lbs she would Get it.
    Darlene´s last blog post ..The Good. The Bad. The ugly.

  2. Beth says:

    Don’t fret, momma, you are doing an amazing job! When my brother was a baby, the docs told my mother to feed him ice cream and sweets to fatten him up (much like the above butter post). Isn’t that crazy? Also, breastfed babies tend to grow a little differently than formula fed counterparts. Thus, there is more of a discrepancy when the charts just show average growth for all, not taking into account different categories. Also, breastmilk has a ton more calories than any baby food. Replacing nursings with real food makes a difference in weight gain as well. If you are worried, maybe talk to another doctor about why the number is so important. However, it seems like Ev is a healthy, happy baby! You are a fabulous, health conscious mommy doing a wonderful job!

    • Ashlee says:

      Our doctor said the same thing! She told us to feed him more butter and cream cheese. Crazy! Thanks for the encouragement, friend. I am so excited for our photoshoot tomorrow!

  3. Britty says:

    We recently came to the same conclusion with our little fella at the opposite end of the spectrum, in the 99-100th percentile for everything. We have all sorts of specialists telling us what the best thing is for our child, but oddity they all have a different opinion. Each is highly educated in their field, yet they each have a different idea of what the right thing to do is. Yesterday I finally told one of them, “I appreciate your input, and value your knowledge, but I am his mother and I know best this time.” She calmly replied, “You are absolutely right. You need to do what you feel is right because you know your son better than anyone else, and you need to stick to your guy.” Then she thanked me for my honesty and we continued on with our day with a slightly lighter load to carry.

    There are so many things we are supposed to worry about as mothers. It is in Everett’s best interest, your husband’s best interest, and your best interest to worry as little as possible. You’re a great mama. Everett is a wonderful, happy, healthy boy. Don’t let a growth chart distract you from that.

  4. Lana says:

    I curse that damn chart. My boys are half filipino and therefore the chart doesn’t apply!!! The growth chart is a crock of you know what in my opinion. If I had a nickel for every time I got grief about that damn chart with my first..I’d be a millionaire. Just smile and nod and trust your mama instinct. You know your baby. Some are small. Our six year old weighs 41 pounds…is tall and slim just like his dad was. And eats the most of our 4 kids…and we always get grief. But he’s healthy as a horse. We feed them well balanced meals.,.they eat whenever they are hungry etc. it’s the way God made them. Trust your gut and let it go. Plus I find that kids exclusively on breast milk are often (not always) slimmer. Ev is healthy! I try very hard to not let my pediatrician bug me. It’s not easy but it’s like you said…they never see your kid. Who knows best!? Aggravating tho for sure.

    • Ashlee says:

      I wish I knew more about biology and when genetics start to play a role in a child’s physical disposition! Brett and I are both on the thin side….it doesn’t seem outrageous to me that we would have a small(er) baby! Oh, and Ev’s head size is in the 90th percentile, which he gets from his daddy! 😉

      • Lana says:

        That’s how our kids our too–huge heads!! Obviously he’s doing well. Stick to your guns. They wanted me to add in formula too and I didn’t and everything worked out. If you can feed well keep doing it. As long as they eat when they want too it’s fine. I feel defensive every time at the drs. My husband says its cuz I don’t take criticism well.

        • Lana says:

          Sorry sent accidentally. I just always feel my dr is telling me something I’m doing wrong! We’re hard on ourselves as moms I think. We don’t need people making us feel worse.

  5. Miranda says:

    Sadie was always a smaller baby. She was in the 25th percentile and 75th for height when my doctor started telling me she needed to eat full fat food and add butter to everything. I was appalled by this. It’s not healthy to chunk them up like that so they can fit on a chart. I’m sure by now Sadie is lower than the 25th percentile. My husband and I realized that if she’s happy and healthy and not starved for food, the chart wasn’t an issue.

    She’ll grow when it’s time, I’m not forcing her by adding butter to everything. I’m always happy to hand out treats too.

    • Ashlee says:

      Our doctor said the same thing, give him butter with vegetables and cream cheese with crackers. What?! That seems so strange to me! She said we needed to fatten him up with fatty foods. I walked out of there thinking, “but WHY?!” Thanks for commiserating and reassuring me I’m not crazy.

  6. Kelly says:

    This happened to me as a baby 🙂 My mom gave me ice cream, which I still love to this day 🙂 But I think you should go by your instincts personally. Maybe get a second opinion?
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Music, Miles, Books and Looks of January/Goals for February

    • Ashlee says:

      Yeah I think we’ll wait till his one year appointment and see how that goes. If this is still an issue by then, it might be time to see another pediatrician.

  7. We’ve been there with the growth chart at 4 months and it was awful. I felt like I was doing a terrible job…which is so counterproductive! I do think mom knows best…so try to focus on that. I hate those damn charts!!
    natasha {schue love}´s last blog post ..Six Month Favorites

  8. michelle says:

    I’m sure I would get defensive too! You are a great mama, don’t get the pediatrician get you down!!
    michelle´s last blog post ..These Are a Few of my Favorite Things

  9. den says:

    I know it is hard but try to not take it all so personally. The doc has the best interest of your child in mind, and even though she may only see your child for only 15 minutes every few months, she does have the expertise of seeing many kids in her practice.

    I would suggest adding a bit of formula or looking at what you are feeding Ev to see if you can mix it up. Yes, every child is different but remember the doc isn’t admonishing your parenting skills.

    • Ashlee says:

      I guess what I’m not understanding is…..what EXACTLY is the concern? If he’s not malnourished, lethargic, anemic, or otherwise vitamin deficient, what is she worried about? If he’s happy as can be, sleeping through the night, and hitting all of his developmental milestones, what is the concern?

      Maybe it’s a first time mom thing, but I always feel like I’m on the defense in the pediatrician’s office!

  10. Helen says:

    The growth charts are mostly based on formula fed babies unfortunately. Breastfed babies gain more than formula fed babies in the first 4 month or so, then after that they gain less. You are completely right about your son! As long as he is happy and not acting weird, he is obviously thriving. And as long as other things don’t drop (head circumference, height…etc) to the same degree, I think everything is absolutely fine 🙂

  11. Bea says:

    Hi Ashlee, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now – our boys are the same age! (And incidentally, I just had a two-week trip to Africa too 🙂 ) I feel compelled after reading this to let you know about my older sister, who as a baby did not even place on the chart because she was so small. My mom was worried, but her pediatrician (and this was 30 years ago) told her, “That’s just the way she’s meant to be!” Good on you for not worrying – you have the best contextual understanding of your child, and a growth chart is kind of the opposite of that! 🙂

    Here’s a relevant article, with some interesting comments: ; see this one for more detail on comparing the CDC and WHO growth charts:

    • Ashlee says:

      Hi Bea! Ooooh, I want to hear about your trip to Africa. I might e-mail you!

      Thank you so much for sending that article my way. I just read the whole thing and found it to be fascinating. I am positive that my pediatrician is using the CDC chart, not the WHO chart. And I know this because the day we came home from the appointment, I hopped on the internet, did some research, printed a WHO chart, and marked his weight. According to that one, Everett is closer to the 8-10%, not 2%. It just seems like a ridiculous amount of importance is placed on these charts!

  12. Colleen says:

    Oh Ashlee I’m sorry. To me I think he is Probably way more active now and burning calories. Every one of my babies lost weight from 9 months to 12 months. Don’t stress about it. My little guy is 50 percentile and I get all defensive when people tell me my baby is HUGE! You’re doing a great job and it won’t be the first time you get defensive about your baby or what people tell you 🙂

    • Ashlee says:

      The crazy thing is, he’s still gaining weight! He gained more than 2 pounds from his 6 month to 9 month appointment. He only dropped in percentile, not in actual weight. Thanks for the encouragement 😉

  13. Sarabell says:

    Sheesh, so many things for mamas to get nervous about! I think I am with you though, you’re the one who sees him every day and sees how much he is eating, how active he is, how he acts after meals, etc. I am GLAD your doctor pays attention to his health, bummed it doesn’t seem to be in your favor!
    Sarabell´s last blog post ..Check Out This Place!

  14. Claire says:

    Hang in there friend! My three were 90-95% in height, 5-10% in weight. The doctors always made a fuss and I would always say “Pull out their siblings’ growth charts! There is a trend! They are all tiny!” They ate, they slept, they pooped, they were happy all the time, end of story!
    Claire´s last blog post ..I ♥ Sacramento – Crocker Art Museum

  15. Hey there! I had this *exact* problem with both my exclusively breastfeed babies. Like, down to the month. They were both tiny, but both dropped below the 5% mark around nine months. I ended up going to a breastfeeding specialist (mostly for my peace of mind) and found out that this is TOTALLY normal for breastfeed babies. Not only that, but my son, who was in the third percentile was actually in about the 25% percentile on the WHO charts (which measures babies only against other breastfed babies). Anyway, just wanted to encourage you to stick to your gut!
    Sarah Denley Herrington´s last blog post ..Unlocked: My Review of Anything by Jennie Allen

  16. Maggy says:

    Oh my word. You’re totally right, before there were “growth charts” there were equally healthy children withOUT cream cheese. Not to mention healthier and more mentally stable Moms. It’s a total reflection of most of our culture anyways. You should be AVERAGE. What a lame goal.
    Maggy´s last blog post ..a wee little prayer request…

  17. Kaylan says:

    Finley is small too- not in the 2% range but near the 10-15% for weight and about 50% for height….and my doctor’s comments were actually more about consistency, rather than percentage. Since birth he has been in similar ranges (skinny and slender) and she said, it’s better to worry about these things over time and make sure he is consistent, rather than taking big jumps or drops at intervals. Does that make sense? So she was saying, if he’s tall and slender, he’ll probably always be tall and slender- it’s the big jumps in a short period of time that you should watch out for. And you should be comparing Ev’s body type now to his body type over the past 8 mo- should be consistent. My doc also commented to, like you mentioned, that if she were to put my husband and I on a scale we’d probably be in the similar targeted spots that Finley is at (slender, tallish) which is what should be considered more than what the average for all 8mo babies is or whatever the chart compares them to. xoxo
    Kaylan´s last blog post ..two top teeth

  18. Camille says:

    Great post! No one will be a bigger advocate in the medical field for ourselves or our babies besides us! Our pediatrician uses both the CDC and WHO charts – especially when Scarlett was exclusively breastfed. My understanding is that it really doesn’t matter where they fall on the chart, but ideally they will stay right around their “number” and any large deviations over time could warrant investigation. Funny thing for us is that Scarlett has always been very consistent in her percentiles (90th plus for height, 50th for weight) but her 15 month appointment she jumped to the 85th for weight. Our doctor just laughed and said “well, she was tall and thin but now she is just tall” – ha!
    You’re a great mom, Ashlee!

  19. bonnie says:

    We just went through the same thing at our little guys 1 year appointment! He gained weight but dropped in percentile at the same time. Our doctor told us to work on fattening him up but, he is happy, healthy and lets me know when he is full so I am not pushing anything on him. Good for you for not worrying about it! As his mom, you know what’s best!

  20. lauryn says:

    Your little boy is one of the happiest babies I’ve ever seen, so I’m sure your maternal instincts are absolutely correct. If he shows no signs of hunger after eating that much and is still developing properly then I don’t see any good reason why a doctor should let a new mom leave an appointment feeling so discouraged! Try not to let it get you down. You are an amazing mother to Everett. He knows it and that’s all that really matters in the end 🙂
    lauryn´s last blog post ..Snow Lovin’ Larry

  21. Michelle says:

    I am a pediatric nurse and had to comment. The chart shows how kids are growing “compared to other kids the same age.” It just means he is smaller than other kids (because his parents happen to be slender as well), not because you are doing anything wrong. PCP get concerned when children continue to drop significantly below 5% because it could indicate other health problems and children end up getting admitted for failure to thrive. It is just a way to keep track. Health care providers want to see a steady increase, not a drop. The chart is not to make you feel horrible. You are doing a wonderful job. As long as he is healthy and active (which he is), I wouldn’t worry about it. The whole butter and cream cheese thing is ridiculous. Just feed him extra healthy meals or snacks. I hope this helps.
    Michelle´s last blog post ..Tis the Month of Love

  22. Oh my gosh, I could have written this myself except I was too angry and upset to write proper sentences! All through my second pregnancy the doctors were telling me the baby was too small. I had weekly scans, healthy checks and they were threatening me with early induction. He arrived at 41wks, perfectly healthy but long and skinny. They are constantly telling me he is too small, he swings between 25-50th percentile but is 99th percentile for height. I tell them EVERYTIME that I am 5’5 and 100lbs, my husband is a slender 6’5, we are NEVER going to have fat babies.

    I leave the doctors each time feeling like a failure-like your son, my 8m old boy has three meals a day, is breastfed in the evenings and has a bottle of formula at bedtime. He is a happy, healthy crawler and gives no indication of being hungry. I am doing my best to ignore the worry the doctors cause and just look after my son-if he seems happy and healthy, all is ok!

    Sorry for the rant but…I get you!

    Blogging about life with two aged 2 and under at

  23. Joel Mathieson says:

    Ashley it was so great to see you and Brett at the store today. I am so sorry I didn’t get a chance to stop and chat. Would have loved to say hi to Everett. It was kind of a crazy busy day. It looks like you got a lot of great advice on the chart conspiracy!!! All three of my boys were and are on the smaller scale as well. We had a really great ped in San Jose who just chalked it up to Jenn producing skim milk instead of whole. Just caught the video of Everett laughing hysterically in the football hat, obviously things are going great. Keep up the great work and amazing posts.

  24. Elizabeth says:

    Hi! I just found your blog through a friend! I discovered our pediatrian is using the wrong chart and is basing our mostly breastmilk fed baby on charts made for American babies who are mostly formula-fed! So, I thought I’d share it with you just in case YOUR pediatrician is also using the wrong chart! They should be using the WHO chart instead of the CDC chart. I would bet that might be the case in your situation!

  25. Lindsey says:

    I realize you wrote this forever ago, and I read it the first time, but didn’t have anything to say until I just read it again today. I just wanted you to know, that my cousin is 11 years old, and he’s in the 0.3% for his height and weight. Yes, you read that right. Point Three Percent! His mom has talked to a few different doctors and they have all assured her that there is absolutely nothing wrong with him, he’s just small! I’m sure Everett is perfect, just the way he is 🙂

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