By Patrick Villella
Questions New Parents Ask:
Is my baby or newborn eating enough?
Are they eating too much?
Is my baby obese?
Is my baby sleeping enough?
Should my baby be talking or walking?
Does my baby show signs of autism, hearing deficiency, or other child illness?
The questions that new parents ask are endless. It is natural to be concerned about your baby’s development, but these questions can be hard to answer without the right tools. Unfortunately, your baby’s doctor may be too busy to properly assess your child’s progress. The good new is that with the right baby resources, you can ensure your baby’s growth and development yourself.
Measure Baby Length / Height
Remember when you baby was first born? What was one of the things the doctor did? Likely, they measured the length and weight of your baby. Baby length is important because it helps indicate if your baby is healthy or if there might be a complication that needs to be addressed.
It’s important to understand that length and height measurements alone are not very useful. What is useful is when we have data to compare your baby’s measurements to. When we take your newborn’s length and age (which is newborn, of course, unless they were born early or late) and compare it with other new babies, we learn if your baby is average, large, or a bit small for their age.
Now, even that comparison alone is not incredibly useful. We all know that babies, just like full grown people, come in all shapes and sizes. Just because your baby is a bit smaller than average doesn’t indicate a problem. What is more important is to track the height and weight of your baby on a regular basis. This will allow you to see trends. It is expected that a baby puts on weight rapidly in their first few months of life and will also likely grow by a few inches in length. When you take your child to their pediatrician visits, their length and weight will usually be measured and recorded. Unfortunately, sometimes, in the rush to get patients in and out of their offices, doctors don’t take the time to measure baby length and weight on every visit.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to take your own length and weight measurements on a regular basis. It shouldn’t be necessary to take them more often then every few weeks, unless there is a problem that you are aware of. Many parents like to use height charts to record growth. It can be difficult to find length charts for children under two years of age, but these are much more useful, since they are specially designed for babies and they are measured laying horizontally, instead of standing up against a height chart.
Measure Baby Weight Regularly
How much your baby weighs must also continually be measured. The drawback of height charts is that they don’t give you any indication of how your child’s height or weight compares with their peers. For this reason, it is important to use a growth chart that includes growth data. This allows you to plot your child’s growth and see what percentile they land in. If your baby’s height and weight is right in the 50th percentile, this shows that they are average. If your child’s weight is in the 95th percentile, you might have a problem. This means that only 5% of all children their age are heavier than them and that they are heavier than 95% of their peers.
Monitor Baby BMI
Many adults know that weight alone does not tell the whole story. Most health professionals will suggest checking your body mass index (BMI) in addition to simply weighing yourself. This is because the body mass index is a much better indication of whether or not a person is overweight. The same is true for babies. Many newborns are nice a chunky! This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is quite normal for a baby to have a high percentage of fat. This is where the term ‘baby fat’ comes from, after all. As a by grows into a toddler, they will typically lean up and lose some oft his excess fat. The fat is actually really beneficial to newborns, as the extra layers help to keep them warm and provide protection.
Though baby fat is normal and healthy, it is still possible for a very young baby to be overfed, to the point of becoming obese. Is your baby obese or just got healthy rolls? This is where the baby BMI can be helpful. Be aware that the normal BMI chart that adults use is not applicable for young children. Again, a baby should have higher percentage of fat than a fit adult. A detailed baby BMI chart will help to answer these questions.
Track Developmental Milestones
My baby learned to read when they were 1 month old! Yeah right. To hear some parents talk, their babies are superhuman. It’s natural for you to wonder if your child is learning at a normal rate of if they might be falling behind when compared to their peers. However, parents have a tendency to exaggerate, so it can be difficult to know how your kid is stacking up. The preferred way is to use a chart of typical age appropriate milestones that have been observed and recorded by doctors and child psychologists. These will give you a baseline to assess whether your child is ahead of the curve or needs a bit of extra TLC. Don’t stress if other kids their age are toddling around while yours is still doing the diaper scoot. Just because they are out of the norm doesn’t mean there is anything mentally or physically wrong. However, if they have not achieved multiple milestones that are typical for the age, it might be a sign that you should have a professional assess them more closely.
Keep Track of Important Shots, Immunizations, and Vaccinations
Should I vaccinate my baby? Does my baby need a tetanus shot? Should I give my child a hepatitis B shot? These are all hot questions with new parents. There are many people on both sides of the issue and we certainly don’t intend to tell you whether or not you should vaccinate your child. However, if you make the personal decision to get your child immunized, it’s important to keep track of their shots. Some parents have the mistaken idea that getting your baby vaccinated at two months of age is all that’s needed. Actually, to properly protect for certain illnesses, multiple shots over a certain period of time are needed. Because of this, it’s important to keep track of all shots and booster shots. When your baby was born you probably received an immunization record to record these in. Many parents find it helpful to record them in the same place as the other measurements they perform for their baby, such as height and weight.