CNN Parenting

Growth charts for kids don't measure up

We increasingly view our physical output in terms of metrics, and parents are no exception.

Story highlights

  • Growth charts provide useful information but should never be considered report cards
  • Height, weight and head size numbers matter far less than consistent growth

(CNN)It's the rare parent who is at peace with the size of their infant. Most of us are somewhere between uneasy and distraught with how our babies plot on growth charts, no matter whether our children are petite or portly.

My husband and I are in the latter group. Our 11-month-old son is off the charts in weight and length, and even though his amplitude very much speaks for itself, I can't help but announce it whenever he meets someone new. "No, really, he is huge!" I confess-exclaim, as if all 33 inches and 28 pounds of him didn't make that patently clear.
Though parental interest in baby size is nothing new, the heightened anxiety around it is. Parents today like to worry, and babies, nonverbal and immobile, present us with a relatively limited range of things to worry about them. If we must obsess over something, size is one of the few options.
    "There is no word I use in any given day more than 'normal.' Normal. Normal. Normal," said Dr. Joseph Hagan, a clinical professor in pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and the Vermont Children's Hospital, when describing his interactions with parents about the size of their children. "The amount of anxiety (among parents) has risen to such a remarkable level that it's taking away from people enjoying and taking pleasure in their child. It really troubles me."