The right weight

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As parents, weight gain is one of our biggest worries. So how do you know if your little one is developing normally?

The average birthweight of a baby born in Britain today is 3.3kg (7lb 5oz), but that's just maths. Weight can vary widely, between about 2.5kg (5lb 8oz) and 4.5kg (9lb 14oz), with girls tending to be around 300g (10oz) lighter than boys.

Genetics also play a part in how much your child weighs. If you and your partner come from Charlotte Church/Danny de Vito stock, it's unlikely your offspring will grow up looking like Kate Moss. Look at your baby pictures. Were you all dimples and dumpling, or long and lean?

Other factors, including nutrition and the health of the mum during pregnancy, can affect a child's size. But as little ones grow, it's not how heavy they are at any given time that's important but the rate at which they gain weight . Every child follows a set pattern of growth from birth.

Growth patterns explained

The first thing babies do on their pattern of growth is shrink! It takes ^

'Ooof! Might not be able to do this for much longer!'

Weight

Weight a while for your newborn to get used to drinking milk rather than getting food through the placenta (and if you're breastfeeding, for you to start making it), which means he can lose up to 10% of his weight in the days following birth. But by about 10 days old, he should start to put it on again.

Your health visitor will plot your baby's weight gain for the first few weeks (then less regularly as he grows up) in his health record on a growth chart, also known as a centile chart (see below).

The lines represent a zone within which your baby is expected to grow normally. If he's on the top line, or centile, it doesn't mean he's overweight. Equally, he's not underweight if he's on the lower line.

Regardless of which centile your baby starts on, as long as he continues to follow it roughly, then he's gaining weight as expected. It's hard to say how much or little your baby should put on week by week but, generally, it's quite rapid to begin with - 175 to 225g (6 to 8oz) a week - doubling his birthweight at 6 months. After this, weight gain gradually slows down.

If your baby jumps up or down to the next centile, or begins to go beyond the zone altogether, speak to your health visitor. But it's not usually anything to be concerned about: babies will often go through growth spurts, gaining nothing for a couple of weeks, then catching up in one go.

Some little ones may not follow the growth charts very well, but this doesn't mean they're ill. Exclusively breastfed babies, premature babies or twins all show slightly different weight gain progress. In this case, your health visitor will use different, specialised charts to check your child is gaining weight properly.

But it's not practical to have his weight checked at the baby clinic every week until he goes to school. And bathroom scales don't give an accurate indicator of your baby's growth. So it's helpful to have some less scientific, though no less helpful, rules of thumb.

r\ \ How do I know if lev ; I'm over- or underfeeding my baby?

Babies cry when they're hungry, this much is true.

No two babies are the same, and may not oblige by keeping rigidly to your growth chart

But if only it were that simple. They also cry when they're too cold, hot, fussed over, lonely, sleepy... And it can be hard to tell which one is which. Crying for food isn't limited to newborns, either. Toddlers will cry for a biscuit or a drink when really they're hurt, insecure, tired, unhappy or just bored. So how do you know when you've given them the right amount for them to thrive?

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