Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition

WHO Growth Charts for Breastfed Children

Download the percentile charts at these links:

BOYS:  Boys- weight:   Boys- length/height

GIRLS:  Girls- weight:   Girls- length/height

In late April, 2006, the World Health Organization released long-awaited new growth charts for breastfed children. Based on careful studies of breastfed babies living under “ideal” conditions in several countries, WHO has determined that they grow at similar rates and that this growth pattern is the ideal one. At some ages what used to look like mild “growth retardation” now shows up as normal growth.

The children in the study were selected based on an optimal environment for proper growth: recommended infant and young child feeding practices, good healthcare, mothers who did not smoke, and other factors associated with good health outcomes.

The new standards are based on the breastfed child as the norm for growth and development. This brings coherence for the first time between the tools used to assess growth, and national and international infant feeding guidelines which recommend breastfeeding as the optimal source of nutrition during infancy. This will now allow accurate assessment, measurement and evaluation of breastfeeding and complementary feeding.

The new WHO Child Growth Standards confirm that children born anywhere in the world and given the optimum start in life have the potential to develop to within the same range of height and weight. Naturally there are individual differences among children, but across large populations, regionally and globally, the average growth is remarkably similar. For example, children from India, Norway and Brazil all show similar growth patterns when provided healthy growth conditions in early life. The new standards prove that differences in children’s growth to age five are more influenced by nutrition, feeding practices, environment, and healthcare than genetics or ethnicity.

The new Standards are the result of an intensive study initiated by WHO in 1997 to develop a new international standard for assessing the physical growth, nutritional status and motor development in all children from birth to age five. WHO and its principal partner, the United Nations University, undertook the Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS) which is a community-based, multi-country project involving more than eight thousand children from Brazil, Ghana, India, Norway, Oman, and the United States of America.

Since the late 1970s, the National Center for Health Statistics / WHO growth reference has been in use to chart children’s growth. This reference was based on data from a limited sample of children from the United States. It contains a number of technical and biological drawbacks that make it less adequate to monitor the rapid and changing rate of early childhood growth. It describes only how children grow in a particular region and time, but does not provide a sound basis for evaluation against international standards and norms.