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UK: New Growth Charts Based On Breast-Fed Babies

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

All newborn babies and children up to four years old will have their growth measurements plotted on new charts from this week. The launch of the charts, which have been developed for the Department of Health by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, based on the World Health Organisation's work, coincides with National Breastfeeding Awareness Week (10 - 16 May) and replaces current measures which are based predominately on babies fed with formula milk.

Research shows that breast-fed babies tend to gain weight at a healthier pace and are less likely to become obese in later life. The new charts will play an important role in establishing breastfeeding as the norm and will be included in the Personal Child Health Records, which parents of every newborn are given. They will help parents and healthcare professionals identify children at early risk of obesity and provide important reassurance for parents of breast-fed babies, who are likely to gain weight more slowly.

The new charts include parent-friendly instructions and a chart specifically for premature babies. As babies can lose and gain weight at different rates during birth and two weeks, it is recommended that they are not measured during this time. The charts also help make more reliable predictions of a child's adult height.

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Dr Sheila Shribman, National Clinical Director for Children, Young People and Maternity at the Department of Health said,

"Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants. It gives health benefits for both the baby and the mother - even after they are no longer breastfeeding. It protects against stomach bugs and chest infections, provides perfect nutrition for the first six months, and reduces the likelihood of becoming obese in later childhood.

"The new UK-WHO growth charts will not only provide more accurate measurements for infant growth of breastfed babies, but will also help healthcare professionals and parents to identify early signs of overweight or obesity and provide support."

Professor Terence Stephenson, President of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:

"The new charts have given us the opportunity to give growth charts a complete facelift and for the first time, position breastfeeding as 'the norm'. We hope they will be the stimulus for healthcare professionals to explain to women best practice for healthy growth and in turn, encourage more women to breastfeed their children"