At long last, the CDC and the AAP now both recommend using the World Health Organization’s Breastfed Infant growth charts. Why? As it turns out, too many babies were getting diagnosed with “failure to thrive” or other growth issue because they didn’t fit the curve. This is no surprise, being that the CDC’s curve was based on formula-fed babies from a limited geographic area. So all these healthy breastfed babies that were “too small” ended up getting formula to make them look like their overweight counterparts. It should come as no surprise that formula companies happily sponsored these growth charts.
The World Health Organization’s charts are much more representative. They were made by measuring healthy, breastfed infants from many different places and cultures, so they take into account not just the ideal food source for babies (breastmilk) but also allow for cultural and ethnic variability. What if your baby is formula-fed — should you then use the formula-fed curve? Nope! Formula is a substitute for breastmilk, attempting to be as close as possible to human milk. We also want your baby to grow as similarly as possible to a breastfed infant, which is the nature course of progression for all infants.
You’ll be pleased to know that we've been ahead of the curve here, of course, using the WHO breastfed growth charts for years before it was cool…#hipsterpediatrician. During that time I often *un-diagnosed* children with failure to thrive who simply weren't plotted on the right curve. And I must say it’s great that this frustration may finally come to an end, definitely a cause for celebration!