Thursday, 7 January 2010

Proof that those growth charts don't mean much - they change according to country!

So, we finally got our globetrotter Bambino officially weighed.  It had been a while.  I never bother with the baby well-checks.  I would have to find a competent generalist or pediatrician here first, which I haven't succeeded in doing,** so the Bambino hadn't been weighed since our arrival in Tana at the beginning of July.
Then when we were checking in our luggage at the Morondava airport last week, the Frenchman had the brilliant idea of weighing the Bambino on the luggage scale.  It worked fairly well.  The Bambino weighed in at 9.8 kg (around 21.5 pounds?), with diaper and clothes on, so probably around 9.5 kg without.

Then yesterday, I took the Bambino to a local dermatoligist (who is a very good doctor.  I would choose her as our pediatrician if she wasn't already a dermatogist!).  The baby's arms and chest had been covered in a rash for a week and I wanted to be sure it wasn't anything more than heat rash.

"It's heat rash," she said, as she was going gaga over this beyond cute, big, bouncy, wasa baby. 

"He's so big!", she exclaimed.

"Which reminds me," I said.  "Could we get him weighed on a real baby scale?"

So the dermatologist had the baby scale brought into her office and we undressed the Bambino and put him on the scale.  Sure enough, 9.5 kg.

"Wow!  He is so big for an 8 month old baby!" the doctor exclaimed.  "Bravo!"

"Er, you think?  Because he is exactly average weight for his age on the CDC growth charts for American babies."

"Well, yes but the Americans are fat."  (She honestly said this.)

"And he is in the 75th percentile on the tableau in the French carnet de santé," I went on.

"So you see?  Even in France, he is big.  And by Malagasy standards, he is enormous!", she said.

And it's true.  Malagasy babies are tiny.  Now, part of this really is due to malnutrition, but even the well-fed ones are not that big.   Plus the Bambino really is a very tall baby.  The Malagasy tend to be on the short side.

All of which leads me to believe that those growth charts that doctors are so obsessed with don't really mean that much.  So much depends on the baby's ethnicity and genes. 

I should add that the Bambino was 4.2 kg at birth -that's around the 90th percentile on the CDC charts - so he has slipped way down in weight.  A typical pediatrician would have probably told me a long time ago to start supplementing with formula, notwithstanding that it is obvious from just looking at the baby that he is doing fine (see photo).

The Bambino was never destined to stay his birthweight percentile anyway.  We're all tall and thin in our family.

**The one generalist I have met here told me that I should be retracting my son's penis on a regular basis.  Isn't that advice from something like 30 years ago?


olga vladimirsky said...

Good for you! You stood your grounds!
It is often so hard to resist doctors intimidation and keep your own common sense and intuition as a guide.
And absolutely adorable Bambino.