At my Mummymoon we did a sweepstake on the weight of the baby. Harriet put 8lb 8oz but literally everyone else chose 7lb something, probably because most of us including me thought that 7 and a half pounds is average weight for a baby.
Indeed, when Pip was born, one of our first thoughts was “wow, he’s a bit big!” Having recently spent time with two newborn baby girls (Elphie and another little bundle of pink and frilly cuteness) who were around 2lb and 3lb lighter respectively, at 8lb 7oz he seemed particularly large in comparison. And as my bump had always been average, that’s what I was expecting: average. I hope Harriet doesn’t spend her £5.50 all at once!
But Pip is far from unusual; it seems these days as if babies are just being born bigger. Most of my NCT group’s babies weighed over 8lb (including two weighing exactly the same as Pip), and even Prince George was just an ounce lighter than him at 8lb 6oz.
It turns out everyone was right: the average is about what we thought, but babies are increasing in weight:
“The royal baby, weighing in at 8lb 6oz, is larger than the average, although the average birth weight of UK babies is increasing – 7lb 8oz for boys (up 2oz)… and 7lb 4oz for girls (up 1½oz).”
Only 1lb in it!!
Pip’s weight at birth and at his six-week check was on the 75th percentile. The percentile system is how a baby’s growth is tracked using data from the World Health Organisation: if your baby’s weight is on the 75th percentile, that means that around 25% of babies the same age are heavier, and around 75% are the same weight or lighter. It doesn’t usually matter where on the scale your baby is, as long as they are growing and thriving. It’s a bit like when I used to teach: progress is the key, so it’s less important whether you’re an A, B or C student as long as you are improving. Therefore, having a baby that is heavier than average doesn’t mean I can kick back and relax. Pip still needs to gain weight, and should ideally remain on the same trajectory at least for the time being… so this equates lots and lots of feeding! At least I don’t have to worry about obesity just yet, as it’s apparently impossible to overfeed a breastfed baby.
In this country babies are tracked in their “red book”, a personal child health record which is supposed to accompany them throughout childhood. The most interesting bits I think are the percentile charts: for example, once Pip is two, we can use them to predict how tall he will be once fully grown! The book also records all the immunisations a child receives and if I can overlook Pip’s misspelled (real) name on the first page – must get Tippex out! – it is a pretty useful thing to have. The only annoying thing is that all the measurements are metric, which I find quite challenging (we converted Pip’s weight wrong initially…) – perhaps by the time he’s left school I’ll be au fait with kg and cm.
Boys and girls have different charts so it’s difficult to compare them anyway; for example, 7lb 4oz might seem on the smaller side for a boy but that’s average for a girl.
Back to weighty matters… and while it is fascinating to watch babies grow and develop while tracking their progress, ultimately it doesn’t mean that much in the end. Big babies and small babies can all turn out average-sized, and once they start toddling around it evens out. And while there’s a difference between Pip and smaller babies, it’s only a few pounds! At least he’s still ON the percentile scale…unlike the double-average-sized but still-really-cute Giant George King (yes, really).