One of my gorgeous ladies called me the other day. She'd been having problems with sore nipples. It turns out her daughter not only had a tongue tie, but she also had a bubble palate. Despite all of this she managed to get more than enough milk to keep midwives and health visitors happy. Mum is producing copious amounts of milk. Once all of this had been sorted, my lovely lady took her daughter to be weighed. When she called me to update me she told me which percentile her daughter was on.
We spend a lot of time being worried about percentiles. I tend to have a standard answer for my ladies, which hopefully gives them pause. A percentile simply means that x amount of babies at the same age as your beautiful baby are bigger and x amount are smaller. If all of our babies were on the 50th percentile, well to be fair, none of the percentiles would make sense. We would all be standard! Now, I love people watching and I can tell you, in a non scientific or statistically proved way, that no two people look the same. We are different shapes, sizes, colours and frames. I see tall people, short people, skinny people, not so skinny people and huge people. We were not all designed to be the same size.
So why, knowing this, are we obsessed with percentiles? Lady Baby spent her babyhood very happily on the 2nd percentile. She also had a lovely time on the 0.9th percentile. Boy Child happily went from the 9th to the 50th to the 75th percentile. I fed them the same milk and swapped breasts regularly. Even now, aged 8, they are different sizes. I put that down to them being individuals.
I look at some of my clients and they are tall people. I imagine that their babies will be larger.. I see skinny people and imagine that their babies won't do the rolls of fat thing. I look at my clients and know that they will do their best to raise healthy children.
Now, before you jump up and down, there will be some babies who, for some reason, fail to thrive. They won't meet their weight milestones, they might inexplicably lose more weight than is healthy. This I know and for this the percentiles are kind of handy. However, if all babies were to continually jump the percentiles (this is my impression of what health care professionals want) then surely they would be severely obese one year olds?
Babies, like people, come in different shapes and sizes. If our babies lose too much weight, we increase their feeding. We put our babies back to the breast more often and we watch them grow. We check their tongues, their attachment, their 'milking' of the breast and effective feeding. If there is a problem, we go and get it sorted out (at least I hope we do). We remember, please remember, that the 50th percentile simply means that 50% (or should that be 49%) of babies of this age are bigger and the other 50% are smaller than this baby. We're not all average, and nor should we wish to be.