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Sizing up the New Arrival

A newborn's weight cannot be used to predict a child's future size

Ask any parent what she or he remembers from the birth of a first child and one of the first details likely to be recalled is the baby's birth weight and height. What is to be made of these vital statistics that are so proudly reported? 80 percent of all infants born in the United States fall between 5 pounds 111/2 ounces and 8 pounds 53/4 ounces at birth. About 1 in 10 newborns weighs in above this range; an equivalent number is below the low end of this zone.

Where your child is on this continuum may depend on a number of factors. For instance, the longer a pregnancy goes on, the larger the infant is likely to be, while an unborn baby's growth may be limited by poor nutrition or other complications during pregnancy. Smoking, drinking, or drug use by the mother during pregnancy can also stunt development.

Heredity also plays a part, though it's no guarantee of how large an infant will grow up to be. While babies whose parents are unusually large or small may reflect their parents' size at birth, an infant's birth size should not be taken as a predictor of a child's eventual size, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Babies whose birth size is larger or smaller than average may find life beyond the womb difficult at first. Large babies sometimes experience trouble with their blood-sugar levels and need extra feedings to avoid hypoglycemia Small babies may find feeding difficult or have trouble maintaining proper body temperature.

A newborn's birth size can be a tip-off to doctors and nurses that a baby will require special attention for a few days. But more often than not, these stats will be used mainly as benchmarks by parents and pediatricians in following an infant's advance through childhood.

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Updated on October 8, 1995