Birth Weight and Infant Growth: Optimal Infant Weight Gain versus Optimal Infant Weight


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Abstract

ObjectiveInfant growth assessment often focuses on “optimal” infant weights and lengths at specific ages, while de-emphasizing infant weight gain. Objective of this study was to examine infant growth patterns by measuring infant weight gain relative to birth weight.MethodsWe conducted this study based on data collected in a prospective cohort study including 3,302 births with follow up examinations of infants between the ages of 8 and 18 months. All infants were participants in the Louisiana State Women, Infant and Children Supplemental Food Program between 1999 and 2001. Growth was assessed by infant weight gain percentage (IWG%, defined as infant weight gain divided by birth weight) as well as by mean z-scores and percentiles for weight-for-age, length-for-age, and weight-for-length calculated based on growth charts published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).ResultsAn inverse relationship was noted between birth weight category and IWG% (from 613.9% for infants with birth weights <1500 g to 151.3% for infants with birth weights of 4000 g or more). In contrast, low birth weight infants had lower weight-for-age, weight-for-length z-scores and percentiles compared to normal birth weight infants according to CDC growth charts.ConclusionsAlthough low birth weight infants had lower anthropometric measures compared to a national reference population, they had significant catch-up growth; High birth weight infants had significant slow-down growth. We suggest that growth assessments should compare infants' anthropometric data to their own previous growth measures as well as to a reference population. Further studies are needed to identify optimal ranges of infant weight gain.

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