Newborn Growth
Lays Foundation for Child Growth

Newborn growth is of great concern to both, the parents and the professionals. Fetal growth pattern is assessed periodically throughout the gestation to determine the expected growth of the baby at birth

Growth of a baby is determined by the genetic makeup of the fetus, with the modifications influenced by mother’s health and life style: Mother’s Physical and Emotional Health Influence Fetal development.

Normal growth during neonatal period shows high velocity increase in weight, height and head circumference. Increase in head circumference implies rapid brain growth, and consequently development of skills in newborns.

Regardless of gestational age at birth, the newborn period begins at birth and includes the 1st mo of life. During this short neonatal period newborn infants are highly vulnerable to adverse environmental circumstances, which can incur profound effect on overall childhood development.

Parenting newborns can be quite challenging.
It involves good bonding with the baby, providing emotional and nutritional needs and developing special newborn nursing skills: Infants thrive physically and psychologically only under happy social relationships.

Any threat to newborn health that is severe enough to interfere with the normal newborn growth process may well have long term child health consequences. A detailed professional evaluation within 24 hours of birth establishes a baseline to which later clinical assessments can be related.

Newborn growth: Classified according to gestational age

Neonates are divided into 3 categories depending on their stage of intrauterine development and independent of baby’s weight at birth. The dates are counted from the first day of the last menstrual period and the conception is presumed to be approximately 2 weeks after this date.


A newborn is considered to be premature when born before completing full 37 weeks (258 days) of gestation.


Baby is considered to be full term when born after completing the normal developmental phase of 37 to 42 weeks (259 – 293 days) of gestation.


A baby born after 42 completed weeks (294 days) of gestation is considered to be post-mature.

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Newborn growth pattern varies with birth weight

Newborn Growth Pattern Varies With the Weight of Baby at Birth

Growth pattern during the neonatal phase of development is dependent on the weight of baby at birth. The birth weight of a neonate is recorded usually within the first hour of life and certainly within first 24 hours after birth.
For expected weight for gestational age do look in "Fetal Growth Charts"

Small for gestational age (SGA)

  • Small for date babies fall below tenth percentile for expected weight for the gestational age. 

  • The most common cause of fetal growth retardation is utero-placental insufficiency, often in association with  pre-eclampsia in the mother.

Appropriate for gestational age (AGA)

Large for gestational age (LGA)

  • LGA babies fall above 90th percentile (the yellow line on the graph) for the expected weight for gestational age. 

  • Commonly seen in infants of mothers with poorly controlled diabetes; infants of diabetic mothers (IDM).

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Body measurements of a normal newborn

  • Newborn baby's body proportions as compared to that of adult's.

    1.). Newborn’s head is half the length of adult head.

    2.). Newborn’s trunk is one-third the length of adult trunk.

    3.). Newborn’s arms are one-fourth the length of adult arms.

    4.). Newborn’s legs are one-fifth of the length of adult legs.

  • Abdomen is prominent in newborns.

    Newborns' abdomen protrudes only slightly.
    Over distension or scaphoid appearance of abdomen indicates underlying abnormality.

  • Male baby as compared to a baby girl.

    Male infants are slightly heavier, taller and large headed than the female infants at birth.

  • Newborn's body weight differs according to the sequence of birth.

    The mean birth weight of first born infants is less than that of the infants of higher birth order.

  • Weight, length, and head circumference are the three most useful routine measurements to monitor infants' growth. 
    Percentile growth chart, the graphic presentation of expected child growth, will help you follow your child’s growth progress. 
    Download / print the specific growth chart for your baby. It is FREE.

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Newborn growth velocity

Weight gain

  • Birth weight of a normal full-term baby is approximately 3.2 kilos, the range being 2.8 to 4 kilos.

  • Contrary to rapid newborn growth trend during the neonatal period, newborns loose weight for the first 3 to 7 days of life to the maximum of 10 percent of the birth weight.

  • The loss of weight during first 10 days of life is attributed to loss of extra proportion of body water of newly born infant.

  • They rapidly regain the weight lost in next 3 to 7days.

  • During the next 20 days of the neonatal period, newborn baby's weight gain is 10 - 15 grams per day per kilo of the body weight.

  • By the end of neonatal phase, a well growing newborn has
    500 to 1000 grams of weight gain over and above the birth weight.
Newborn Growth Velocity

Newborn length / stature

Newborn growth:
Increase in head circumference reflects brain growth

  • Head circumference at birth varies from 32 to 35 centimeters.

  • It is approximately 2 centimeters larger than the chest size. 

  • Between 6 months and 2 years, both measurements are almost equal. 

  • It is only after 2 years of age that the chest size becomes larger than that of the head.
Newborn Brain Growth: Increase in Head circumference Reflects Brain Growth

The head of neonate comprises about one fourth of total body length, whereas at maturity it comprises not more than 10 percent of the body length. This reflects the rapid brain growth during infancy.

Also read for more on brain growth pattern and nutritional essentials for normal brain growth.

Errors may occur in the measurement of a newborn’s head circumference due to child birth effects, such as scalp edema, overriding of sutures, and the presence of cephalhematoma.

Head circumference growth velocity

The velocity of increase in head size is high in first years of life. Consequently, by first birthday an infant has almost 90 percent of adult brain size; and by 6 years of age it nearly reaches its expected adult size.

Head Circumference Growth Velocity

Variations in head circumference

Causes of Small head circumference, also known as microcephaly

Causes of Large head circumference. also known as macrocephaly

  • Familial disposition

  • Hydrocephalus

  • Intracranial bleeding

  • Other intracranial abnormalities.

Newborn growth related pages:

Early Development:Vital Phase for Optimal Childhood Development

Get Pregnant: Conceiving after Abortion

Also browse the right column on the page

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