Measuring children – not as easy as it sounds!

As a specialist paediatric dietitian, I am committed to ongoing professional development (‘CPD’) and that’s part of the reason why I’m so involved in research – either through editing scientific papers, being part of research projects, or analysing medical research papers for the latest evidence (usually accompanied by a mug of tea!).

An area that I don’t feel receives the attention it deserves is in childhood measurement. Parents are frequently encouraged to have their babies and children weighed and measured…and yet how accurate are these measurements? Are scales and length measures regularly calibrated and serviced? Does the health professional undertaking the measurements receive regular training and can they be certain of their technical error of measurement (we’re all human afterall).

I have recently been involved in a training program to teach professionals some of the basics of measuring children, and I’ve also been involved in a research project investigating measuring children with special needs – here’s a link to my recent publication:

As parents, I would encourage you to:

  • ask at your clinic to have your infant/child measured in length as well as weight
  • question unusual measurements (it’s good practice to take two repeat measurements)
  • rely on serial measurements (trends) rather than one-offs
  • try to make sure weighing/measuring conditions are the same each time eg clothes/nappy off, same time of the day, after voiding etc.

And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the measurements you’re given!

Hayley Kuter

Paediatric Dietitian


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