Background: Standard values for birth weight by gestational age are not available for sub-Saharan Africa, but are needed to evaluate incidence and risk factors for intrauterine growth retardation in settings where HIV, antiretrovirals, and other in utero exposures may impact birth outcomes.Methods: Birth weight data were collected from six hospitals in Botswana. Infants born to HIV-negative women between 26-44 weeks gestation were analyzed to construct birth weight for gestational age charts. These data were compared with published norms for black infants in the United States.Results: During a 29 month period from 2007-2010, birth records were reviewed in real-time from 6 hospitals and clinics in Botswana. Of these, 11,753 live infants born to HIV-negative women were included in the analysis. The median gestational age at birth was 39 weeks (1 st quartile 38, 3 rd quartile 40 weeks), and the median birth weight was 3100 grams (1 st quartile 2800, 3 rd quartile 3400 grams). We constructed estimated percentile curves for birth weight by gestational age which demonstrate increasing slope during the third trimester and leveling off beyond 40 weeks. Compared with black infants in the United States, Botswana-born infants had lower median birth weight for gestational age from weeks 37 through 42 (p < .02).Conclusions: We present birth weight for gestational age norms for Botswana, which are lower at term than norms for black infants in the United States. These findings suggest the importance of regional birth weight norms to identify and define risk factors for higher risk births. These data serve as a reference for Botswana, may apply to southern Africa, and may help to identify infants at risk for perinatal complications and inform comparisons among infants exposed to HIV and antiretrovirals in utero. © 2011 Matthews et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.