by Shari Criso, RN, CNM, IBCLC
This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding
One very common concern that comes up frequently for breastfeeding moms and dads is that their breastfed baby is not gaining weight fast enough, or as quick as other babies. This often happens when parents take the baby to the pediatrician and the pediatrician says that the baby’s just not gaining fast enough. They will use a growth chart, plot your baby’s weight on the growth chart, and then say your baby needs to be growing faster!
As you can imagine, this can be very concerning for a breastfeeding mom, because you’re thinking, ”do I need to supplement?”…”am I just not making enough?”
What I want to talk about here are normal growth patterns of breastfed babies.
Unfortunately, because we have so few exclusively breastfed babies in this country (and this really is the case, that there aren’t that many babies that are being breastfed for an entire year) their weights are being compared to formula fed infants that often grow and gain faster and weigh more, especially in the second half of the first year.
So what is a normal weight gain for a breastfed babies?
When I say average, what I mean is that they won’t ALWAYS gain that amount every single week or consistently, so weighing them every week will actually be a problem. They will have growth spurts, and gain more weight some weeks and less weight other weeks. Typically this is somewhere between 5-7 oz per week, for the first 4 months, on average…and then around 4-6 months you’ll start to see this weight gain drop to about 4-6 oz per week, and then from 6-12 months, 2-4 oz per week is the average norm for breastfed babies. Remember, this is just basic standard or average, it does not mean ALL babies are going to follow the same patterns.
It’s important to watch your baby’s cues and take into account other things like your size – smaller parents, smaller baby; are they reaching all their milestones, are they hydrated, are they peeing, are they pooping, are they smiling, are they doing as expected developmentally – these are all important factors to consider in making sure your baby is healthy…not just are they gaining weight! Are they gaining length, is their head circumference growing as well?
Another very important thing to keep in mind is and to understand are the growth charts themselves. This comes up with my clients all the time! Some pediatricians are using the incorrect growth charts to measure and plot your babies weight gain. What you should be asking is, “are you using the WHO growth charts for breastfed babies?” Many of these charts being used in these offices are charts that are based on formula fed infants. The older CDC charts actually measured breastfed babies against formula fed infants, and we know that this is not accurate. So you want to be sure that your office is using the WHO charts to make sure that they are plotting it correctly.
The other thing to do is to notice that just because a baby is at the third percentile, does not mean that your baby is not within normal parameters. Your baby does not have to be at the 50th percentile or the 90th percentile!
A baby that is at the 3rd or 5th percentile for weight is just as healthy as a baby who is at the 70, 80 or 90 growth percentile. These are the normal ranges, and what you really want to keep an eye on is that your baby is staying consistent in their growth. That is really what will tell you the difference. I’m going to post some links here so you’ll have those growth charts, and if for some reason your doctor is not using them, you’ll have access to them to bring them with you and have them use that chart to help plot your baby’s growth.
Have you been concerned about your baby’s growth? Does your child’s doctor use the correct charts?