Weight Gain in Your Breastfed Baby

by Shari Criso, RN, CNM, IBCLC

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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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?

Typically breastfed babies will gain faster in the first 4 months of life. Typically somewhere around 4-8 oz or 5-7 oz a week on average, is the amount that a breastfed baby will gain.

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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.

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Have you been concerned about your baby’s growth? Does your child’s doctor use the correct charts?

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Shari Criso 2016

 For over 23 years, Shari Criso has been a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, nationally recognized parenting educator, entrepreneur, and most importantly, loving wife and proud mother of two amazing breastfed daughters. See the entire library of Shari’s My Baby Experts Video Program here.
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Baby Weight Workout

I hear often from moms wanting to get back in shape after having a baby but concerned that exercise and dieting could harm their milk supply.  IBCLC Star Rodriguez helped clarify the questions we see frequently from moms on breastfeeding and fitness in this article here.  Be sure to check that out and don’t forget that it is always best to work with your health care provider in determining a healthy activity level and nutritional plan.  

Once you are certain that adding working out and increased physical activity is a healthy choice for you (and evidence supports that it’s healthy for most of us!) the challenge many parents face is when to find the time, space, and right activity.  Having children around it can be difficult to make some space for yourself and your health.  You are worth it though and your children deserve to have healthy parents, plus, when your children see you making physical activity and your own health a priority, you are modeling how important it is for them as well.  The best way for your children to develop healthy habits is for you to demonstrate healthy habits yourself.  Happy health to you and your family!  ~Jessica

 

Jennifer from Fit For Expecting has offered up a workout to help make it easier to find some time to take care of you.  Check out this Baby Weight Workout that you can enjoy WITH your baby.  I think it’s a great springboard for customizing and creating your own workout that fits your family’s unique makeup.  For more support, be sure to check out Jennifer’s website and like the Fit For Expecting Facebook page.  ~Jessica

Most moms know that exercise is good for them physically, mentally and emotionally. But, when life gets busy, exercise often gets put on the back burner. I designed a workout specifically for Leakies, that’s quick (5 minutes total) and incorporates baby into each exercise. I’m calling it the “Baby Weight Workout” because, that’s right, baby functions as the weight.
A few general exercise tips to keep in mind:
  • For your comfort and for a content baby, you might want to breastfeed before exercising.
  • Stay hydrated – drink water before, during and after exercising.
  • Eat a snack 1 1/2 – 2 hours before exercising.
Enjoy!
TLB Workout - Exercising with Baby
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Fitness and Breastfeeding

by Star Rodriguiz, IBCLC

fitness, fit moms, fitness for moms, walking, breastfeeding and fitness

Moms can burn 500 calories a day while breastfeeding.  So that’s all you have to do, right?  Just breastfeed?  And the weight will all magically fall off and you will look like Giselle?

Breastfeeding can absolutely help you to lose weight, but many moms find that they need to embark on a plan of diet and exercise, too.  (And, just for good measure, please let me remind you not to begin a diet/exercise plan without consulting a medical professional and all that jazz.  Also, don’t rush into physical activity right after having a baby, take the time you need to really heal and adjust to having a new baby, pushing your body too soon could lead to further health issues.  Most moms find they need to wait at least 6 weeks, often closer to 12 weeks postpartum before they start exercising.)

BUT WAIT!  There are a lot of things that people talk about with diet and exercise and breastfeeding that make doing it seem…well, like maybe not the best idea.  So what’s the reality?  Can you safely breastfeed and lose weight?  Or exercise?

I am so glad that I just asked that for you.  The short answer is yes!  Of course!  But the long answer is addressed below, as we unmask three very common breastfeeding myths…

Myth #1You need to eat A LOT to make milk, and drink A LOT, too.

Ok, so here’s the deal.  When you are breastfeeding, you should eat to hunger and drink to thirst.  So, if you’re hungry?  Eat something.  If you’re thirsty?  Drink something.  You may find yourself ravenous, or you may find that your appetite has changed little.  Listen to your body’s cues.  There’s probably little to no need to shove extra food in your mouth or force yourself to drink excessive amounts.  In fact, over drinking water has been linked to a lowered supply.  You may find yourself thirstier, and if you genuinely feel that you need to drink, do it.  Just don’t force a specific amount down your throat in hopes that you will increase supply.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should rejoice and eat whatever, whenever.  Eating a mostly healthy and balanced diet is important.  Few of us are going to be able to eat perfectly all the time, though, especially with a new baby.  So I always tell my clients to continue to take a multivitamin, like their prenatal, throughout the breastfeeding relationship.  Moms probably need some extra Vitamin D, too.  (See this study for more information.)  Most moms can safely take 4000-6000 IUs a day.  This will not only help you, but can help to increase the Vitamin D in your breastmilk, too.  However, you should check with your doctor before increasing any dosages or starting any new vitamins.

Myth #2- You can’t cut calories while breastfeeding.

Not entirely true.  You probably should wait to diet until at least 6-8 weeks, and you shouldn’t go from eating, say, 2500 calories a day to 1500 overnight.  But as long as you have an established supply, decrease your calories slowly, and go no lower than 1500-1800 calories per day as appropriate for your body type, you can absolutely work on losing some weight.  1-2 pounds a week is a pretty safe range of loss, whether or not you are breastfeeding.

Some popular programs have developed breastfeeding options to help moms lose weight safely while breastfeeding.  Weight Watchers and My Fitness Pal both have breastfeeding options.

Myth #3Exercising while breastfeeding will make my supply lower/make my milk gross or sour!

Let’s talk about exercise decreasing supply, first.  If you are constantly working out to exhaustion (and you’re probably not.  I did P90X for about a month when I was in the third month of breastfeeding my daughter, and it didn’t fall into the exhaustive, supply-diminishing category,) yes, you may see some reduction in supply.  Regular, moderate exercise, however, might actually increase your production, although that’s not guaranteed.  Even high intensity exercise when it’s balanced well with adequate caloric intake, is fine and many mothers experience no trouble with high intensity work outs.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard that your baby won’t drink your milk if you have been exercising, because lactic acid will build up and sour your milk.  The entire premise for this was one study with a whole lot of issues. Further studies have not been able to replicate this, and have, instead, pretty clearly shown that babies don’t refuse the breast after exercising.  Anecdotal evidence, while not “official,” shows that many breastfeeding mothers experience quite the satisfied customer in their breastfed baby following even intense work outs.

One thing you do need to worry about while breastfeeding and exercising is wearing a supportive bra that isn’t too tight.  Some sports bras can be really, really binding.  You want to avoid that, obviously, to keep from having issues with plugged ducts and the like.

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Have you heard any other breastfeeding and fitness myths?  Did you lose weight or become more fit while nursing?  Let us know in the comments!

 

 Star Rodriguiz, IBCLC, began her career helping women breastfeed as a breastfeeding peer counselor for a WIC in the Midwest.  Today she is a hospital based lactation consultant who also does private practice work through Lactastic Services.  She recently moved to the northern US with her two daughters and they are learning to cope with early October snowfalls (her Facebook page is here, go “like” for great support). 
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