Baby weight gain is something that concerns most moms. Is my baby gaining enough weight? Is he gaining too much or too little? It can drive parents crazy trying to make sure that their baby is on track.
Breastfeeding babies are often leaner than bottle-fed babies. If you go by the assumption that chunky babies are the healthiest babies, it may seem like a lean baby isn’t healthy. In reality, the opposite is true. Breastfed babies receive super nutritious milk that is created to match their needs at each phase of growth. It’s designed to help the baby grow at a healthy rate.
While breastfed babies may not grow at the rate of the average bottle-fed baby, they still thrive. They also receive a variety of long-term health benefits that can’t come from formula. In fact, scientific research has proven that babies who aren’t breastfed for at least the first six months of life are more likely to become overweight.
If breastfed babies don’t always keep up with the growth of bottle-fed babies, how do you know if your baby’s weight gain is healthy? You should work with your child’s medical provider to assess other signs of health, but there are some general guidelines that you can use to evaluate your baby from home.
Average Weight Gain for Breastfed Babies
Breastfed babies should gain 4-7 ounces in the first month of life. For the first six months, gaining a pound or two each month is considered healthy. Between seven and 12 months of age, a pound a month is adequate. Breastfed babies can also gain up to an inch in length each month during the first year of life.
These numbers aren’t hard rules, but they should give you a good idea of what to look for when weighing your baby. You may find that your baby’s weight gain slows or speeds up at times, depending on a variety of factors that influence growth. You may see your baby’s doctor if you grow concerned, but most babies will resume normal growth rates rather quickly.
Baby Weight Gain Calculators – Should You Trust Them?
Many weight gain calculators are based on expected growth rates for bottle-fed babies. Some may lump all babies together when determining the healthy weight ranges, which doesn’t take into account the fact that breastfed babies don’t always keep up with bottle-fed babies. That’s why many breastfeeding mothers grow concerned when comparing their baby’s weight to the expected weight delivered by a calculator.
The same goes for baby growth charts used by many doctors. While they are valuable tools that pediatricians and doctors can use to assess the health of a baby, they aren’t always accurate for breastfed babies. It’s important to look for other signs of good health, including:
- Wet and dirty diapers
- Eye contact
- Regular sleep patterns
Even if a breastfed baby is a bit low on a growth chart or leaner than predicted by a calculator, she should show signs of strength and healthy development. She should gain weight at a steady rate and should have the energy and alertness to explore the world around her in a healthy manner.
Are Breastfed Babies Leaner?
In general, most breastfed babies match the growth of bottle-fed peers for the first few months of life. They may appear leaner from the fourth month on, especially when compared to bottle-fed babies who are overfed. While it’s important to pay attention to weight gain, looking at overall signs of health and the steady rate of growth is critical.
What If My Breastfed Baby is Not Gaining Weight?
Your doctor may start to worry if your baby doesn’t return to her birth weight within the first two weeks of life. They may also express concern if your baby isn’t growing at a steady rate or shows other signs of distress, poor development or failure to thrive.
Common Reasons Breastfed Babies May Fail to Gain Weight
Some of the most common reasons that breastfed babies don’t gain weight center on feeding problems. If the baby’s latch isn’t correct, they may not express enough milk to empty the breasts and achieve satiety at each feeding. You may notice irritability and a lot of struggles to maintain a latch on the nipple during feedings.
If a mother doesn’t breastfeed often enough, the baby may also fail to gain weight at a steady rate. There are sometimes medical issues that leave the baby too lethargic or unresponsive to feed at regular intervals. In other cases, the baby may simply fall asleep because breastfeeding is too soothing for them. In that case, you should keep your baby alert by touching their face with a wet rag or removing the baby’s clothing for feedings. You can also use upright breastfeeding positions that make it harder for the baby to sleep.
Breastfed babies may also have underlying medical problems that could prevent them from gaining weight at a healthy rate. It’s important to seek medical attention if you’re concerned that your baby is too lean even for a breastfed baby. The faster you start troubleshooting, the more likely you are to find and fix the problem before it takes a toll on your baby’s health.
Is My Baby Gaining Too Much Weight?
Some babies enjoy breastfeeding more than others. Just as bottle-fed babies can easily gain too much weight if overfed, breastfeeding babies can overfeed themselves as well. Pudgy babies are adorable and in most cases are completely healthy, but your doctor will express concern if your baby is gaining weight at an unhealthy rate.
Breastfed babies may also gain too much weight if the mother produces too much milk. They take in more milk at each feeding simply because it’s available. The milk may also come out faster, so the baby takes in more milk before realizing that their stomach is full.
In some cases, babies become overfed when a mother breastfeeds to soothe or calm the baby too often. The baby starts to use the breast as a pacifier or just to feel the security that comes with cuddling at the mother’s breast. Gaining weight too fast is always a risk when food is used for anything but nourishment.
Your Baby’s Weight Is a Concern – What Should You Do?
If you’re worried about your baby’s weight gain, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician or family doctor. It helps if your baby’s doctor is familiar with healthy growth patterns for exclusively breastfed babies. They will know to look at your baby’s overall health and growth rather than focusing exclusively on a general growth chart.