When you start your breastfeeding journey, it’s often scary to not know exactly how much milk your baby is getting with each feed. While trusting yourself is important, knowing the following rules of thumb about your baby gaining weight correctly can make those first days, weeks, and months less stressful.
1) It’s normal for babies to lose weight after they’re born.
Almost all babies lose weight after birth; both if they’re breastfed or formula fed. Even you’re expecting to have your baby lose a little weight, it’s still a little scary to experience it! Normal weight loss after birth ranges from about 7-10%, so when both of my almost-10-pound babies lost 10% of their birthweight after birth, I had to nervously watch them each lose a whole pound! That’s scary stuff for a new parent, even if you’re an IBCLC and nutritionist. In the beginning, your breastfed baby is losing more weight through pooping and peeing than they are taking in via colostrum, the first milk. Around the time that your mature milk “comes in” (around 3-4 days), your baby will likely begin to gain weight and most babies are back up to their birth weight by about 2 weeks. For both of my babies, making up for the 1-pound weight loss took slightly longer than 2 weeks. But, because they were gaining at least half an ounce to an ounce per day (about 4-8 ounces per week), I didn’t worry, and neither did their pediatrician.
2) Weight gain is fast in the first few weeks, and slows down by 6 months.
In the first few months, most babies continue to gain at the 8 ounce per week rate, and then the rate slows down to about 4 ounces per week at 4 months, and 2 ounces per week at 6 months. Breastfed babies do tend to gain weight slightly different compared to their formula-fed counterparts, so make sure that your doctor is using the WHO growth charts designed for breastfed babies if there is any concern about their weight gain. Breastfed babies tend to gain more weight in the first few months, compared to formula-fed babies, and less weight later on. For most average birthweight babies, they tend to double their birthweight by 4-6 months and triple it by a year. Again, for my larger-than-average babies, both of these milestones took slightly longer, and thank goodness! I can’t imagine having a 30-pound one year old.
3) Your big baby or small baby might be what’s normal for him.
Keep in mind that a consistent low or high percentile of weight for age might be normal for your baby, as long as they maintain that percentile. Most pediatricians agree that crossing a percentile is more worrisome than continuing a higher- or lower-than-average weight percentile.
4) Tips to know if your breastfed baby is getting enough milk
The number one concern of parents is “is my baby getting enough”, and weight gain is a good indicator that they are. However, if you are worried about weight gain during your baby’s first year, make sure to consider it as part of the whole picture. In the early days, diaper output (especially poopy diapers) are also a really good indicator that baby is getting enough. Make sure that you are comparing weights on the same scale, and under the same conditions- time of day, if they just ate, have a wet diaper or clothes on can make a big difference in those early days!
5) Weight gain can change once solid foods are started.
Once solids foods are added, around the six month mark, weight gain can speed up or slow down depending on how many calories the solid foods contain. Don’t forget that once your baby starts crawling, cruising and walking their weight gain might slow a bit, too, which is why 2 ounces per week at 6-12 months is totally fine. Looking at the overall health of your baby and if they appear happy and alert is a great indicator that your child is growing and developing well.
6) When to talk to a professional.
If you’re worried that your baby isn’t eating enough or gaining weight properly, you can call your baby’s doctor for a weigh-in or a lactation consultant for a breastfeeding check up. The lactation consultant can give you important tips and tricks to make sure your baby is getting enough milk.