Why is my breastfed baby losing weight?
Breastfeeding is a great thing for babies and for moms.
The numerous health benefits of breastfeeding cannot be denied. Some of them might be overstated at times but, all in all, I believe that breastfeeding is best.
I know there are times when, for whatever reason, moms cannot or choose not to breastfeed. Fortunately, we have come a long way from the old days of evaporated milk formulas of the 1920s to where formula feeding is a very reasonable alternative for those moms. I believe that families should be properly educated and supported in their feeding decision no matter what it is.
If you chose to formula feed or plan to, you can stop reading now. This is not one of those articles meant to shame someone for their choice. This post is a message in support of moms and families who choose to breastfeed and need a little help to determine if everything is going OK.
“Seven percent is average, over 10 percent I start to get worried.”
Most moms know (or read or were taught) that babies lose weight in their first few days of life. If not, that one week checkup is pretty emotional when they place their babies on the scale and the number is lower than their birth weight. Think about it, a 10-pound baby can drop to as low as 9 pounds and still be considered normal weight loss, but you would certainly worry from the time the baby was weighed until I came in the room to tell you everything is OK.
I have been quoting this 7 percent/10 percent mantra since I started practice. It’s partially wrong, at least for breast fed babies. Why? They can actually lose more and still be normal.
A study released in Pediatrics in December showed that breastfed babies could lose more than 10 percent and still be normal, especially babies born via caesarean section. The graphs enable a pediatrician to look at a baby’s weight loss day-by-day and determine if the weight loss is excessive. The bottoms of the weight loss peak occur on day six for both vaginal and c-section but the peaks occur at 11 percent and 12 percent respectively.
Why does this matter?
Any mom who has had trouble getting their baby to grow on breastmilk knows the pressure to start formula that can be applied by doctor, nurses or family members. While, I don’t believe that having mom give formula when appropriate ruins her chances of breastfeeding, I certainly don’t want to be pushing families to supplement when it isn’t necessary. Therefore, I plan to start implementing these guidelines into my practice so that I can best support breastfeeding moms in their effort to breastfeed.
If you are having a baby and are planning to breastfeed, it might be helpful for you to be aware of them as well.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page. He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.