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Slow or Poor Infant Weight Gain

Determining slow or poor infant weight gain

Weight gain is one of many signs of good health in the breastfeeding baby. Sometimes, a perfectly healthy baby simply gains weight slowly because it's just his or her own unique growth pattern. In other situations, there's a problem that can be pinpointed. If a baby isn't gaining weight according to certain patterns, the baby and the mother should be checked by the physician and a certified lactation consultant. To determine whether slow weight gain is a baby's natural growth pattern or the result of something else, you should be asked a lot of questions about both you and your baby.

Don't panic if your baby's weight gain is ever a concern. Whether slow weight gain is related to a baby's natural pattern or some other factor, receiving your breast milk via continued breastfeeding or an alternative feeding method is almost always in the best interest of the baby. Also, most weight gain issues can be resolved and the mother-baby breastfeeding relationship can continue with proper intervention.

Distinguishing the "natural" slow gainer from a slow-weight-gain problem

A baby that is a "natural" slow gainer still gains weight steadily, though slowly:

  • Maintains a particular growth curve

  • Increases in length and head circumference increase according to typical rates of growth

  • Wakes on his or her own and is alert and cues to breastfeed about eight to 12 times in 24 hours

  • Produces wet and dirty diaper counts similar to a faster-growing baby

Other factors should be considered when a baby:

  • Doesn't gain at least one-half an ounce (15 g) a day by the fourth or fifth day after birth

  • Doesn't regain birthweight by two to three weeks after birth

  • Doesn't gain at least one pound (454 g) a month for the first four months (from lowest weight after birth versus birthweight)

  • Exhibits a dramatic drop in rate of growth (weight, length, or head circumference) from his or her previous curve

Always consult your baby's doctor for more information.