Your baby’s weight gain and making enough milk are two of the top concerns new parents have. Many factors influence your baby’s weight loss immediately after birth and their growth during the first couple weeks and beyond.
The United States began using growth charts in 1977. It can be one tool for measuring the growth of your baby. Growth charts are not reflective of your baby. The World Health Organization growth charts show patterns of growth that are the standards for how a baby should grow. They were created by looking at the pattern of growth of babies who predominantly breastfed for at least four months and were still breastfeeding at twelve months of age.(1) Babies' differences need to be taken into account when determining appropriate and acceptable weight gain. Your baby’s length and head circumference should be considered as part of looking at their growth in addition to weight.
Between visits to your care provider where your baby gets weighed, you can gauge how well your baby is doing by knowing what to look for.
- Your baby looks bigger - as they grow, you see them look more rounded in their cheeks and legs and other areas of their body are filling out
- They have plenty of wet diapers per day - your baby should have one wet diaper for each day they are old, until your milk transitions from colostrum to more volume, and by day 5, your baby should have at least 6-8 or more wet diapers. A wet diaper means it is full, not just lightly wet. To know what this looks and feels like, pour 3 Tablespoons of water on a clean dry diaper for reference. If you are not seeing enough pee diapers or there are orange-colored crystals in your baby’s diaper, this is a sign of dehydration and you should call your pediatrician right away.
- Poop diapers - after day 4, your baby should have 3-4 or more poop diapers per day. The amount of poop should be at least the size of a quarter. It should be soft yet have substance rather than be liquidy.
- Your baby seems relaxed and content after nursing
- Your breasts may feel more full before feeding and less full after feeding
- Your baby has a rhythm of nursing, sleeping, and some alert time and is mostly happy and content
- Your baby rouses to feed every 2-3 hours on their own
- Your baby detaches themself when they are done nursing and seems satisfied
- Your baby takes up more space in the car seat or bed
- They are growing out of their clothes
- Be in close communication with your baby’s pediatrician and your IBCLC
- hand express or pump and give the milk to your baby for more calories and to protect your milk supply
- Stay skin-to-skin with your baby and nurse as much as they are willing
- Do breast compressions during nursing
- Offer to feed your baby more frequently during the day paying close attention to their cues
- Include lactogenic foods and hydrating foods in your diet to support and boost your milk supply
- Use high-quality lactation supplements to support milk production and encourage milk flow. Supplements are a helpful tool but do not take the place of getting to the root of your milk supply or baby’s weight gain issues
Each baby has a unique set of circumstances to consider when looking at its overall growth. Growth charts are there to help you determine if your baby is growing well. Seeing your baby grow and thrive is very rewarding as a parent and their growth during the first year of life is extraordinary. They will go from a newborn relying completely on you for everything to becoming a walking, laughing and more independent, wonderful toddler.