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Breast Feeding

Weight, Appropriate for Babies

This article is an excerpt from "The Nursing Mother's Problem Solver" by Claire Martin.

Q: My 11-month-old baby is hitting all the developmental milestones on target, except that after he was about 6 months old, he stopped gaining as much weight as he should according to the growth charts. He weighs only 17 pounds-he hasn't doubled his birth weight (9 pounds, 8 ounces). Should I be worried about his eating habits?

A: Actually, he sounds as if he's pretty much on target-he's only a bit below doubling his birth weight, and he still has a month to go. And he was a big newborn.

Also, remember that scales vary, and sometimes a baby's weight is incorrectly recorded.

For breastfed babies, standard pediatric growth charts function as a reference rather than an inflexible diagnostic ruler. Standard growth charts are based on formula-fed infants, whose growth patterns differ measurably from breastfed babies.

Generally, breastfed babies tend to be chubbier and longer than formula-fed babies during the first 6 months, as measured by the growth charts. It's not unusual for a breastfed baby to be in the 90th percentile for weight and/or length during that period. Many parents panic that their babies are growing too fast, worry that the babies are getting fat, and restrict nursing sessions to try to control their weight. (This is a mistake: Your baby will be hungry, and your breasts, reacting to the lower demand, will stop making as much milk as your baby needs.) At 4 months, a healthy breastfed baby may look like an infant Buddha, but the often changes 2 months later.

The cliché about older breastfed babies is that they're long and lean. Once they reach 6 months, their growth slows down-compared with formula-fed babies' growth-and levels off or falls to the 50th percentile or lower. A breastfed baby who's 7 months old may be in the 20th percentile according to the growth charts but still is perfectly healthy and normal. A pediatrician unfamiliar with the growth pattern characteristic of breastfed babies may recommend unnecessary supplements of formula, or even weaning.


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About the Author

Claire Martin is a parenting writer at the Denver Post. Her writing has won national and regional awards, and has appeared in publications such as the St. Petersburg Times, Good Housekeeping, and Sunset magazine. She lives in Denver with her husband and two daughters, both of whom were breastfed.

From THE NURSING MOTHER'S PROBLEM SOLVER by Claire Martin. Copyright © 2000 by Claire Martin. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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