From what I can tell, most new moms worry about whether or not their baby is getting enough to eat, especially breastfeeding moms who haven’t a clue how much milk their baby is actually eating at each feeding. Parents can take comfort from knowing whether their baby is on track for what’s normal in terms of average newborn weight gain.
So, what is normal?
A newborn is expected to lose between 5-7% of their birth weight in their first 3-4 days of life. Even up to a 10% weight loss can be considered safe, although it is generally recommended that if that much weight has been lost, the breastfeeding mother should consult with a licensed lactation consultant. By about two weeks old, the baby should gain enough weight to bring it back to its original birth weight.
Beyond this, the average newborn will double its birth weight by the time they are three to four months old. Furthermore, by a baby’s first birthday, they should weigh 2.5-3 times their original birth weight. Babies typically experience around five growth spurts in their first year of life. It may suddenly seem that your newborn has outgrown his or her clothes overnight! They may seem extra fussy, even if it seems like you’ve just fed them. It is normal for babies going through growth spurts to start demanding to eat every hour. This can be frustrating to parents who have just managed to establish a feeding routine that works for them and their baby. But fear not, growth spurts do come to an end and the baby will establish a new “normal” again.
Please note, weight charts are specific to baby girls and baby boys. The following charts can be found originally at this link.
Here is a chart depicting the averages for height-to-age.
And finally, a chart to help you see your child’s percentile compared to national averages for their head circumference-for-age.
The differences between breastfed vs. formula-fed babies
In general, exclusively breastfed babies can expect a higher average newborn weight gain than their formula-fed peers for the first two or three months of life. However, at age 6-12 months, formula-fed babies tend to weigh more than exclusively breastfed babies.
A few things to keep in mind when evaluating newborn weight gain
- Be sure to calculate weight gain based on the lowest your baby’s weight has been, not by their original weight.
- Accuracy can only be expected when your baby is weighed without clothing or a diaper, and is weighed on the same scale consistently, as scales widely vary in their margin of error.
- The scale should be set to “zero” before your baby is placed on it. The baby should be placed in the center of the scale. The more calm and still a baby can be during a weigh-in, the more accurate the reading will be.
- If you are concerned about your baby’s weight gain between weigh-ins, a good way to tell if your baby appears to be getting enough nourishment is to check the frequency and quality of your baby’s elimination habits. See the chart below (Source).
You can calculate your baby’s weight compared to age and height using these charts.
A note about chart-reading
Once you find the point on the graph where your baby’s weight and age intersect, follow the line exactly horizontally to find the percentile reading. For instance, if you have a reading of 72%, this tells you that your child weighs more than 72% of his or her peers, and less than 38%. If it seems that your child is troublingly high or low in any category, be sure to express your concerns to your doctor. Often, pediatricians are more concerned with an overall growth patterns (that is, increase in low numbers over time, or a dramatic drop) than they are in your child’s percentiles on any given day.
Take heart, moms and dads of newborns — you’ve got this!
Featured photo credit: Owen Newborn-2/Ginny Washburne via flickr.com