Baby weight gain and how to increase your milk supply

Baby red bookIt is all too easy to become obsessed with your baby's weight gain (or lack of it).

This might have something to do with the weight gain charts in the back of your baby's red book. Getting your baby weighed can become a weekly ritual and if your baby slips off their percentile curve, which shows typical weight gain for a baby of their birthweight and age, it's hard not to worry.

The truth is though that babies don't always gain weight in such a predictable fashion and it is only when there is dramatic weight loss over a short period, if your baby fails to chart at all or rapidly slips more than two percentile curves that there may be cause for concern.

It is typical for babies to lose up to 10% of their birthweight in the first week and after this they will have growth spurts and plateaus but will, generally, gain weight gradually over the months. The average baby will double his or her birthweight in six months and treble it by a year.

The way your baby puts on weight will vary depending on the way they are being fed. Exclusively breast-fed babies gain weight more rapidly in the first two to three months (although the first two weeks may be slower as breastfeeding gets established) and after that bottle-fed babies tend to weigh more than breastfed babies.

NHS Choices recommends that you only need to weigh your baby once a month up to six months of age, once every two months from six to 12 months of age, and once every three months over the age of one. 

What to do if your baby isn't gaining weight

If your baby isn't gaining weight and drops down a couple of centiles in a short space of time it could be that they are not getting enough milk or food, that they have a medical condition such as cleft palate or digestive disorders, or they might be ill or have an infection (of the urinary tract for example).

Cleft palate, tongue tie and torticollis

Some babies are born with physical problems - such as an unusually shaped or cleft palate, tongue tie, or torticollis (twisted neck) - that mean they find it very difficult to breastfeed.

Babies with reflux (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease) can feed properly but, because the muscle ring that closes off their stomach doesn't work properly, throw it all back up afterwards. 

If you suspect your baby has any of these problems, see your GP as soon as you can. There are often treatments that can help.

And there's lots of advice and support on the Mumsnet Talk boards if your baby has a physical problem that complicates feeding.

But if your baby is feeding, settles well, is pooing and weeing OK, seems happy and shows no sign of illness it could be that this is just their way of growing and there is nothing to worry about.

If there is cause for concern, your GP may suggest further investigation and your baby may be referred to a specialist.

You may be prescribed high fat content milk and if your baby is on solids you can use this to cook with as well as offering it as a drink. You may be encouraged to give your baby supplementary formula feeds, but if you are given the right support you should be able to carry on breastfeeding without doing this.

Obviously, what you decide to do is up to you and depends very much on your baby's particular circumstances and your own level of desperation. If you decide to keep plugging on with breastfeeding, you need to get plenty of expert support and do your utmost to make sure your baby has as much opportunity to feed as possible. You may need some help refining your breastfeeding technique and making sure your baby is latching on correctly, or you could try some other ways to increase your milk supply.

Increasing your milk supply

Milk is produced according to demand so your baby's sucking stimulates the production of more milk. Make sure that you have got the latch sorted and get some help to check it out. If you are worried that you are not giving your baby enough milk, try these tips:

  • Feed your baby often and watch out for signs that she needs a feed. Feed on demand as this will stimulate milk production. Make sure you feed from both breasts.
  • Skin-to-skin contact can stimulate milk production.
  • Try to feed your baby at least six to eight times a day.
  • Use breast compression when you are feeding as you would if you were expressing by hand, by pressing thumb and forefinger on the areola gently while feeding.
  • Some people suggest expressing milk in between feeds so that your breasts are stimulated to produce more milk. You can keep this milk for your baby.
  • Try to avoid supplementing your baby's feeds with formula unless it is thought to be completely necessary, as missing a breastfeed might reduce milk production.
  • Try to stop your baby sleeping halfway through a feed. Try tickling his feet or moving him from one breast to the other.
  • Avoid using dummies.


What Mumsnetters say about baby weight gain and increasing your milk supply

  • Take your baby to bed and get loads and loads of skin-to-skin contact in order to stimulate her to feed and to stimulate your milk supply. Gabygirl
  • Formula is hardly ever medically necessary - although it can be a lifeline to a distraught mother and baby. tiktok
  • It's perfectly normal to think that you don't have enough milk, especially in the evening. Chances are you have plenty and the best way to make more is to feed more. Can'tSleepWon'tSleep
  • Have confidence in your own body. If it's clever enough to make a baby, it's more than clever enough to make milk, which is very simple in comparison. belgo

 

Last updated: 18-Sep-2013 at 5:22 PM