Every mother needs the reassurance that their baby is growing and weighing enough to ensure they are healthy. However, what’s most important for new moms to understand is that their baby follows their curves on a breastfed baby growth chart and the baby’s weight gain is consistent.
Moms that breastfeed feel extra pressure for their baby not to have poor weight gain. This pressure comes from the fact that the baby is entirely reliant on the mother’s milk supply for the first six months of their life. If someone comments on their baby’s size, it can make you feel like you are doing something wrong.
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What is a Breastfed Baby Growth Chart?
A breastfed baby growth chart is a tool published by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS) derived the percentile curves on the charts. There are different growth charts used for boys and girls—the one posted by WHO is considered the gold standard for describing how a breastfed baby must grow.
Doctors use breastfed baby growth charts to compare head circumference, weight, and height of children belonging to the same age group. These help health care providers assess children’s steady growth.
However, other factors need to consider growth charts to determine babies’ growth, such as whether or not the baby is achieving his growth milestones, signs of adequate milk consumption, and the parents’ size.
How to Read a Breastfed Baby Growth Chart
Growth charts use a series of percentile curves to show where a child’s height and weight compare to other children of similar ages. The growth chart for height and weight are usually separate charts (i.e., weight gain chart) and not traditionally combined. The horizontal axis represents the different ages, while the vertical axis can be either for height, weight, or head circumference.
After measuring a child’s height and weight, a health professional marks the chart where the measurement corresponds to the child’s age. Ideally, the mark should fall on one of the percentile curves.
There is no wrong or right curve. The goal is that a breastfed baby’s weight and height follow a trend similar to the curves illustrated on the charts.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people use the WHO growth chart standards for infants and children in their first 23 months. Children older than two years old recommend that people use the child growth standards from the CDC growth charts, which also consider body mass index. Check out the different growth charts below.
Grow Chart for Boys Birth to 24 months
Length for Age Percentile
Weight for Age Percentile
Grow Chart for Girls 0-2 years old
Length for Age Percentile
Weight for Age Percentile
Difference Between Breast-fed and Formula-fed Baby
Formula-fed babies tend to weigh slightly higher than exclusively breastfed babies because the fat content in formula milk is more elevated than breast milk. For formula-fed infants, it’s also very common to feed more significant amounts of formula because many believe that milk can quickly replenish.
In addition to this, breast-fed babies tend to be leaner than their formula fed infants, as breast milk is an excellent source of all the nutrients that a baby needs to grow and be healthy.
Normal Weight Gain Patterns for Your Breastfed Baby
Within 12 months, you can anticipate certain growth patterns with an exclusively breastfed baby.
In the first few days after birth, a baby will have weight loss. It is normal as long as it is within limits. Breastfed babies gain weight faster when the mother’s breast milk starts to come in.
By two weeks of age, the weight of breastfed infants equals their birth weight. Within the first months of life, a breastfed baby’s growth usually gains 5-7 ounces per week.
Infant growth gains 3-5 ounces per week from four to six months. The average weight gain usually slows from six to twelve months averaging 1-2 ounces per week.
By the fifth to the sixth month, the birth weight of a breastfed baby is doubled. By the first year, the breastfed baby’s weight is tripled.
Reasons Why Your Baby is Not Gaining Weight
If you suspect your baby is not gaining enough weight, you can weigh your baby easily with the help of a baby scale that is readily available at your child’s pediatrician’s office.
One good indicator for a baby not gaining weight is not getting enough milk to fulfill nutritional and body demands. Prime causes include:
- Low milk supply not allowing as much breast milk
- Decreased sucking reflex by the baby
- Excessive sleeping and not waking up between the naps to get the milk
- Strict feeding schedules on behalf of the mother
- Not enough frequent breastfeeding times
- Excessive spitting up preventing adequate milk intake
Related: Looking for the right breast pump? Check out our review of Spectra S1 vs Spectra S2.
Regular weight checks with a doctor are essential, and some parents like to weigh them at home in between those checks to ensure breastfed baby weight gain.
However, do parents monitor a baby’s growth? These at-home weight checks aren’t necessary, but for some, it gives peace of mind.
When it comes to babies and giving birth, the first question that most family and friends want to know is, “How much did your baby weigh?” The questions about your baby’s growth never stop coming making you second guess yourself when trying to nurture healthy breastfed infants.
Every baby has a different body structure, and demands and every baby is different from the other. Regardless of the baby’s growth curve, the only thing that matters is that you continue to provide the nutrition they need and the baby meeting developmental milestones.
For further resources about breastfeeding, check out the La Leche League or reach out to a lactation consultant for help.