Breastfeeding: How to Know Baby is Getting Enough Overall - Weight Gain

The signs that your baby is getting enough nourishment overall from breastfeeding are simple, but it's still important to monitor them in the first days and weeks. They are: diapers, weight gain, and infant behavior.

Weight Gain

In many cases, you'll be able to see your baby plumping up every day. As the weeks go by, her face will fill out and her arms, legs and torso will become rounder. Her newborn clothes may start to fit more snugly, as will her diaper.

All of these important signs will help boost your confidence in breastfeeding. But it's also a good idea to monitor the numbers on the scale rather than obsess about them. When it comes to weight gain, there are two rules of thumb:

  • Your baby should be back to her birth weight by Day 10 to 14, or even sooner. Generally, in the first few days, babies can lose up to 10% of their birth weight (that's 10% of total ounces, not pounds). The lowest number is usually around Day 3, and after that her weight should start to climb as it coincides with your higher-volume mature milk coming in.
  • Once she's about a week old, she should gain between half an ounce and an ounce per day, or 4 to 7 ounces a week.

The pattern of your baby's weight gain is often more telling than the actual number. Here are two scenarios where both babies are gaining weight, but the pattern of one indicates there might be a problem:

                       Birth weight       Day 3 weight    Day 7 weight     Day 14 weight   

Baby A             8 lbs, 3 oz         7 lbs, 9 oz         8 lbs, 1 oz         8 lbs, 10 oz           

Baby B             7 lbs, 5 oz         7 lbs, 2 oz         7 lbs, 5 oz         7 lbs, 7 oz

Baby A is doing fine and meets both parameters: She's back to her birth weight by Day 10 to 14 and gaining between half an ounce and an ounce each day.

Baby B looks fine from his numbers, but if you look at the pattern, you'll see he's gaining weight slowly. Why? Because if you notice his Day 3 weight, you'll realize he didn't drop much weight after birth, so getting back to his birth weight isn't much in terms of gain. And between Days 7 and 14 he only gained 2 ounces, which is below average. This could mean that he isn't nursing well.

Again, don't obsess over the numbers but keep an eye on them and look at the big picture—the pattern of weight gain. As long as your baby's weight is following the two rules, everything should be fine.

Tips for success

  • Your baby should be back to her birth weight by Day 10 to 14, or even sooner.
  • When she's 1 week old, she should start gaining half and ounce to an ounce each day, or between 4 and 7 ounces each week.
  • Don't get obsessed with numbers. If you keep an eye on her weight and take into account the other indicators, such as the state of her diapers and her behavior, you should have a good idea of whether she's thriving.

Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who also sits on the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council Heather has been practicing in New York City since 2001.

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Heather Kelly
Heather is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
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