Skip to content

Health & Baby

Font Size

Breast-Feeding: Baby's Poor Weight Gain - Topic Overview

Most infants lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first week. A baby's weight decreases from the normal loss of fluid, urine, and stool. Babies also get few calories from early breast-feeding patterns. Their bodies have special fat stores for this early time. Normally, feeding sessions in the first few days, although frequent, are short. Feedings gradually get longer and the baby gets more calorie-rich milk. After 2 weeks, most infants have gained back the lost weight and continue to gain weight steadily.

Poor weight gain is when a baby:

  • Loses more than 10% of his or her birth weight in the first week.
  • Hasn't reached his or her birth weight by 2 weeks of age.
  • Gains weight too slowly after 2 weeks of age.

Poor weight gain in an infant may be due to:

  • Poor breast-feeding technique.
  • Not breast-feeding often enough.
  • Not breast-feeding long enough.
  • Not breast-feeding from both breasts.
  • Poor let-down reflex.
  • The mother's limited milk supply because of tobacco use, moderate to heavy alcohol use, or certain types of medicines or birth control pills.
  • Keeping a strict breast-feeding schedule rather than feeding on demand.

Typically, more frequent breast-feeding (every 1½ to 2 hours) usually solves the problem. If it does not, ask your doctor or a lactation consultant for help. Sometimes extra feedings with formula are recommended. Formula feedings for breast-fed infants are often given through a specially designed, thin plastic tube (supplemental nursing system). The tube is placed next to the nipple during breast-feeding. If supplementation is necessary, it is best to use methods other than bottle-feeding. Also, pump your breasts several times a day to help keep up and increase milk production.

A baby usually only needs to be hospitalized for poor weight gain if he or she is severely undernourished, is dehydrated, or has other health problems.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: 2/, 013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Breast-Feeding: Baby's Poor Weight Gain Topics

    Today on WebMD

    mother on phone holding baby
    When you should call 911.
    Mother with baby
    Unexpected ways your life will change.
     
    baby acne
    What’s normal – and what’s not.
    baby asleep on moms shoulder
    Help your baby get the sleep he needs.
     

    mother holding baby at night
    ARTICLE
    mother with sick child
    QUIZ
     
    Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
    SLIDESHOW
    Track Your Babys Vaccines
    TOOL
     
    Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
    Slideshow
    Woman holding feet up to camera
    Article
     
    Father kissing newborn baby
    Article
    baby gear slideshow
    Slideshow