Weight Loss In The Breastfed Infant

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It's normal for a breastfed newborn to lose up to 10% of his or her body weight during the first week of life. After that, your baby should gain approximately 1 ounce each day.

Your newborn is not getting enough breast milk and is losing too much weight if he: 

  • loses more than 10% of his birth weight
  • continues to lose weight after the first week of life
  • is still under his birthweight at 2 weeks of age

    Causes of Weight Loss in the Breastfed Newborn

    Not Breastfeeding Enough: It is important that you put your baby to the breast at least every 2 to 3 hours in order to stimulate a healthy milk supply and provide your baby with enough breast milk to gain weight.

    An Incorrect Breastfeeding Latch: When your baby isn't latched on correctly, he or she cannot effectively remove enough milk from your breast to grow at a healthy consistent rate.

    An Issue With Your Baby's Ability To Latch On: If you have severely engorged breasts, large nipplesflat nipples, or inverted nipples, your child may have difficulty latching on. Babies can also have physical or neurological issues that interfere with their ability to latch on to your breast properly. Without a good latch, your baby will not be able to get enough milk.

    The Use of a Nipple Shield: A nipple shield can be a great breastfeeding tool when used correctly and under the supervision of a doctor or lactation consultant.

    However, nipple shields that are not used properly can prevent a baby from getting enough breast milk. They can also cause a decrease in your milk supply

    A Sleepy Baby: Sleepy newborns need to be aroused for feedings every 2 to 3 hours. Breastfeeding a sleepy baby can be a challenge, but it's very important to make sure that your baby is nursing often and getting enough breast milk to gain weight.

    A Late Onset of Milk Production: A difficult birth, stress, or a retained placenta are some of the causes of a delay in milk production. Until your breasts fill up with milk, your baby will not gain weight.

    A True Low Milk Supply: Moms with certain physical or hormonal issues such as hypoplastic breasts, PCOS, hypothyroidism or a previous breast surgery may not be able to produce a healthy milk supply. If your milk does not come in by your 4th day postpartum, talk to your doctor and have an examination. In some cases, a true low milk supply can be corrected with treatment.

    Things You Can Do

    • Seek help right away.
    • Have your baby's latch evaluated by your nurse, a doctor, a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding support group.
    • Have your baby's doctor check your child for illness or any other problems that could be interfering with breastfeeding. Infections, tongue-tie, jaundice and other newborn issues can cause poor nursing and weight loss in infants.
    • Have your baby's weight monitored.
    • Keep track of the amount of wet diapers and bowel movements your baby is having each day.
    • Breastfeed your baby very often, at least every 2-3 hours around the clock. If you have a sleepy baby, wake the baby up every three hours to nurse.
    • Breastfeed longer at each nursing session.
    • See your doctor to find out if there is a physical or hormonal issue that is interfering with your milk supply.
    • If your milk supply is low, try to increase it by pumping. You can also ask your doctor or a lactation consultant about the use of galactagogues. Certain herbs, foods and nursing teas may be helpful to increase a low milk supply.
    • It may be necessary to supplement your baby if your child continues to lose weight. Talk to your doctor about continuing to breastfeed along with supplementation. A nursing supplementary device can be used to be sure your baby is getting enough breast milk or formula while still nursing at your breast.

    Sources:

    American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

    Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition.  Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

    Riordan, J., Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2010.

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