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breastfed babies need breastfed growth charts

Nothing panics a new mom more than her baby's weight gain. After all, gaining weight means your baby is growing. I’ve counseled many moms that hit a bump in the road after their first pediatric doctor's visit.

The most pressing concern: baby’s weight or maybe their baby isn’t quite measuring adequately on pediatric growth charts.

Growth charts are necessary because they help to determine the physiological needs for an infant’s growth and development. They are an essential toolkit for a pediatrician to prevent failure to thrive and calms the worries of new families who have concerns about their baby’s growth.

Or do they?

From my experience with supporting new breastfeeding families much of the worry stems from weight gain concerns developed from outdated or using formula fed growth charts from their pediatricians. Creating yet again, another barrier for new and vulnerable breastfeeding moms. Many pediatricians lack the medical training in human lactation to refer to breastfeeding growth charts and some just flat out refuse for that matter. This inaccurate and quite frankly, outdated information can cause more harm than good to mother's creating space to question their maternal confidence while simultaneously lowering their milk supply or quitting altogether.

“I was a little surprised by the doctor yesterday because she said my baby looks great, looks hydrated and seems to be eating the right amounts of milk. But then she pulled out that chart and it all changed.."

Breast fed babies grow differently and more rapidly than formula fed babies. They tend to be longer and leaner in comparison to formula fed babies that are heavier due the preservatives in formula. Breast milk is easily digested and babies absorb all the nutrients which helps them stay lean setting the pathway for healthy weight into adulthood. If your pediatrician isn't using the correct growth chart you can be misdiagnosed and the doctor will begin to recommend supplementing with formula.

It is imperative to make sure that your pediatrician is not only breastfeeding friendly but uses an updated WHO growth chart. In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) released an updated global growth standards that represent babies from all over the world. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their policy statement Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk, stated that “Infant growth should be monitored with the World Health Organization (WHO) Growth Curve Standards to avoid erroneous labeling of infants as underweight or failing to thrive.” The US Centers for Disease Control also recommend that the WHO growth charts be used for children age 0-2. Until providers use updated charts there will be many misdiagnosis for underweight babies.

All of these qualified organizations recommend pediatricians use the updated standards, so why aren't they?

Parents must advocate for themselves and their babies by staying informed on updated breastfeeding information. A growth chart is not a pass or fail for breastfed babies. It simply tells you where your child lies in comparison with 100 other infants his/her age. If a child's weight is at the 50th percentile line, that means that out of 100 normal children her age, 50 will be bigger than she is and 50 smaller. Similarly, if she is in the 75th percentile, that means that she is bigger than 75 children and smaller than only 25, compared with 100 children her age. Adult humans come in all shapes and sizes as do babies.

When taking into consideration your baby's height, length and weight there are a few other factors mothers should consider before panicking or unnecessarily supplementing with formula? Such as:

What are the genetics of baby's siblings or the mothers siblings in your family?

Is baby gaining weight?

Is baby meeting milestones?

Is baby developing well?

Is baby taking in an adequate amount of milk supply?

Finding a lactation professional before your baby arrives and establishing a relationship will help you to stay informed and on top of any feeding issues. A lactation consultant can adequately evaluate your baby's milk intake and weight gain. However, if your baby is falling below the percentile consistently for their age, please first and foremost FEED THE BABY whether with expressed breast milk, donor bank milk or formula.

This blog piece is not intended to replace medical advice but to simply to keep you informed of evidence based information which allows you to advocate for your family properly.

If you are need of breastfeeding education or a virtual consult, I am here to help.

How can I help you achieve your goals today, honey?

Jada Metcalf | is a mom of two, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, Certified Fertility + Postpartum Doula, ROSE Community Transformer, Community Health Worker in training, 2021 IBLCE candidate and a perinatal wellness business owner.

Health information on this site is based on peer-reviewed medical journals, textbooks and highly respected health organizations and institutions including the CDC (Center for Disease Control), AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), WHO ( World Health Organization), NIH (National Institute of Health), ABM (Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine) Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 5th Edition, Wambach Spencer)


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