Your Baby’s Weight

Children's Health |

You’re at the playground or pediatrician with your baby, and you see another mother eyeing your little one. “How old is he?” is her first question. “What was his birth weight?” is often the second. “What does he weigh now?” comes soon after. New Moms, especially first-time Moms, are often terribly concerned with their baby’s weight and eager to compare with other Moms. If your baby is growing normally and your pediatrician is not concerned about his weight, why should you be?

It starts with birth weight. There is an unwritten scale of birth weights that seems to serve as a status check for new Moms. Seven or eight pounds is a nice size. Nine pounds is impressive. Bigger than that, and you’re bound to entertain some delicate questions about your method of delivery and amount of painkillers. My own kids were both in the eight-pound range. After my sister-in-law delivered a nine pounder, she informed me that it was my turn to have a heavier baby, as if we were in a contest to deliver the chubbiest baby. No thank you!

Since your baby can’t tell you when she’s had enough to eat, Moms often try to use baby’s weight gain, or lack thereof, to evaluate if they are feeding properly. That is understandable, but not dependable. Babies may be born large because of their mother’s diet during pregnancy, but grow at a slower rate during the first year as they head towards their genetically programmed natural size. Along the same lines, a baby born small due to prematurity or other factors may be in the 95th percentile at the end of a year. According to my pediatrician, percentile weights will fluctuate for the first two years as your baby “finds her place.” Don’t assume that your baby’s slow or fast growth means you are not feeding her properly. If you are worried, talk to your pediatrician and, if applicable, La Leche League or a lactation consultant.

Then there is the gender issue. My kids were both in the 90-to-95th percentile for weight in their first year. My son was greeted with cheers of “Call Joe Paterno! Football scholarship! What a bruiser!” About my daughter, on the other hand, I was warned “You’re going to have to watch that one. Looks like she likes to eat.” Mind you, they both followed a nearly identical growth curve, with my daughter consistently about one pound less than her brother was at the same age. Why is a big boy good and a big girl bad? Even now, people are noting with obvious relief that my daughter, now two, has “slimmed down.”

Don’t worry so much about your baby’s weight. Your pediatrician will alert you at your well-baby visits if your baby is gaining too quickly or too slowly. A big baby will not necessarily be a fat child; a small baby will not necessarily be a short adult. Babies come in all shapes and sizes — just love them as they are!

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