Slow or Poor Infant Weight Gain

Determining slow or poor infant weight gain

Weight gain is one of many signs of good health in the breastfeeding baby. Sometimes, a perfectly healthy baby simply gains weight slowly because it's just his or her own unique growth pattern. In other situations, there's a problem that may or may not be easy to identify. If your baby isn't gaining weight according to certain patterns, you and your baby should be checked by your health care provider and a certified lactation consultant. To find out whether slow weight gain is your baby's natural growth pattern or the result of something else, your provider will ask you a lot of questions about both you and your baby.

Don't panic if your baby's weight gain is ever a concern. Whether slow weight gain is related to your baby's natural pattern or some other factor, it's almost always best for your baby to continue to breastfeed or to use an alternative feeding method. Most weight gain issues can be resolved without having to stop breastfeeding your child.

Distinguishing the "natural" slow gainer from a slow-weight-gain problem

A baby who is a "natural" slow gainer still gains weight steadily, though slowly:

  • Stays on a particular growth curve

  • Grows in length and head circumference according to typical rates of growth

  • Wakes on his or her own and is alert and wants to breastfeed about 8 to 12 times in 24 hours

  • Has about the same number of wet and dirty diapers as a faster-growing baby

Other factors should be considered when a baby:

  • Doesn't gain at least a half-ounce (15 g) a day by the fourth or fifth day after birth

  • Doesn't regain birth weight by 2 to 3 weeks after birth

  • Doesn't gain at least 1 pound (454 g) a month for the first 4 months (from lowest weight after birth vs. birthweight)

  • Has a dramatic drop in rate of growth (weight, length, or head circumference) from his or her previous curve

Always talk with your baby's doctor if you need more information.