Why weigh my baby in the first days of life?

The Fed Is Best guide to weighing your baby

The most important information an exclusively breastfeeding mother must know is the percent weight loss of her child. In the first days of life, if your baby is fed only colostrum, they will often lose weight. The current guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends a weight loss threshold of 7%, as the weight at which the feeding of the baby should be evaluated in order to ensure that they do not lose more weight. They also recommend that babies start gaining by the 5th day of life.

Weight loss is associated with dangerous conditions like pathological hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice), dehydration, hypoglycemia (low glucose) and hypernatremia (high sodium). All of those markers can be signs of underfeeding and hunger in the newborn. The stats are clear:

  • Ten percent of exclusively breastfed newborns that are vaginally delivered and 25% of those delivered by cesarean delivery can lose greater than 10% in the first 72 hours of life.
  • Greater than half of all exclusively breastfed babies lose greater than the 7% recommended by the AAP.

It is important that you protect your child from developing this pathological weight loss. An exclusively breastfed child has a higher risk of developing these conditions, which can require hospitalization and may have irreversible effects on their cognitive development.

Click here to download a guide to understanding how to weigh your baby, and track their weight during the first days of life.

Disclaimer:  This document does not replace in-person physician evaluation and treatment.  This document is meant to inform parents of the most recent data regarding infant feeding and to increase their knowledge on how to protect their newborns from hyperbilirubinemia, dehydration, hypernatremia, hypoglycemia and extended or repeat hospitalizations due to complications from underfeeding.  Earlier supplementation may be needed for babies who are premature or have medical conditions. It is recommended that a parent seeks evaluation by a pediatrician for any concerns regarding the health and safety of her baby if they arise.