Given how obsessively hospitals focus on weight loss, it can be easy to overlook the fact that nearly all babies lose weight after they’re born.
“Newborns are born with extra fluid,” says Dr. Deena Blanchard, a pediatrician at Premier Pediatrics in New York City. “After a newborns enters the world, it’s expected that they will lose that extra fluid resulting in weight loss. The average weight loss in the newborn period is around seven percent of birth weight with a weight loss of up to ten percent being considered normal.”
But when a newborn loses more than ten percent of their birth weight, they are at risk for electrolyte abnormalities and dehydration. Newborns with excessive weight loss are also at increased risk for jaundice. “In exclusively breastfed babies who have lost more than ten percent of their birth weight, bridge feeding with formula can avoid dehydration and help until the family can work with their pediatrician and possibly with a lactation consultant,” says Dr. Blanchard. “If a formula fed baby is having trouble with weight gain, your pediatrician can evaluate your methods of feeding, how much formula your baby is drinking and discuss a treatment plan with you.”
C-section may affect weight loss.
Dr. Blanchard notes that it often takes longer for the milk to come in after a C-section and that can contribute to increased weight loss if a mother is exclusively breastfeeding. “Some infant feeding positions can be more challenging after a c-section as well due to maternal pain. In formula fed babies, the method of delivery should not affect weight loss in the newborn period.”
Weight loss is more common with breastfeed babies.
No matter the delivery method, it takes time for breastmilk to come in and therefore breastfed babies often take less volume per feeding that formula fed babies. Dr. Blanchard reiterated, however, that weight loss is okay and to be expected in the early newborn period. “Your pediatrician will work closely with you to help recognise excessive weight loss and when to intervene. Most breastfed babies do great and the weight loss in itself, if not greater than 10 percent of birth weight is fine and time limited. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that most newborns be seen within 48 hours of discharge. At our practice, Premier Pediatrics, we are committed to helping parents this time. We see newborns every 2-3 days until they are back to their birth weights (typically between 10-14 days of life).”
On that note, if you’re having trouble feeding your newborn, contact your pediatrician. “The pediatrician can help troubleshoot and make suggestions and go over signs of dehydration. If a newborn is having trouble feeding your pediatrician may want your baby to come in for an appointment sooner,” says Dr. Blanchard.