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Babies lose weight right after birth. This is expected and normal. However, the amount of weight they lose can be used as an indicator to the baby’s health. Some people assume that newborns losing weight means that they’re unhealthy. The mother’s breastfeeding efficacy is then questioned which can lead to confusion and fear on the mother’s part.
When these cases happen, families are often advised to supplement with formula or use some supplemental nursing system (SNS) in order to ensure baby is getting adequate nutrition. It is also common for a parent to be dissuaded from breastfeeding at all and encouraged to move solely to formula. But the solution may not have to be so dramatic. In fact, the “problem” with baby, might just be a normal part of the process.

What Causes This?

What causes a newborn baby to lose weight? One of the most common things birthing people have when they give birth, whether vaginally or through cesarean, is an IV with fluids. The water not only keeps the mother hydrated, but also gets passed to baby. The baby doesn’t need hydration, but what gets put into mom, gets passed to baby. When the baby come out, the extra water in the baby results in an inflated birth weight.

When that extra water weight is lost in addition to the normal weight loss that happens after birth, professionals may misinterpret the lower weight to a failure to thrive or an increased concern that baby is not getting enough through nursing.

Concern over your infant’s weight loss and the worry that comes when you feel that you are not able to adequately feed your child feels terrible. There is so much guilt, shame, and false belief that you are failing as a parent. That you are incapable of providing for your baby.

The best you can do is be aware

The idea of newborns losing weight can be scary. However, if you are aware and take note of your baby’s development, and don’t jump to conclusions, you’ll likely have a much easier time. It is also crucial that we look broader than the scale to fully access what is going on. I will always advocate for an array of data points rather than a single indicator. I believe a fuller picture offers a better view.

If you had IV fluids within the last two hours before delivery and your baby has lost more than 10% of their birth weight, be sure to remind your provider of the extra IV fluids that plumped your baby up. Ask if there are other indicators to consider. Note the frequency of baby’s wet and soiled diapers. Note baby’s alertness and developmental milestones.

Consider a lactation consultant

In addition to any steps you decide to take, connect with a lactation consultant or IBCLC. Advice and guidance from someone who has specialized education and experience in nursing is invaluable. If there are latch or other issues, know that there is support and education available to address them. Weighing naked baby, feeding baby, and then weighing again is a brilliant way to be able to “see” if baby is getting fed enough.

If you are in the Eugene/Springfield area, you can visit NursingNook or Baby Connection for advice, weight checks, and support. I am also happy to help with any questions you may have after giving birth. Take a look at my postpartum services and contact me today.