How Doctors Dupe Moms Into Supplementing With Formula

One of the biggest reasons that I know of why women start supplementing with formula in the first couple weeks is because "baby's not gaining enough weight." While a 5 to 7 percent weight loss in the first couple of days after birth is considered totally normal, 10 percent can sometimes result in pediatricians telling the mother she must supplement.

However, recent studies show what many of us have suspected or deemed obvious for years: Babies whose mothers received IV fluids -- either to stabilize blood pressure, before an epidural or c-section, or sometimes just because -- have babies who lose more weight initially.

Why? Well, it's actually pretty simple.


When we're given lots of fluids in labor, those fluids also go into our baby and sometimes even "over-hydrate" them. Therefore, their birth weight is artificially high, meaning baby not only will lose the weight that is normal for newborns, but will lose more weight (water weight) as well. In other words, Junior's 7-pound, 8-ounce "birth weight" might be a few ounces or so higher simply due to that IV drip bag!

So how do you gauge weight gain accurately? Here's a suggestion: Ask your doctor if you can start measuring gain after the baby stops losing weight -- usually at about 3 to 5 days after birth -- and then judge from there. Way different than gauging from the immediate birth weight, huh?

In fact, many researchers are suggesting that no one use birth weight to gauge anything related to weight gain -- especially in breastfed newborns. Sometimes the numbers for babies are just going to be a little different, even when nothing's wrong. Claiming all babies gain weight at the same rate is like saying that because I'm going to pack five pounds on my thighs if I eat a gallon of ice cream, then everyone is.

Here are some other suggestions for how to measure weight gain more accurately: In addition to checking for wet diapers (use cloth if you're trying to gauge, since disposables can totally hide a tiny newborn's pee and make you think they haven't gone) and watching the poo (which is more complicated than it sounds!), doctors also advise to have you bring in baby on an empty tummy, weigh them on a very sensitive scale, then have you breastfeed for a full session, then weigh again. Then you can actually measure how much they've eaten.

Of course, if you have any concerns about whether your baby is gaining enough weight, the best person to talk to is a trained lactation consultant or your local La Leche League Leader (oi, the aliteration!), since according to the Surgeon General, many medical professionals otherwise have don't have lactation training.

Did you receive fluids? Did your baby lose more than 5 to 7 percent of their birth weight initially?


Image via aithom/Flickr

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