Breast is Best Except ...

breastfed babies may dehydrate

photo by honeybee69

The benefits of breastfeeding are many and there's no need to go into them here. In fact, it seems like every day, another report comes out showing why breastfeeding your baby is so good. Except for today.


When my baby was born, I breastfed her exclusively. At her two week check-up she hadn't gained enough to bring her to her birth weight, which was about 10 lbs. I knew she was healthy, but the pediatrician said I'd have to supplement with formula if she didn't gain the weight in a week. I still felt my baby was doing okay, but I was a new mom and he was the doctor. I was worried and stressed out. I fed her every two hours for the next week. Long story short—the doctor's scale was broken! But to this day, in huge letters across the bottom of my daughter's chart, it says: FAILURE TO THRIVE. The nurse practitioners always laugh at this because my baby was never anything but big and healthy.

I was lucky my baby was okay and that I could continue to breastfeed exclusively. But it brings up one of the downsides to breastfeeding: You can never be sure how much milk your baby is getting, and this can lead to problems if he isn't getting enough. British scientists are launching a new study  to find out how many babies get sick—anywhere from mildly to dangerously dehydrated—as a result of not getting enough milk. The condition called "severe hypernatraemic dehydration" is rare but potentially fatal. Since more women are breastfeeding these days, doctors worry that more babies will suffer from this condition.

"People are very cagey about saying anything that might give breastfeeding a bad name," says Dr. Sam Richmond, a consultant neonatologist at Sunderland Royal Hospital in England. "There has become something of a religious affiliation to breastfeeding, and perhaps a desire not to rock the boat for something which is rare. But it does need to be addressed—and properly studied—because the consequences can be so severe."

The doctors recommend getting your baby weighed consistently during the first few weeks and maybe even months, as it's one way of picking up cases of dehydration. Just make sure your pediatrician's scale is in working order!

If you breastfeed, did you have any issues with your baby gaining weight when you first started?

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