Saturday, August 4, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week: Breastfed Babies Grow Differently {Guest Post}

{This is a guest post provided by Brittany at The Pistachio Project}

Brittany lives in Seattle with her husband and three children (a 6 year old, a 5 year old,

and a 1 year old) She enjoys researching everything that involves living naturally and

writes about her increasingly crunchy life at The Pistachio Project.

Breastfed Babies Grow Differently

No matter how much you try not to, I think we all like to see how our kids are “measuring up”. Whether it’s seeing if your baby is rolling over as early as the other babies or if it’s comparing percentiles; there’s a baby competition out there.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s nice to know where your baby is at comparatively. The issue lies when you are comparing your baby with a faulty system.

I currently have three children; two boys and one girl. Both my boys were formula fed for reasons I won’t bother to get into here. As they were on formula, they were always on the charts where they should be. My daughter on the other hand was exclusively breastfed. Her percentiles never looked like they “should.”

Before my daughter’s 9 month appointment with the doctor, I decided to weigh her at home and get an idea of how much she weighed. I stepped on the scale to weight just myself and then I stepped on it again with my daughter to weigh both of us. I did the math… I re-check the math. I hopped on the internet to see where she is on the percentiles. I freak out. She isn’t even ON the charts!!! (Previously she had been at

I did not realize this until my freak out with my daughter but breastfed babies apparently gain weight differently than formula-fed babies. Breastfed babies tend to be bigger then formula babies from about birth to 6 months, which usually looks great when your breastfed baby gets measured at the doctor’s office. However from 6 months on things switch and suddenly formula-fed babies are bigger and breastfed babies look like they are dropping off the charts.

It’s really important to keep this fact in mind if you have a breastfed baby and let me tell you why.

Keeping this fact in mind, will help you realize that your baby is not suddenly dropping off the charts

For those who have chunk-a-monk babies in the first few months, it means that if your doctor tells you to lay off the breastfeeding because your baby is “huge”, you will know that it’s not that your baby is an overeater but rather your doctor is using a chart based on formula fed babies. (More about that in a minute!)

For those of you who have the itty bitty babies or the ones who look like they suddenly are dropping percentiles after that first 6 months, it means that you know your baby is more than likely growing just fine and doesn’t need formula to supplement. It just means you need to compare your baby on the proper chart.

The problem with growth charts

Most doctors use the CDC Growth Chart for babies. This chart is based on mainly formula-fed babies however. This means that when your breastfed baby is compared to this chart, it looks like she is not where she should be. You can’t expect to compare a breastfed baby on a formula baby growth chart. It will not look good.

Thankfully, the World Health Organization put together a new growth chart, which is based on predominately breastfed babies. This is the chart that breastfed babies should be compared on. It follows a breastfed babies higher percentiles the first few months and then it follows the lower percentiles for the later months.

Breastfed babies grow differently then their formula-fed peers. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just something we all need to be aware of. Knowing this information means that when you walk into the doctor’s office you are armed with the knowledge that perhaps your baby isn’t falling off the charts; perhaps they do not need formula (now I don’t want to suggest that you should never supplement with formula. There are legitimate times when a baby might need formula. I’m just suggesting that you at least see where your baby lines up on the proper growth chart before making any decisions). If your doctor is concerned about your baby’s weight, be sure to ask them what chart they are using! Odds are it’s the CDC chart and you should mention that you’d rather they compare your breastfed baby to the WHO chart which was designed for breastfed babies.

Even if your doctor is fine with your baby’s weight but it is you who is spending late nights pouring over percentiles, you can check out the WHO chart and more then likely put your fears to ease. That was me. As I mentioned before, I freaked out when I weighed my daughter at 9 months. It looked like she was suddenly not on the charts at all. However, I pulled up the WHO chart and guess what? She was perfectly holding her petite 15th%. My baby was just fine; she was growing just as a breastfed baby should. I just needed to know that breastfed babies grow differently.

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