Breastfeeding And Baby Weight Loss After Birth: What Is Normal?

There are many solutions to resolving the issue of weight loss during breastfeeding

It happens that you go to your healthcare provider and your baby is weighed a week after delivery. Your healthcare provider is concerned that your baby is losing weight as opposed to gaining weight. You are breastfeeding, I mean exclusively breastfeeding and your healthcare provider says to give the baby some formula.

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You start to give tour baby formula but you also see where you are losing the battle for breastfeeding. Your little star does not seem interested in breastfeeding anymore and you are disappointed because you had planned to exclusively breastfeed. What is a new mom suppose to do? A newborn usually loses several grams of body mass a day in the first 3-5 days after birth before moving into an upward gain trend, experts say.

Breastfed newborns can lose up to 10% of their body weight during the first week of life.1 After that, babies gain approximately 1 ounce each day. By the time they are two weeks old, newborns should be back to their birth weight or even weigh a little more.

Your newborn is not getting enough breast milk and is losing too much weight if they:

  • Lose more than 10% of his birth weight
  • Continue to lose weight after the first week of life
  • Are still under their birth weight after two weeks. (Paid link)

Reasons Why Some Babies Lose Weight While Breastfeeding

There can be several reasons for you baby’s weight loss

Newborns who are breastfeeding can lose weight for a variety of reasons.

  • Not breastfeeding enough: It is important to put your baby to the breast at least every two to three hours to stimulate healthy milk supply and provide your baby with enough breast milk to gain weight.2
  • Incorrect breastfeeding latch: When your baby isn’t latching on correctly, they cannot efficiently remove enough milk to grow at a consistent, healthy rate.2
  • An issue with your baby’s ability to latch: If you have severely engorged breastslarge nipplesflat nipples, or inverted nipples, your child may have difficulty latching on. Babies can also have physical or neurological issues that interfere with their ability to latch on to the breast properly. Your baby will not be able to get enough milk without a good latch.
  • Incorrect use of a nipple shield:nipple shield can be a helpful breastfeeding tool when used correctly and under the supervision of a doctor or lactation consultant. However, nipple shields that are used incorrectly can prevent a baby from getting enough breast milk. They can also cause a decrease in your milk supply.3
  • Sleepiness: Sleepy newborns need to be aroused for feedings every two to three hours. Breastfeeding a sleepy baby can be a challenge, but it’s very important to make sure that your baby is nursing often and getting enough breast milk to gain weight.
  • Late onset of milk production: A difficult birth, stress, or a retained placenta are some of the causes of a delay in milk production. Until your breasts fill up with milk, your baby will not gain weight.
  • True low milk supply: Certain physical or hormonal issues such as hypoplastic breasts, PCOS, hypothyroidism, or previous breast surgery, can cause low milk supply. If your milk does not come in by the fourth day postpartum, talk to your doctor and have an examination. In some cases, a true low milk supply can be corrected with treatment.4

What to Do If Your Baby Is Losing Weight?

There are many good choices to make

If your baby is losing weight or not gaining weight as expected, you shouldn’t wait to ask for help. Your health and the baby’s health should be assessed, and you may need a lactation consultant. If a newborn is not back to birth weight by about 2 weeks of age talk to your primary care provider as this may indicate a possible concern. (Paid link)

Getting breastfeeding off to a good start can make all the difference in how successful you will be.5 Plus, correcting any issues right away helps to ensure your baby will get enough nutrition and fluids to stay hydrated and begin to gain weight. So if your breastfed baby is losing weight:

  • Have your baby’s latch evaluated by your nurse, a doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding support group.
  • See your doctor. Find out if there is a physical or hormonal issue that might be interfering with your breast milk supply.
  • Take your baby to the doctor to check for an illness or any other problems that could be interfering with breastfeeding. Infections, tongue-tie, jaundice, and other newborn issues can cause poor nursing and weight loss in infants.
  • Monitor your baby’s weight. Weigh them regularly at home.
  • Monitor your baby’s diapers. Keep track of how many wet diapers and bowel movements your baby is having each day.
  • Breastfeed your baby very often, at least every two to three hours around the clock. If you have a sleepy baby, wake them up to breastfeed every three hours.
  • Breastfeed longer at each nursing session.
  • Increase your breast milk supply by pumping. You can also ask your doctor or a lactation consultant about the use of galactagogues. Certain herbs, foods, and nursing teas may be helpful to increase a low milk supply.

If your baby continues to lose weight, it may be necessary to supplement. Talk to your doctor about continuing to breastfeed along with supplementation. A nursing supplementer device can be used to be sure your baby is getting enough breast milk or formula while still nursing at your breast.

Is there a specific timeline parents should track when it comes to their baby’s healthy weight?

Generally, full-term newborn babies lose weight for about the first 3-5 days after being born before starting to gain. Typical newborn weight gain is about 30-35 grams per day. The baby’s primary care provider will be following the baby’s weight and looking for him or her to be back to birth weight by about 2 weeks of age.

In Some Cases Supplementation May Be Needed

Mama it is ok if supplement is the last resort

While some weight loss in the initial week of a child’s life can be normal, it’s very important that people start to discuss the fact that sometimes it is necessary to supplement a newborn’s feed with formula. There are so many reasons why a woman might have low or late milk supply, but the baby still needs to eat, even if the mother intends to breastfeed.

Unfortunately, the ‘breast is best’ dialogue doesn’t leave much room for these complicated scenarios. If a baby has lost more than 10% of their birth weight, it is dangerous to continue to attempt to breastfeed as their only source of nutrition. While many breastfeeding enthusiasts insist that a baby will bounce back once the milk comes in, the situation can quickly get out of hand if you have a severely dehydrated or undernourished baby.

If you are bringing your first child home with intentions of breastfeeding, you should still have a box of formula on hand in the event that your baby needs it. This isn’t to discourage you from your breastfeeding intentions, but it does bring peace of mind to know that if your baby needs a little boost, it’s available.

In some hospitals, nurses offer formula ‘supplements’ to newborns if a parent requests them. Though many other birthing centers still advocate for exclusive breastfeeding, the choice should be made by the parent (including the choice to not breastfeed at all!)

The shame and lack of support surrounding non-breastfeeding (or mixed feeding) exacerbate the risks for newborn dehydration and malnourishment since a mother is less likely to visit a doctor if she feels personally responsible for her child’s inability to feed.

Bottom Line

When a baby is born, parents are also born. With this new role comes new skills and capabilities, and one of them is a parental instinct. If you feel uncomfortable or worried about your baby’s weight, follow through and make a phone call to your pediatrician or midwife.

It’s better to be over vigilant in the first few weeks of your baby’s life than under vigilant. If you are super stressed as you try to breastfeed and your baby is clearly not getting fed, open the dialogue about formula. Having an inconsolable, hungry baby on your hands can be a very big stress for a new mom, and can lead to feelings of discouragement and despair. Feed your baby, whatever that means for you! Forget the judgments of others. At the end of the day, navigating the early weeks of parenthood can be really tough. Stay calm and alert. Do not mind the judgements of others. Do what is best for you and your family. That is what matters.


Breastfeeding, Influenza, And The Common Cold: How To Bounce Back

Its Ok for Mom to breastfeed with the common cold or influenza

Hello Mamas! I have great news! Guess what? According to the Centers for Disease Control, breast milk provides protections against many respiratory diseases, including influenza (flu). A mother with suspected or confirmed flu should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant while continuing to provide breast milk to her infant. Influenza and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. These two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms. There is no cure for the common cold.

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What Causes the Common Cold?

Though there are more than 100 viruses that can cause the common cold, the rhinovirus is the most common cause, and it’s highly contagious. The virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose and can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks. It also spreads by contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects, like utensils, towels, toys or telephones.

Handwashing is important in the prevention of spreading a cold. If you have not washed your hands after you touch a contaminated object and you then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you will be likely to catch a cold. (Paid link)

Symptoms of a common cold usually appear about 1-3 days after exposure and may include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy or sore throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Slight body aches or a mild headache
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild fatigue

Influenza (also called flu) is an acute respiratory tract illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs, causing a contagious respiratory illness. Flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Pregnant women and young children, among others (e.g., adults 65 years of age and older, people with certain medical conditions) are at high risk of developing flu-related complications.

Can the flu be transmitted through breast milk?

No. Flu is not spread to infants through breast milk. The flu is spread mainly from person-to-person via respiratory droplets when people cough, sneeze, or talk, or possibly, when a person touches a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touches their own mouth or nose.

Should mothers continue breastfeeding if they have flu or come in contact with someone with flu?

Yes. A mother’s breast milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect her infant from flu and is the recommended source of nutrition for the infant, even while the mother is ill. If a mother is too sick to feed her infant at the breast and another healthy caregiver is caring for the infant, the breastfeeding mother should be encouraged and supported to regularly express her milk so that the infant continues to receive her breast milk. Prior to expressing breast milk, mothers should wash their hands well with soap and water and, if using a pump, follow recommendations for proper cleaning. Because breast milk supply could decrease for some mothers while they are ill, mothers may need additional lactation support from a lactation provider to address milk supply concerns, reduce the possibility of developing a breast infection, and support the breastfeeding relationship during this time.

Can infants who have flu continue to breastfeed?

Absolutely yes. When an infant has flu, the mother should be encouraged to continue breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk to her infant. Infants who are ill need fluids to stay hydrated and breast milk is the best option. Expressed breast milk can also be given from a cup, syringe, or bottle if the infant is unable to breastfeed directly at the breast.

Are there special considerations for mothers with flu in peri- and postpartum healthcare settings?

Yes. Newborns infected with influenza viruses are at increased risk for severe complications, including death. CDC has specific recommendations that apply to mothers who have flu and their newborns in the hospital setting at the time of birth. Visit Guidance for the Prevention and Control of Influenza in the Peri- and Postpartum Settings for more information.

If direct breastfeeding is interrupted due to temporary separation of mother and child, the breastfeeding mother should be encouraged and supported to regularly express her milk so that the infant continues to receive her breast milk. A breastfeeding mother with flu may need access to a hospital-grade pump and additional lactation support while in the hospital and after discharge to maintain her milk supply and reduce the possibility of developing a breast infection. Prior to expressing breast milk, mothers should wash their hands well with soap and water and, if using a pump, follow recommendations for proper cleaning. If a mother is expressing breast milk, the expressed breast milk should be fed to the infant by a healthy caregiver who does not have flu, if possible.

How can a breastfeeding mother with flu protect her infant from getting sick?

Handwashing is a safety precaution for baby

A mother with flu should take precautions to avoid spreading flu to her infant (regardless of feeding method) because infants are at high-risk of serious flu-related complications.

  • These precautions are especially important for infants younger than 6 months of age because they cannot be vaccinated against influenza viruses. Mothers with flu should thoroughly wash and dry their hands with soap and water before touching the infant or any item that the infant will touch (including during feeding) and anytime they sneeze or cough on their hands.
  • Breast milk remains the best source of nutrition for the infant, and provides protection from infections through antibodies and other immunological factors.
  • If a mother is too sick to feed her infant at the breast, if possible, expressed breast milk should be fed to the infant by a healthy caregiver who does not have flu.
  • Whenever a mother expresses her breast milk, she should wash her hands well with soap and water and, if using a pump, follow recommendations for proper cleaning.

How can caregivers prevent transmission of flu to infants?

  • Immunization of pregnant and breastfeeding women pdf icon[PDF-732KB] reduces the risk of flu to themselves and to their infants.
  • To protect infants, especially those younger than 6 months of age who cannot be vaccinated, parents, siblings, other household members aged 6 months and older, and other caregivers should also receive an annual flu vaccination (except in rare cases).
  • Everyday preventive actions such as avoiding close contact with sick persons, covering one’s nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing and throwing the tissue away immediately afterwards, practicing proper hand hygiene, and disinfecting surfaces can also help protect all infants from flu, whether they are breastfed or not.
  • Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants and provides protection from infections through antibodies and other immunological factors.
  • Infants who are breastfed are less vulnerable to infections, including severe respiratory illnesses, than infants who are not breastfed.
  • When a mother has flu, her breast milk contains antibodies that can help protect her infant from flu and breast milk remains the recommended source of nutrition for the infant, even while the mother is ill.

Is the flu vaccine safe for breastfeeding mothers and their infants?

Absolutely yes. Flu vaccination is safe for breastfeeding women and their infants aged 6 months and older. In fact, women who get the flu vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding develop antibodies against flu that they can share with their infants through their breast milk. Breastfeeding can provide some protection against flu for infants, including children younger than 6 months who cannot receive the flu vaccine. Annual flu vaccination is recommended for all persons aged 6 months and older (except in rare cases), and is particularly important for pregnant women. Additionally, to protect children younger than 6 months of age from flu, persons around the infant (e.g., caregivers and household members) should receive the flu vaccination. (Paid link).

What about influenza antiviral prescription medications safety use while mothers are breastfeeding or providing expressed breast milk to their infants?

Absolutely yes. While data on the effect of currently recommended influenza antiviral medications during breastfeeding are limited, CDC recommends that postpartum (e.g., within 2 weeks after birth) women with suspected or confirmed flu be treated with antiviral medications since they are at high risk of flu complications. For women who are breastfeeding with suspected or confirmed flu, treatment with oral oseltamivir is currently preferred. Available data indicate that oseltamivir is poorly excreted in breast milk. See Table 1. For additional information on medications and lactation, please refer to the Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed)external icon. For additional general information on flu antiviral medications for healthcare providers, please visit the Influenza (Flu) Antiviral Drugs website.

Complications of the Common Cold

Ear pain could signal an ear infection and an evaluation by a provider is recommended. The common cold can also exacerbate asthma symptoms with wheezing and difficulty breathing, which should prompt a call and/or visit to your provider. Also, if you have a fever along with sinus pain, difficulty breathing or discomfort when taking a deep breath, this could signal a secondary infection like sinusitis or pneumonia. Throat pain with white patches can be a sign of strep throat and will require a visit to your provider. If you have a high fever of more than 103 degrees, dehydration, severe fatigue and/or body aches, see a doctor immediately, especially if you are pregnant.

Recommendations For Feeling Better

When treating the common cold or influenza, it is good to treat the symptoms to help you feel better.

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids (especially water)
  • Gargling with warm salt water
  • Using cough drops, lozenges or throat sprays
  • Watch your temperature -check every 4 hours
  • Avoid hot fluids
  • Take tepid water baths from tap for temperature above 10o degrees.
  • Wash hands frequently when needed. Avoid other members of the family. (Paid link)

In addition, here are some over-the-counter cold medications that can help: I advise that you get your doctors ok or permission to take any of them and let your doctor know that you are breastfeeding. Some cold medications can reduce your milk supply.

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Take for body aches and headaches, mild pain and fever. If you are pregnant then you CANNOT take ibuprofen or naproxen but these medications are safe if you are breastfeeding.
  • Pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine (Sudafed): Use for congestion and runny nose. Medications that contain pseudoephedrine are kept behind the pharmacy counter and have restrictions on the quantity that you can purchase. You must show ID to prove you are older than 18.
  • Guaifenesin (Mucinex) or dextromethorphan (Robutussin): This medicine suppresses coughing and thins mucus so that coughs are more productive
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Loratidine (Claritin): Can relieve watery eyes and itchy throat. These can also make you sleepy, so it may be better to take at night to aid with rest.

Bottom Line

It is so good to know that breastfeeding does not have to stop if mommy or baby has the cold or flu. The flu vaccine is safe for all mothers. Discuss with your doctor which medications are the safest to take when you have the cold or flu. If you do happen to catch the cold or flu, remember to take good care of yourself. I pray to God that you get well soon. Ask God to heal your body as you recover. Thank you for stopping by and do visit again.

Let your pregnancy be worry-free forever