If you are a new parent, you may be wondering what your baby's normal rate of growth is and when it will slow down. The answer depends on many factors, such as body type and activity level. It also depends on how you feed your baby. Your child's pediatrician is your first resource if you have a concern about your infant.
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Baby's First Year
Babies typically lose between 3 percent and 10 percent of their body weight shortly after birth. This is a normal phenomenon and not a cause for concern. Usually, the baby will gain that weight back after two or three weeks.
Following that initial weight loss, babies will typically gain a pound or two per month for the first six months of life. After that, the baby will gain one-half pound per month until it is a year old. A baby's length will typically increase by one inch per month for the first six months and one-half inch per month until it is a year old.
Breastfed vs Formula-fed Infants
During the first four to six months of life, breastfed and bottle-fed babies grow at approximately the same rate. After that, the length and head circumference of both groups of babies is roughly the same. However, breastfed babies tend to be leaner.
Among breastfed babies, those who are fed on demand and who sleep next to their mothers, thereby having the ability to breastfeed throughout the night, grow more rapidly than infants who are forced to adhere to a feeding schedule.
Some babies are naturally long and lean. Those babies will gain less weight but will grow longer rapidly. Babies that are naturally shorter and rounder will tend to gain weight rapidly but grow in length more slowly.
Pay more attention to the baby than to the scale. If your baby is content between feedings, he is most likely getting enough nutrition. If the baby seems hungry all the time but is growing at a normal rate, he is probably fine. However, if he seems hungry all the time and is not growing, consult a pediatrician.
Active babies who are always busy exploring their environments tend to be leaner because they burn more calories. Calmer babies weigh more. Of course your baby will sleep much of the time, but if he is alert and interacts with you while he is awake and is meeting developmental milestones, then his growth rate is probably appropriate.
When to Worry
If your baby gains weight slowly, ask yourself if he has a normal number of diaper changes and whether he cries or otherwise signals to be fed between eight and 12 times per day. Check his growth curve to see if it is consistent for the first six months.
If he is feeding at regular intervals, his bowels and bladder are functioning normally and his rate of growth is consistent for the first six months, the child is probably fine. However, if he loses weight, fails to gain at least a pound per month or if there is a dramatic drop in his growth rate, consult a pediatrician.