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Poor weight gain

Babies gain weight at different rates, but for some babies slow weight gain could mean they're not feeding effectively. It takes time for both of you to get used to feeding, but you can both do it together.

What are the symptoms?

It's normal for young babies to lose weight in the early days as they use up the liquid and fat stores they are born with. However, if your baby continues to lose weight or is slow to regain their birth weight, your baby may not be getting enough milk.

Other clues are:

  • Fewer wet and dirty nappies. Find out more on what to expect in a nappy here.
  • Unhappiness and frustration when feeding
  • Drowsiness, lots of sleeping and a lack of interest in feeding for long periods of time
  • An especially quiet or non-demanding baby

Watch the video for tips on how to know your baby is feeding well

What are the causes?

Poor weight gain can happen at any time, maybe if breastfeeding hasn't got off to a good start or if any issues picked up on the way haven't been resolved. Many mums worry that they simply aren't making enough milk, but it's more likely to be positioning and attachment issues. Check with your health visitor or midwife before thinking about a switch to formula milk or starting solids early.

What's the solution?

You can help your baby get all the milk they need to gain weight at a healthy rate by:

  • Getting positioning and attachment right. Find out more tips on correct attachment and positioning or ask your midwife or health visitor to check you're doing it right.
  • Feeding responsively, responding as soon as you can to your baby's signs they're hungry and feed for as long as your baby wants.
  • Offering both breasts at every feed. Your baby may only take one, but offer the second anyway. Babies naturally pause during a feed, so when you think they might be finished, they may just be having a rest.
  • Waking your baby if they like to sleep a lot so you can feed them more.
  • Expressing milk after feeds for a few days can stimulate your supply
  • Get advice and support from a health professional as there are other techniques that they can suggest in specific circumstances and they can refer you to a specialist.
  • Using your instincts as a mum. Call your doctor, midwife or health visitor if you think your baby is unwell because they are drowsy and/or uninterested in feeding.

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Last updated: 20 May, 2019