Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Fattening up babies?

I'll apologise now, as I think this might turn into a bit of a rant!

I was asked if Pickle was lethargic.
I laughed - it's the one word you
could never use to describe him.
We have a standing appointment at the weekly Child Health Clinic for Pickle to get weighed.  He was a small baby to start with (2.855kg), but other than losing a small amount of weight the first week (which is perfectly normal while my milk came in), he has gained weight every single week.  Despite this, the Health Visitors have been concerned at his level of weight gain, hence the weekly visits.  He has been a purely breast-fed baby, which generally have lower weights; I expect this is somewhat due to formula being higher in calories and/or because it may be easier to over-feed with formula.  I have no issues with anyone who chooses, for whatever reason, to formula feed their baby - I believe each Mummy needs to do what is best for her and her child.

I've seen other health professionals, including the nurse who has given Pickle his immunisations, who have said he is happy, alert and healthy and there is nothing to worry about.  While I know this in my heart, it can be very disconcerting to be questioned every single week.  I feel like I'm being scrutinised for under-nourishing my child.  Pickle is demand fed - generally around every two and a half hours... but if he's sleeping, there can be a four hour gap between feeds.  And if he's hungry, I'll feed him, even if he just ate half an hour beforehand.

He's hardly scrawny
I have asked three times now, for the breast-feeding only weight chart.  The first time I was told it didn't exist.  The same person went away on the second date of requesting to find out there is a separate chart, but they would have to get it in for me, to which I said "great, yes please"... the third time it was too busy being the first session since Christmas and New Year...

But then they wanted me to start him on a top-up feed with formula once a day.  I decided I was happy to do this, so off I trotted to the supermarket.  But after I picked up the cartons of formula, I really felt like I'd failed somehow.  It was a really horrible feeling.  I want to do the best for Pickle, and felt I'd faulted at such an early hurdle.  I didn't have the birth I'd wanted, but was happy that I was able to breastfeed him, as it was something I really wanted to do; and now I'd fallen short.  Not a logical reaction I realise, but it didn't hurt any less because of it.

I was told to top up his early evening feed, as Pickle seems hungriest at night. "He'll probably wolf down 150ml" they said.  Cue two hours of screaming while we forced 30mls (1oz) down him.  It wasn't good for any of us.

I tried a doidy cup the next night, and got - I think, as a fair amount went down his front - about 50mls down him.  Spooning went well, though was a slow process.  We tried a few different bottles and cups at my friend Caroline's house, and have bought the cup that he seemed to get on with the best - it's in the steriliser now, so hopefully we'll have better results tonight.

Pickle did put on 180g (7oz) this week, and is now 5.18kg.  So you think the Child Health Clinic would have been happy, right?  Nope, we have to go back again next week.  I was less passive this time though, as I pointed out that I'm 5'2", BoyWonder is skinny with a very fast metabolism, Pickle will be starting Baby-Led Weaning in just over a month and he also does 2 poos every single day (which is a lot for a breastfed baby, so he's obviously getting enough in him to produce waste), so I didn't see the point of talking to the Health Visitor when he'd had a good weight gain.  They didn't push it.  But no, I haven't seen the requested chart; though it's a moot point now I suppose.

All these photos were taken in the past month
- before his latest, big weight-gain
Since then, I've discovered that babies weight-gain tends to slow around 4-months, especially in breast-fed only babies (World Health Organisation, 2002; cited in Rapley & Murkett, 2008).  There seems to be an trend to fattening babies up to see them as "healthy", yet we have a growing obesity epidemic... surely not unrelated?  And making a new, and first-time Mummy feel this bad, isn't supportive and could lead to Post-Natal Depression; Mum's tend to judge themselves the most harshly, and need consistent knowledge provision, not unfounded criticism.

*rant over*

Has anyone else experienced similar with their child's weigh-ins?  What did you do?

Cheers, KangaRue :)

Rapley, G. & Murkett, T. (2008).  Baby-led Weaning: helping your baby to love good food.  Random House Group: Chatham, UK.
WHO/UNICEF (2002).  Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.  WHO: Geneva, Switzerland.


  1. Weel, obviously being child-free I have no idea on breast feeding (other than it makes the boys in te room jealous I think!)

    What I do know, from seeing how he has grown these last few months, is there is no way in hell he could be considered underfed, unhappy, or lethargic. He is happy (when he isnt screaming for attention - which he alo gets plenty of!), full of energy and feeds when and where and how much he wants to (typical healthy male!).

    I think you are an awesome mum (and friend). Kisses.

  2. I had the opposite problem with my little boy. The HV told me that it was impossible that I was 'just' breastfeeding him as he was so big. He was a big baby but he was big at birth and, apart from a dive waiting for my milk to come in, he hugged the same centile line all the way through. I just used to smile and nod, there is clearly nothing wrong with your little boy. In the end I stopped taking Bud because it stressed me out every time I went. I am convinced that the HVs I spoke to just didn't understand breastfeeding, they were completely amazed that I breastfed past 6 months AND did baby led weaning. None of them had any advice for me, in fact one HV asked me for more information about BLW!?!

  3. Thanks ladies.

    I do get stressed, so I'll be going one more time to quote my Mother-in-Law while picking up the weaning kit now he's 5-months old. Then I'll only be going monthly to weigh-ins, not weekly any more. I plan on breastfeeding for at least a year, and will be doing BLW, so I won't expect any help there!!

    My MIL read my post and sent me a lovely email. She's reminded me that she is a "very experienced paediatric nurse and midwife" who has also had four children - all of whom were below the 3rd percentile, remaining so even when on solids (which I wasn't aware of before).

    "I can see why you had a good rant! have a beautiful, happy healthy little boy. Why would you want to give formula!"

    I got one of the good MILs didn't I :)

  4. I had EXACTLY the same issue with Big Sis. She was 7lbs 11oz when she was born and dropped more than 10% (or whatever the limit is) straight after so I had to go back to the Baby Clinic every blinkin' week to have her weighed - which was a real hassle considering I'd had an emergency c-section, was anaemic from blood loss, and utterly exhausted. I got so sick of everyone rabbiting on about how tiny she was, when she was clearly in great health - alert, sleeping well, feeding every few hours for up to an hour at a time - that I stopped taking her in. I knew she was fine, and that breast milk was enough, so I ignored everyone telling me to supplement with formula and went with my instincts. I agree with you - I think we tend to overfeed now, both in infancy and throughout the rest of our lives. No one knows a baby better than its Mummy!! xx


I'd love to hear your thoughts!