How to Tell if Your Baby Is a Healthy Weight

Three Parts:Understanding Growth ExpectationsMonitoring Your Baby's Progress at HomeKnowing When to Ask for Help

Even if your baby is a good eater and you regularly attend length and weight checkups at the doctor’s office, you may wonder if your baby’s growth is appropriate and healthy. It's important to keep in mind that percentiles are not everything. Even if your baby is small for her age, she might be perfectly healthy. Watch your baby's behavior, keep track of her progress, and talk to your doctor about all of your concerns to ensure that she is a healthy weight.

Part 1
Understanding Growth Expectations

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    Know the averages. Most full-term babies weigh between six and nine pounds at birth. However, it is possible for a baby to be healthy even if she weighs more or less than average at birth.[1]
    • Remember that weight is not the only determining factor of health. Your baby's doctor will be able to let you know if there is anything you should be concerned about.
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    Get familiar with growth charts. The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization offer standardized growth charts for male and female babies based on length and age. These charts are used to calculate your child's percentile. A high percentile means your child is large compared to other children his age, while a low percentile means he is small compared to other children his age.[2]
    • A low percentile only means that your baby is small, not necessarily that he is behind developmentally.
    • Despite the usefulness of growth charts for indicating a healthy weight range for infants, every baby is different. In most cases, simple welfare checks on your baby will indicate whether he is gaining enough weight to be healthy and to allow for adequate growth and development.
    • There are different growth charts for babies who are breast-fed and babies who are formula-fed because they tend to grow at different rates.[3]
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    Consider genetic factors. Growth charts do not take genetic factors into account, and these play a huge role in determining your baby's weight. Be sure to think about the height and weight of both parents when processing information about your baby's size.[4]
    • If both parents are shorter than average, it should not be surprising that the baby would be in a lower percentile, as she is likely to be short as well. (The average height in the United States is 5'8" for men and 5'3" for women.[5])
    • If, on the other hand, both parents are taller than average, a low percentile may warrant more careful monitoring.
    • In addition, babies with certain genetic disorders or other medical conditions such as Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, or heart disease may also grow at a different rate.
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    Expect immediate weight loss. Most infants lose some weight in the first few days after birth, and then slowly begin to gain it back. As long as your baby does not lose more than 10% of his birth weight and starts gaining weight within the next few days, there is usually no cause for concern.[6] Most babies get back to their birth weight by 2 weeks.
    • Babies typically gain about five to seven ounces a week after this initial weight loss and double their birth weight within three to four months. If your baby is not on track to gain this much weight, talk to your pediatrician about your concerns.[7]
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    Know the needs of premature babies. Babies who are born prematurely have different nutritional needs than babies who are born at full term. They may not be able to feed properly and their bodies may not yet be capable of processing food normally, which is why they are often kept in the NICU. The goal of this specialized care is to help the premature baby grow at the same rate that she would have if she were still in the womb, which is faster than a full-term baby would be expected to grow.[8]
    • There are growth charts tailored to premature babies.

Part 2
Monitoring Your Baby's Progress at Home

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    Weigh your baby at home. Regular bathroom scales will not show sufficient detail for your baby’s weight. Instead, buy a special scale designed to weigh infants. Keep track of your measurements so you can discuss them with your baby's doctor if necessary.
    • Weigh your baby on a regular schedule to get an overall picture of weight gain and fluctuation. Avoid daily weighing or weighing multiple times per day unless instructed to do so by a physician for medical purposes, as weight naturally fluctuates.
    • Posting a growth chart near your scale can help you keep track of which percentile your baby is in.
    • Remember that it's more important that your baby is growing consistently than that he falls within a certain percentile.[9]
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    Look for signs of proper hydration and nutrition. If your baby is not getting enough food, you will probably notice physical changes. If your baby appears healthy, her weight is probably not an issue.[10]
    • She should be making soft stools several times a day in the first few weeks of life. After that, in general she should poop at least every few days.
    • Her urine should be clear or light yellow and odor-free.
    • Her skin should be a healthy color.
    • You should be changing approximately six to eight wet diapers each day.
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    Keep a food diary. Keep track of how often your baby is eating and how much he is eating. If you are breast feeding, keep track of the amount of time spent feeding. If you are bottle feeding or if your baby is already eating solid foods, keep track of the quantities.
    • If you notice any indications that he may not be eating enough, such as multiple meals in a row without finishing, eating only small portions of meals, or going for several hours at a time with no food or drink, talk to your pediatrician.
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    Focus on developmental milestones. Weight is one factor that influences good health, but it is not the only one. Because there are a lot of genetic factors that influence weight, tracking developmental milestones is a much better way of making sure your baby is growing properly.[11]

Part 3
Knowing When to Ask for Help

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    Get support for breastfeeding issues. Your baby may not be getting the nutrition she needs if she isn't latching on properly when you breastfeed her. These issues can usually be corrected with a little support, so reach out to your doctor or a lactation specialist if you have any of the following issues:[12]
    • Your baby sucks in her cheeks or makes clicking noises while feeding.
    • Your baby seems unsettled after feeding
    • Your baby seems to have a hard time swallowing
    • Your breasts don't feel less full after a feeding
    • Your nipples are sore or misshapen
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    Watch for poor feeding. If your baby seems uninterested in eating and/or is consistently losing weight, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician right away. There are many congenital medical conditions and infections that can cause poor feeding, so it's important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible.[13]
    • Be sure to mention all other symptoms to your doctor as well, including vomiting and diarrhea, gagging, or coughing.
    • If your baby is a picky eater, there is usually no cause for concern. Poor feeding means that the baby has little interest in any food, not just in specific foods.
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    Watch for signs of dehydration. If your baby is dehydrated, he is not getting enough milk or formula, so it's very important to correct the cause of the problem right away. Common symptoms of dehydration include:[14]
    • Fewer wet diapers.
    • Urine that is darker than normal.
    • Jaundice (yellow skin).
    • Decreased activity or increased sleepiness.
    • Dry mouth.
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    Talk to your doctor about sudden changes. Fluctuations are normal, but if you notice any drastic changes, it's best to consult your baby's doctor. For example, if your baby was gaining weight at a consistent pace, but then suddenly started losing weight, this warrants a visit to the doctor. It may be nothing at all, or it may be something that requires medical intervention.[15]


  • It is always appropriate to call a health professional to ask about changes in your baby’s weight gain, eating habits, activity level, or vital signs. Your parental observations will be the best defense in assuring that your baby achieves and maintains a healthy weight.


  • Signs of weakness, disorientation, difficulty swallowing or moving, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, if your baby appears boney, or refuses to eat, this may indicate a serious health problem. Seek professional advice for feeding and weight gain strategies in these cases, and have your baby evaluated for feeding disorders, infections, inherited diseases, and structural malformations in the mouth, throat, or gastrointestinal tract.

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Categories: Baby Health