How much weight should a healthy baby gain?


Infant growth patterns

A newborn baby will LOSE up to 10% of her body weight within the first few days of life. Within the first 2 weeks she will REGAIN this loss.

On average babies DOUBLE their birth weight by 4 months; TRIPLE their birth weight by 12 months and will be around FOUR TIMES their birth weight by 2 years. (Some babies will reach these levels at a much YOUNGER age... Some at a much OLDER age.)

The most RAPID period of growth is between 2 weeks and 6 months of age. This rate of growth DECLINES slightly at around the age of 6 months; DECLINES further around 9 months and DECLINES further still at around 12 months. (These ages can vary depending on each individual baby.)

It won't be until a child reaches adolescence (teenage years) that she will once AGAIN experience the RAPID rate of growth she experiences in your first year of life.


Monitoring your baby's growth

WEIGHING your baby is something you can do yourself between well baby visits. Many pharmacies or drug stores provide specially designed scales for weighing babies. If you decide to weigh your baby yourself, take care to consider the COMMON errors that can occur when weighing and interpreting the results. (See When your baby's weight gains decrease! for more about these.)

2 TOOLS which are commonly used to monitor a baby's weight gain are...

  1. GROWTH CHARTS; which map a child's growth on specially designed graphs which compare national averages for children of the same and and sex; and
  2. AVERAGE WEEKLY FIGURES; which offers a quick guide, depicting a range of weekly growth for babies at different ages.

1. Growth charts

Your health care provider will use growth charts to monitor and record your baby's WEIGHT, as well as her LENGTH and HEAD CIRCUMFERENCE. Growth charts are an important tool for monitoring children's development, but they are just one of the tools your health care provider will use to ensure your baby is growing and developing as she should.

Some countries provide new parents with a specially designed booklet in which to record their child's personal health care details; including growth, development and immunizations. Many of these booklets contain a growth chart. If you do NOT have one of these booklets you can download copies of different growth charts from the National Center for Health Statistics and maintain your own records.

ADVANTAGES of growth charts

  • Growth charts provide a MORE reliable tool for assessment of your baby's pattern of growth than 'average weekly figures' (described below).
  • You can use growth charts to COMPARE your baby's weight with her length, which can provide a guide for REALISTIC expectations of weight for individual babies.

DISADVANTAGE of growth charts

  • When a baby does NOT strictly follow a percentile curve on the growth chart, as many don't, parents often worry needlessly. GENETIC POTENTIAL (how tall parents and family members are) is FREQUENTLY overlooked when interpreting these changes.

2. Average weekly figures

Some health care providers will compare your baby's weight gain against 'average weekly figures' in order to monitor growth between developmental checks at well baby visits.  'Average weekly figures' provide the range of weight which is considered to be of average gain for babies of different ages.

Age

 

Weekly weight gain in ounces

Weekly weight gains in grams

Birth – 2 weeks

Regain birth weight

Regain birth weight

2 weeks - 6 months

5 – 8

150 – 220

6 – 9 months

3 – 5 ˝

90 – 150

9 – 12 months

2 – 3

60 – 90

ADVANTAGES of using average weekly figures

  • Offers a quick guide.

DISADVANTAGES

  • This is a very simplistic tool. Unlike growth charts, these figures do NOT accommodate variations between boys and girls.
  • Fluctuations in what can APPEAR to be the amount of weight gained each week are easily MISINTERPRETED. This can lead to unnecessary concern for parents OR worse still, UNNECESSARY dietary changes for babies. (See When your baby's weight gain decreases for examples of errors which cause FALSE ALARMS.)

IMPORTANT: Whether you use average weekly figures or growth charts, REMEMBER these provide a GUIDE ONLY. Many things need to be taken into consideration, most importantly your child's genetic potential. DON'T rely too heavily on these tools and forget to use the best tools of all... YOUR EYES and BRAIN.


Other signs of healthy growth

Even without weighing your baby YOU can tell when she's gaining weight, particularly when she's a very young baby and growth is at it's most rapid. Signs that indicate your baby is growing include...

  • Her length and head measurements are increasing.
  • Her clothes are becoming tight.
  • The safety harness on her pram or car capsule is becoming tighter.
  • She feels heavier.
  • Her face is becoming chubbier.
  • Her legs and arms are 'filling out'

Other indicators of good health include...

  • She's bright and alert.
  • She's active.
  • She has lots of wet diapers (6 or more each day).
  • She sleeps well.
  • She demands regular feeding.
  • She's happy and content.

IRRITABILITY and WAKEFULNESS, which are common problems particularly for babies younger than 3 months, are RARELY due to hunger.


How often do I need to have my baby weighed?

Well baby visits provide a perfect opportunity to check how much weight your baby is gaining. Many health care providers provide guidelines for new parents on suggested ages for well baby visits. Although these may vary in different countries, most recommend a well baby visit at...

  • 1 month
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months
  • 18 months
  • 2 years
  • 3 years

Many parents like to weight their baby between well baby visits to make sure their baby is continuing to grow well. How often you weigh your baby really DEPENDS on your level of confidence. Scales can provide a helpful tool if you are feeling a little unsure about feeding OR how your baby is growing BUT they can also be a source of UNNECESSARY confusion and concern if results are NOT interpreted CORRECTLY.

Written by Rowena Bennett
RN, RM, MHN, CHN, IBCLC, Grad Dip Health Promotion and author of 'Your Sleepless Baby: The Rescue Guide'.

Added April 2004. Revised 2008; Sept 2013.