As a parent, the most common questions you may have heard after your baby was born are “how much does the baby weigh?” and “how is the baby growing?”
Many people consider the weight of a newborn to be a marker of the baby’s general health. Therefore, it is something everyone wants to monitor. The rate of gain in weight is the highest during the first six months after birth.
According to the Indian Pediatrics Journal, malnutrition is a significant health problem in developing countries and is one of the main causes of infant and child morbidity and mortality. Over half of the underweight children in the world live in India. Also, approximately 47% children under the age of three are underweight and 46% are stunted.
Delayed growth normally starts at around 6 months of age when infants start to get complementary foods along with breast milk. If these foods are given inadequately, children’s growth starts faltering. This pattern of delayed growth was found in a study on children in Karnataka. Researchers found that children who were less than 6 months in age had a low prevalence of underweight (6%) as compared to a much higher prevalence (39%) of underweight among children from 6 to 11 months.
According to researchers, it’s not just a lack of food that causes malnutrition, but a lack of knowledge about the amount of feeding, type of food, frequency, etc., that leads to malnutrition among children. This can even happen in families where the daily requirement of nutrition is adequate in adults.
How Can We Improve Infant Growth?
By improving feeding practices and raising awareness through action-oriented messages it is possible to spread the message about good nutrition for children. Studies conducted by Bhandari and his colleagues are probably the most comprehensive Indian evidence on infant-focused nutrition education. They suggest that messages on nutrition education can convince a mother to feed her infant for a longer period, lower infant deaths due to diarrhoea and enhance energy intake.
What’s The Best Nutrition For Your Baby?
Breast milk is very convenient and the optimal nutrient for infants. It keeps the baby growing, and helps fight off respiratory and gastrointestinal infections both now and when the baby grows older. Breastfeeding may even help the baby develop a liking towards healthy food after growing up.
Doctors suggest that babies receive exclusive breastfeeds for the first six months of their lives. This will provide all the good requirements like antimicrobial factors, anti-inflammatory factors, antibodies, enzymes and fatty acids, which are important for optimal brain development.
What Is Considered Healthy Weight For The Newborn?
Most babies who are born after 38-40 weeks of gestation (full term) weigh between 2.7 to 4 kg (6-0 pounds). Factors that influence an infant’s weight may be the baby’s gender, gestation period, the mother’s health during pregnancy, nutrition during pregnancy, parents’ build, or baby’s health at birth.
Babies who are born outside these guidelines can still be completely healthy. In the first five to seven days of their lives, newborns will lose some weight. For babies who are fed formula, a 5% decrease in weight is considered normal, and for breastfed babies, a normal initial weight loss is considered to be 7-10%.
How Can You Monitor Your Baby’s Food Intake?
Often, newborns are weighed through their time in hospital and sometimes they are weighed again 48 to 72 hours after being discharged. They are weighed again after seven days of birth and sometimes even after two weeks. Weight checks should be scheduled more frequently if the baby has health concerns.
After the first week, your newborn should wet his pants at least five to seven times a day and dirty his pants at least three to four times a day. This routine may change with time, while babies that are given formula may experience fewer bowel movements as compared to breastfed babies.
Baby’s food intake should also be monitored by noticing if he looks satisfied at least for some time after feeding. But, it should also be noted that babies do seem to want to eat all the time.
In case you have questions regarding your baby’s food intake, you should speak to your doctor immediately.
How Does Low Birth Weight Affect A Baby?
A well accepted study from Brazil found clear evidence that low birth weight can be associated with diseases such as Insulin resistance, Ischemic heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Cardiovascular disease, obesity, dyslipidemia, osteoporosis, spontaneous hypothyroidism, end-stage renal disease, breast and testicular cancer, cardiac hypertrophy, adult asthma and hearing loss, depression, schizophrenia, liver cirrhosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and mood instability.
The most important study on the origins of complex adult onset disorders was probably conducted by Barker and his colleagues. They found that birth weight was inversely correlated with increased early death second only to coronary heart disease.
Adult onset of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes was found to be linked with birth weight and the rate of growth in the first two to three years of an infant’s life (also this is heavily dependent on environment and not genetic influences).
How Can You Prevent Low Birth Weight Of Your Child?
Expectant mothers can markedly lower the risk of having very low birth weight babies by maintaining good nutrition and proper prenatal care throughout their pregnancy.
Tips To Reduce Risk Of Having A Low Birth Weight Baby:
- Early Prenatal Care
It is important to start prenatal care early, as it helps to find out any medical problems like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, a condition where blood flow to the placenta reduces and in turn restricts the supply of nutrition to the foetus.
- Make Big Changes To Your Lifestyle
It is well known that smoking and alcohol increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby. If you’re an expectant mother, you should stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Also, try to get enough rest and sleep, and minimise stress.
- Keep Medical Illnesses Under Control
Expectant mothers with Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are more likely to have low birth weight infants. If you have these conditions, try to keep them under control.
- Maintain Healthy Weight Gain And Good Nutrition
Pregnancy and dieting don’t go together. Do not try to limit your food intake if you are an expectant mother, especially at the beginning of your pregnancy. Folic acid deficiency is linked to premature births and low birth weight. Try to eat foods rich in folic acid such as fruit, leafy vegetables, beans, etc.
Infants’ nutrition and food intake should be monitored and maintained properly. Many studies have shown that low birth weight and improper nutrition during childhood may lead to onset of adult diseases. So it’s best to be on guard and to ensure proper nutrition for yourself and your baby; and ensure regular prenatal checkups.