On the whole, how your baby grows during the earlier months after being born will be very individual. Babies will follow their own growth pattern. While most babies will be 'within' the 10th to 90th percentiles on a growth chart, a minority of babies will be 'off the scale' (either under or over this average). The concept of 'growth' from a health professional's point of view should generally relate to gradual increases in your baby's measurements over time. As long as your baby is maintaining a steady growth pattern, and appears to be in good health, this should be the focus, rather than where they are on the growth percentile chart. Remember, the ideal relationship between height and weight is that they are in proportion to each other. This means that a child of a lower than average height is also likely to have a lower than average weight.
The following is a guide to the 'average' expectations for a baby's growth in the early months.
Most babies will lose up to 10% of their birthweight during the first 3-5 days after birth, and regain this weight by the time they are 10 to 14 days old, if not earlier. From about 2 weeks of age your baby should gradually increase in their weight by anything from 150 grams to 400 grams each week. A baby's weight can fluctuate from week to week, with smaller gains some weeks and larger gains in others. Weighing once a fortnight or once a month may be more of a guide to gradual progress rather than once a week. Babies will usually double their birthweight by the time they are about 6 months old.
A baby's length will usually increase by about 3 to 5 cms per month for the first few months. 'No growth' for a couple of weeks, and a 'growth spurt' every few weeks, are both normal. Again, spacing this measurement out to every few weeks may be more of a guide, than measuring every week.
A baby's head circumference will increase by 1 to 2cms a month, slowing down slightly, after they reach about 6 to 8 months of age. This rapid growth allows for normal increase in the size of your baby's brain during this time. Again this may not always be consistent.
NOTE: When you visit your baby health centre for the first time, or you see different nurses at each visit, (especially if visiting each week), don't be surprised if your baby suddenly 'shrinks' or has an amazing growth spurt! This can often be accounted for by caregivers using different techniques (tools or machines) to measure your baby. It can also be difficult to accurately measure the length of a newborn, who is naturally reluctant to 'completely' unfold, or to lie 'straight' to be measured.
If you wish to convert centimetres to inches, or grams and kilos to pounds and ounces (or versa visa), you may wish to use our
'birthbaby' weight and height conversion guide
Some babies will gain weight quickly over the weeks, while others increase their body weight much more slowly. If your baby is gaining weight more slowly, try to keep calm and take into consideration that all babies grow at different rates. If your baby is doing fine, then this will reflect in other physical signs, such as them:
- Having good muscle tone, (not floppy and 'lethargic looking') when awake.
- Looking bright-eyed, alert and responsive when awake.
- Interested in sucking when due for a feed and having at least 6 to 8 feeds in a 24 hour period.
- Having at least 6 wet nappies in a 24 hour period.
It may be of concern if your baby:
- Is having less than 6 wet nappies in a 24 hour period.
- Is experiencing a constant, gradual weight loss, and/or is still below their birthweight by 4 weeks of age (or older), or their weight gain is continually less than 500 grams every month.
- Has loose, wrinkled skin around their upper thighs and bottom, rather than being 'full' looking.
- Is pooing infrequently, and when it does come it is more like a small, green coloured 'splat' or staining of the nappy, rather than a large, soft amount.
NOTE: If your baby becomes lethargic, 'floppy', pale, sleeps much of the time, is reluctant to want to feed (they should be feeding at least 6 to 8 times in 24 hours in the first few months), has hardly any wet nappies, and/or a fever, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The following are two examples of normal variations in a newborn's growth. They are presented to illustrate how important it is to look at the 'overall picture', by taking into account other factors (as well as trusting your own instincts).
For one mother, her baby's low and slow weight gain caused her many anxious moments, mainly because everyone around her was concerned about it. Her daughter was not gaining the expected weight increase each week and was in the 'well below average' range for the first 4-6 weeks after the birth. However, her baby was growing in length and was well above the 'average' range for this. In retrospect, it appeared that the baby's growth was being 'channelled' into her amazing growth in length, rather than her weight and once her growth in length slowed down, her weight slowly increased. Both parents of this baby are around 6 feet tall (or 180cm) - is it little wonder that this baby's initial growth was in her length rather than her weight.
Another mother became concerned when her early childhood nurse suggested she was 'overfeeding' her baby because he was 'off the growth chart' in weight gain. It was true her baby had rolls of fat (and had been given the nickname 'fat boy' by his loving parents), however, he was being fully breastfed and was sleeping for 2 to 6 hours between feeds, was happy, healthy and content. Once he started to crawl, he slimmed down to 'normal'. Now he is at primary school, and is very tall and slim compared to his friends. When the same thing happened with her second baby, she told others who made any comments what she now knows... "You can't 'overfeed' a fully breastfed baby."
In both instances, these mothers had their confidence undermined, and the care of their baby questioned by those around them, who were unnecessarily concerned about the babies being 'below' or 'above average' weight gains. However, both mothers believed their babies were thriving and well, being reflected in how well they were feeding, sleeping, passing urine etc. But most importantly, they consistently looked bright eyed, healthy, happy and responsive.
Last revised: Monday, 24 December 2012
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.