Baby Not Gaining Weight

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a baby not gaining weight

If you’re a breastfeeding mother and your baby is not gaining weight it’s time for action! We’ll cover how to access your calorie-rich hindmilk, increasing your milk supply as well as getting the nutrition the baby needs. Important: If you feel the health of your baby is in any way at risk, seek immediate medical help. Trust your motherly instincts.

Baby Not Gaining Weight Solution : Hindmilk

There are two kinds of breast milk: foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is a hydrating, watery, kind of milk. Think of it as skim or “fat-free” milk. This is the milk that is first released when baby is breastfeeding. It is not very calorie rich and if this is the only milk your baby is getting, it could lead to baby not gaining weight or gaining very little. More on that in a minute but let’s first look at hindmilk.

Foremilk and Hindmilk samples of human breast milk

Foremilk (left) and Hindmilk (right) are very different nutritionally  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hindmilk is a calorie-rich, high-fat milk. Think of it as “whole milk” or even cream. This is the kind of milk that your baby needs to get to gain weight. This milk lets down after the foremilk is removed.

Common hindmilk problems

  • Switching breasts too soon – To get to the hindmilk your baby first needs to remove the foremilk, but if you are switching breasts before your baby fully removes the foremilk, he’ll only get foremilk from the first breast and foremilk from the second. He may get full and stop breastfeeding because his tummy is full, not because he’s had enough calories, but because he’s had enough volume. Be sure you are not switching sides too early – allow your baby to completely finish on one breast before switching to the other breast.
  • Waiting too long between breastfeeding sessions – Some moms wait 3 hours or more between breastfeeding sessions in an attempt to let their breasts “fill up.” This is wrong for two reasons: hindmilk is replenished first, then foremilk – so the breasts are just filling up with low calorie, “fat-free foremilk.” And secondly, babies need to breastfeed more often, not less if they are not gaining weight. Going more than 3 hours between breastfeeding sessions is like putting a baby on a diet.
  • Baby too sleepy to get to hindmilk – If your baby is mellow about breastfeeding or falls asleep quickly when put on the breast he may not be getting to the calorie-rich hindmilk. Try to keep him wake and actively breastfeeding by tickling, playing and talking to baby. Try getting baby naked down to his diaper and up against the skin of your chest. If all else fails, put a cold washcloth on his neck when it looks like he’s drifting off to la-la-land.

Another Hindmilk Solution

Double nursing – after you finish breastfeeding. Wait 5 to 20 minutes and encourage your baby to enjoy another round. If baby is sleepy, walking him around, changing his diaper/clothes, and engaging him with a favorite toy will get him active again. Double nursing will give baby immediate access to the calorie-rich hindmilk.

Baby Not Gaining Weight Solution : More Meals

When anyone wants to be gaining weight a simple solution is to eat more often.

    • Offer to breastfeed more – A baby not gaining weight could be the simple product of not getting frequent enough meals. Be sure to increase the number of times you are breastfeeding.
    • Breastfeed longer – Keep baby on the breast for as long as baby as he wants. If baby has finished both sides and just relaxing with some comfort sucking, let him continue. Your breast continuously makes milk and will deliver it to baby as it’s being made. Forget any breastfeeding schedules you may have about so many minutes per side.

sleeping baby gaining weight

  • Nap and breastfeed – If it’s nap time, bring baby to bed with you and put him on the breast while you both relax and sleep. Most babies will continue to suck even when asleep and this extra meal may be just the calorie boost baby needs to start gaining weight.
  • Sling feed – try slinging your baby to your bare chest such that baby is just a few inches from your nipple. This often entices baby to frequent, spontaneous nursing sessions. Plus you can get a few things done!

Baby Not Gaining Weight Solution : Increase Your Milk Supply

Perhaps baby is not gaining weight because of low milk supply. Here’s some suggestions for increasing your milk production:

  • Increase breastfeeding to every two hours – Putting more demand on your breasts by increasing breastfeeding should result in an increase in production to meet the higher demand.
  • Pump after each breastfeeding session – After baby has completely finished breastfeeding, pump each breast for 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter if no extra milk comes out – you’re using the stimulation of the pump to tell your body that it needs to make more milk.
  • Consider an herbal supplement – An herbal supplement like Lactiful Supply Max can provide a boost to milk supply.
  • Be sure your baby’s latch is good. If you have sore, cracked or bleeding nipples this is a sure sign that baby is not latching properly. A poor latch also means that baby will not be able to extract the milk as well as he should, which is a major problem for a baby not gaining weight. If you have this problem, meet with a lactation consultant for help on getting a proper latch.

Baby Not Gaining Weight Solution : Other Considerations

  • No pacifiers – don’t waste any of baby’s “sucking energy” on a pacifier. All of baby’s sucking needs should be met at the breast.
  • Supplement smartly – If you been directed by a health care professional to give a supplement of extra breast milk or formula to help a baby not gaining weight, be sure to do it the right way. Giving a bottle can often cause more long term problems than short term ones it solves. See this article on using an SNS System

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