FJ’s four month checkup was Tuesday, and it’s official: she’s fat. But not just fat — she’s tall too. She weighs in at a whopping 21 pounds, 3 ounces — the 100th (really more than 100th) percentile, and she’s in the 99th percentile for height and 91st for head circumference. I haven’t been concerned (and neither was the doc) because she’s clearly a healthy child. It’s easy to doubt yourself sometimes though, especially when others share their (incorrect) opinions about how this early fat could lead to later obesity (when really breastfeeding is one of her best protections against obesity) and otherwise just really act shocked at her size. Plus while I was pregnant I was under the impression that breastfed babies were often on the small side, so part of me has wondered if she is an anomaly.
So I was happy to find this blurb from The Nursing Mother’s Problem Solver online (on accident) while on a pediatrician’s website that I thought was located in Atlanta (but turns out it just had a similar name to one in my city):
For breastfed babies, standard pediatric growth charts function as a reference rather than an inflexible diagnostic ruler. Standard growth charts are based on formula-fed infants, whose growth patterns differ measurably from breastfed babies.
Generally, breastfed babies tend to be chubbier and longer than formula-fed babies during the first 6 months, as measured by the growth charts. It’s not unusual for a breastfed baby to be in the 90th percentile for weight and/or length during that period. Many parents panic that their babies are growing too fast, worry that the babies are getting fat, and restrict nursing sessions to try to control their weight. (This is a mistake: Your baby will be hungry, and your breasts, reacting to the lower demand, will stop making as much milk as your baby needs.) At 4 months, a healthy breastfed baby may look like an infant Buddha, but the often changes 2 months later.
The cliché about older breastfed babies is that they’re long and lean. Once they reach 6 months, their growth slows down-compared with formula-fed babies’ growth-and levels off or falls to the 50th percentile or lower. A breastfed baby who’s 7 months old may be in the 20th percentile according to the growth charts but still is perfectly healthy and normal. A pediatrician unfamiliar with the growth pattern characteristic of breastfed babies may recommend unnecessary supplements of formula, or even weaning.
Now what I want to know is…why are the standard pediatric growth charts based on formula feeding?? I’m truly not trying to bash formula feeding (that’s not my style nor my agenda), but shouldn’t breastfeeding be considered the norm? I almost can’t believe that formula feeding guides our growth charts, which has me reflecting on the idea that modern culture has become a bit backwards and upside down in terms of what it considers “normal” when it comes to feeding our babies. Maybe one day breastfeeding advocacy won’t be needed and nursing wisdom and knowledge will once again be passed across and down generations of women, like it used to be. Until then there is certainly work to be done, education to be imparted, and changes to be made.
Now back to the regularly scheduled moral of my story: breastfed babies come in all shapes and sizes. As long as yours is pooping, peeing, gaining weight, and is alert, chances are highly likely you are doing a great job.