Breastfed baby growth

July 21, 2010 at 1:47 am

I’ve noticed a trend in my own experience and among my friends whose babies are breastfed for at least a year. Our babies grow much more quickly in the first few months and then their weights taper off or plateau. They follow a completely different trend than the growth charts you see in the pediatricians’ offices.

I’ve heard so many stories from friends and family of their doctors being concerned about their babies’ growth between 6 months and 18 months. ‘Cause they pretty much stop gaining weight and just start getting taller and thinner. So the doctors recommend formula supplementation or tests to check for problems. But nearly all the moms have said that they’re sure their babies are fine… they’re happy, reaching developmental milestones, etc. With all the childhood obesity out there, you’d think doctors would be delighted to see thin, thriving, smart little babies! Fortunately, our doctors never showed too much concern.

I’d heard that breastfed babies grow differently and that the growth charts weren’t the best gauge for them, but I’d never researched the particulars myself until last night. And, sure enough, the trend I’d seen with my own kids and others’ kids is right on. The CDC’s FAQ’s website on the growth charts says:

Are these charts appropriate for exclusively breast-fed babies?

The 2000 CDC growth charts can be used to assess the growth of exclusively breast-fed infants, however when interpreting the growth pattern one must take into account that mode of infant feeding can influence infant growth. In general, exclusively breast-fed infants tend to gain weight more rapidly in the first 2 to 3 months. From 6 to 12 months breast-fed infants tend to weigh less than formula-fed infants.

The 2000 CDC Growth Chart reference population includes data for both formula-fed and breast-fed infants, proportional to the distribution of breast- and formula-fed infants in the population. During the past two decades, approximately one-half of all infants in the United States received some breast milk and approximately one-third were breast-fed for 3 months or more. A Working Group of the World Health Organization is collecting data at seven international study centers to develop a new set of international growth charts for infants and preschoolers through age 5 years. These charts will be based on the growth of exclusively or predominantly breast-fed children. (Source)

If you’re a visual person like me, you might like to check out this chart from It shows the standard growth chart with red dots representing the typical breastfed baby curve. My kids definitely followed the red dot trend rather than the normal growth chart trend! They chunk up for a few months and then slow down.

Here’s my Bubbagoo’s progression from chunky monkey to skinny mini:

It’s been helpful for me to get the facts straight on this subject. But it has only reaffirmed what my gut (and my friends’ guts) told me all along… we know our babies and when things are right or wrong with them. Don’t you wish all doctors trusted us too?