Tuesday, 5 April 2011

My weighty rant

Glowless tweeted something earlier on Twitter that got me thinking. I personally have never had problems in this area, but I know several people who have. I'm talking about baby weigh-ins.

Now, my Maternal and Child Health nurse is lovely. She has children of her own and has been a MACH nurse for quite a few years, so she's seen children come through her door of all different shapes and sizes. Her attitude with both of my children has been that as long as they are putting on weight consistently, reaching their developmental milestones in a timely fashion and look healthy, she isn't too concerned as to where their weight sits on the weight charts in the back of their respective blue books.

I was worried about Seagull's weight when he was a baby. He wasn't a big baby when he was born - 2.87kg (6lb 5oz for those of you who prefer it old school), and he has stayed small thus far. He has, however, had consistent weight gains since birth. I thought for a while that he was trying to play catch up with some of his bigger friends, because he was putting on around 500g per week for the first few weeks, but that soon tapered off to more modest levels. My MACH nurse was wonderful, asking if Seagull had plenty of wet nappies and if he was otherwise well in himself. When I answered those two questions in the affirmative, she told me not to stress. After all, I'm not the tallest girl at the ball, so even though Thunder Maker looks like something that was felled from an old growth forest, it is not outside the realms of possibility that Seagull is just going to be a small, short child. Seriously though, I'm holding out hope for a puberty-fueled growth spurt for him.

Wombat, in contrast, looks like a seedling that would be right at home in an old growth forest. He is currently in the 90th percentile for height and 98th percentile for weight. Wombat was an average weight and length when born, but instead of those 500g per week weight gains tapering off after a few weeks, they kept plugging on until Wombat was about 6 or 7 weeks old. He's down to about 500 - 700g per month at the moment. I was freaking out when my sweet little baby started to turn into Chubzilla, but my beloved MACH nurse was there again to reassure me that there was nothing wrong with him. As she said, it's not like you can ration feeds with a breastfed baby - you feed them when they are hungry and they will only feed for as long as they need to in order to fill themselves. Reassured, I put Wombat back in his Ergo, grabbed Seagull's wing as he tried to make a dash for freedom and headed home.

I have friends who have seemed to cop a lot of unnecessary grief over a small baby having small weight gains and have even had MACH nurses suggest supplementing with formula to increase weight gains. From speaking to friends who have supplemented or even gone to feeding formula full time, it has made no difference to the weight gains their babies have had. In these situations, I'm not sure that their MACH nurses have been considering other indicators like if the baby is otherwise healthy and happy in their self and if the baby is reaching developmental milestones within a normal time frame. Being a parent, a first time Mum in particular is hard enough, why give someone even more to stress about? Yes, those charts can be a good indicator to flag if a child is not thriving, but there is a big difference between a child who is failing to thrive and a child who just happens to be a skinny mini.

The other thing to remember about those charts in the back of the blue books is that they are calculated from the weights of children who were predominantly formula fed and were compiled back in the mists of time. If your baby is breastfed, chances are their weight gain is going to occur at a different rate to the way that the charts in the back of the blue book indicate. The WHO charts are a much more accurate reflection of the growth patterns of breastfed babies. Feel free to check them out. Hell, print them off and stick them over the top of the charts in the blue book if you want.

Wow, I feel better now I have that rant off my chest.


Glowless @ Where's My Glow said...

Yay for ranting! It's one of those days isn't it!
I was so angry at the nurse today, she's normally really nice and has helped me out with a lot of other things. She was so quick to say he was miles ahead of the expected milestones and looked so healthy with bright sparkly eyes... then started banging on about his weight. His dad is a string bean, he eats soooo much food (which I've posted about before) and yet I was still being told to feed him more. Geeeez! Thanks for linking me in :)

Sidetracked said...

No problem. I give credit where it's due. I just feel we cop so much crap as mothers as it is without it coming from health professionals as well. Tricky looks like a really healthy boy from the photos you post up of him - certainly not wasting away.

I remember meeting a little girl who had issues with food. She'd had bad reflux in her first 6 months and was afraid to eat solids. At 14 months, you could tell she had issues (which the mother was doing her best to rectify with the appropriate support) just by looking at her, the poor thing. When you meet people like that, it gets annoying when you hear of people being told that their kid needs to gain weight just because they may have happened to have a slow month with weight gain.