Birth Weight and Fluids in Labor

Recently I spoke with a mother who was told she needed to supplement her breastmilk with formula when her baby was just a few days old. The reason given was that the baby lost too much weight from the recorded birth weight. This is a story I hear quite often, actually.

Hearing such a thing can shatter a new mother’s confidence in her ability to produce milk for her baby, not to mention cause stress and worry about baby’s weight gain and health. We also know that supplementing with formula can affect the supply/demand relationship so central to breastfeeding.

One thing to consider about newborn weight loss, however, is whether the mother received IV fluids during labor. Several recent studies (see here and here) have found that babies who lose more than 7% of their birth weight within their first 4 days might not be suffering from a milk shortage at all. Instead, they might have had an artificially high birth weight if their mothers received IV fluids during the final hours of labor.

Such babies have more wet diapers during their first 24 hours and thus lost more weight, whether they were born vaginally or via cesarean.

The first study recommends using the baby’s weight at 24 hours old as the baseline for measuring weight gain/loss. Then, doctors can get a more accurate picture of how much breastmilk babies are taking in!

Hopefully clinicians can put these recommendations into practice.

Did you have IV fluids while you were laboring? Leave us a comment to share your experience with newborn weight loss.

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