Slow Weight Gain And The Evil Red Book

My baby is a skinny minny. She was 8lb 7oz at birth but has only gained weight slowly.  She’s now nearly 13lb at just coming up to 5 months old. She has never, ever lost any weight. She is and always has been incredibly alert and active and developmentally she is either bang on or ahead of her milestones.  She is also a very cheerful little soul.  I say this because I am 100% certain there is nothing wrong with my baby.

Every Mum in the UK is given a red book when she has a baby. This is your child’s personal health record. It contains various forms for medical professionals to fill in, so it has details of our daughter’s six-week check, batch details of vaccines she has been given etc. It also contains growth charts. These chart your baby’s weight against age. It has centile lines marked, one of which your baby is supposed to follow. The red book has become the bane of my existence!

My baby is not following a centile line (sorry, I don’t think she’s read your policy) and as a result, I have felt really under pressure.  I am quite certain that the reason the small one is not piling weight on is that she is rubbish at breastfeeding. As a result, at the health visitor’s suggestion, we give her one formula feed per day.  I want to mainly (if we can’t manage exclusively) breastfeed her until she is at least 6 months old, especially as she had an infection just after birth and spent 3 weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit. She needs the antibodies in breast milk more than most. I won’t be bullied into giving her more formula and less breast milk just because she isn’t following a centile line.  If there were any other indication that she were in anything other than rude health, I would do so.

The poor breastfeeding (more about this in another post – trust me, I have sought out every bit of help available) and slow weight gain have caused me so many tears.  There’s something really primal about feeling like you’re feeding your baby adequately.  I dread attending the Well Baby Clinic for weigh-ins.  Not least because our health visitor wanted us to come weekly and kept calling me at home to “remind” me.  Not that I ever didn’t turn up when I said I would. She once came to our house to weigh my daughter 3 times in a week, with 2 of these visits being just 24 hours apart. I have no idea how a baby is supposed to gain a significant amount of weight to that timescale. I ended up giving the baby a massive bottle of expressed milk just before she arrived to get the health visitor off my back!

The interesting thing is that the red book states that babies should not be weighed more often than once a month. Illness, teething and various other things can cause a baby to gain weight slowly or remain static for a week or two and this is normal.  That’s been the case with my little one.  Because she’s rubbish at breastfeeding, any change in routine or even a snuffle can stop her gaining weight for a week or two.  She always piles it on in the next few weeks then and averages out ok over a month.

It has taken me some months to stop worrying almost obsessively about my baby’s weight and be able to relax enough to really enjoy being her Mum. I think that as a Mum you know if your baby is unwell or if something is amiss.  If your baby is alert, developmentally spot on and generally happy with him or herself, then weight should be seen as part of the picture and not all of it. Surely that’s just common sense.

PS Happily, our GP and Paediatrician also see things my way and that’s made me feel a lot more confident about my daughter’s weight being ok.

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5 thoughts on “Slow Weight Gain And The Evil Red Book

  1. The Red Book appears to be covered in textured plastic, but is really bound in human skin. Ignore the servants of darkness and persist on your course of righteousness. From six months you can augment the boob with solids anyway and then no-one can say she isn’t getting enough to eat.

  2. I want to say “trust your guts”…! If your baby is happy and developing well then that is all that matters…My little one is on the leaner side as well (she is a tall baby) and she is a very happy, healthy baby.
    And as the previous reader mentioned, she will be eating solids soon…

  3. Pingback: She’s 6 Months Old Today! 6 Things I’ve Learnt Since Becoming A Mum | Mum of 1.5

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