Your little bundle of joy may be tiny and gracefully long or adorably cuddly and squishy. Just like adults, babies come in all sizes and shapes.
But, if you’ve heard more than a few passing comments about your baby’s weight you may start to wonder. Are all those rolls a concern? Could your little one actually have too much “baby fat”?
Here’s what to know about weight gain and growth in babies.
Yes, most babies who have perfectly plump cheeks or kissable chunky thighs are perfectly healthy. The way babies gain and carry weight depends on many factors, and considering those helps to determine whether their pudge is simply adorable or a cause for concern.
Newborns grow very quickly, especially in their first year. At birth, the average weight for a male baby is born full-term is
Depending on their length, even babies born at the same weight may look either round and soft with lots of rolls or long and lean with less cushioning. Whether your little one has what we think of as “baby fat” isn’t always just about how much they weigh.
Babies are meant to gain quickly
Babies can double their weight in less than 6 months, and triple it by age 1. All babies need a high-fat diet to support this rapid growth and development. This is why your little one always seems to be hungry!
Babies store some of that fat under their skin because their developing bodies and brain need quick hits of energy all the time. Your baby might have some body rolls or big, soft cheeks. Don’t worry — this kind of “fat” is normal and healthy for your baby.
Every baby grows at their own rate. Keep in mind that a baby may not gain weight or grow every week. Their overall growth rate is what’s important.
Here’s an average estimate of how much your baby will grow in their first year:
|Birth to 6 months||1/2 to 1 inch every month||5 to 7 ounces every week|
|6 to 12 months||3/8 inch every month||3 to 5 ounces every week|
How much weight your baby gains is an important sign of their health. Your pediatrician will also look at baby’s height (or length) and head size to find out how your baby is growing and developing.
Baby weight can vary dramatically. Some babies grow faster than others and then slow down. Other babies may gain weight slowly, but steadily and catch up.
There is a range for height and weight
Your roly-poly baby is most likely completely healthy. A healthy baby weight also depends on your baby’s length. As long as your baby is within the healthy weight range for their length, they are at a healthy weight no matter how adorably “chunky” they look.
If your little one is at the top that range, they might be a bigger baby, but still at a healthy weight. Your pediatrician will check your baby’s length and weight on an infant growth chart. Each baby is given a percentile.
For example, if your 6-month-old baby boy is in the 98th percentile for weight at their length, this means that they are heavier than 98 percent of babies of the same sex, age, and length. As long as your baby is gaining weight and growing in their first year, they are healthy.
If you think your little one might be getting a bit too heavy in your arms, don’t worry. Once your baby masters crawling and later, walking around, they will lose some of that cuddly “baby fat.” As your baby grows into an active toddler their weight should balance even further.
Yes, excess weight gain can still be a concern for babies.
Experts at Harvard University note that babies that gain too much weight in their first 2 years can have a higher risk or health problems in their childhood and even adult years. That’s why it’s important to tracks gains over time and establish a healthy rate of gains.
Babies who gain weight rapidly in the first year or two may have a higher chance of becoming overweight children and adults, notes this 2018 review of studies.
Children and adults who are overweight and have obesity are at a higher risk of developing chronic health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
How much a baby weighs and how quickly they gain weight depends on many factors. Not all of them are within your control. Sometimes genetics, including how tall and heavy parents are affect the size and weight of their little one.
A mother plays a role in her baby’s weight during pregnancy. A pregnant woman who is overweight, has obesity, is a smoker, or has gestational diabetes is more likely to have a baby who weighs more at birth or becomes overweight later on.
Additionally, some 2019 research shows that babies who are born via planned C-section may have a higher chance of becoming overweight. This might be because their gut bacteria is different than babies who are birthed vaginally. However, having a C-section is usually not the only cause of baby weight gain.
Whether you breastfeed your baby or not may also play a role in their weight. Normally, a baby who is exclusively breastfed will gain weight at a slower rate than a baby who is formula-fed or fed both.
Data from a 2016 study found that there are several reasons why feeding your baby formula only might cause a higher weight gain. These include:
- You have a higher chance of overfeeding your baby formula, simply because it is more readily available than breast milk.
- A parent or caregiver is more likely to keep feeding until the bottle is empty, even if the baby is already full.
- Parents or caregivers may add cereal or more formula powder than is recommended when making a baby’s bottle.
- Using a large bottle to formula-feed might lead to overfeeding and weight gain.
- Sometimes parents or caregivers use a strict schedule for bottle feedings instead of relying on hunger cues.
- Parents or caregivers might give a baby a bottle of formula to self-soothe or fall asleep.
Other factors that can lead to baby weight gain include:
- How early a baby is given solid food.
- If a baby is given fast foods or processed foods.
- If a baby is given fruit juice or sugary drinks.
- If a baby sleeps too little.
- If a baby has a television or videos playing around them.
- If a baby or toddler is given a lot of snacks between meals.
- The kind of snacks and solid foods a baby is fed.
If you are concerned about your baby’s weight gain talk to your pediatrician. In most cases, you probably have nothing to worry about.
A baby under the age of 1 year should never be put on a weight loss diet of any kind.
If your doctor recommends slowing down your baby’s weight gain there are several things you can do that should make a difference. These include:
- If you are breastfeeding and formula-feeding, try to breastfeed more often.
- Try to continue breastfeeding for a longer period.
- Pump your breast milk if you are not able to breastfeed all the time or if your baby prefers a bottle.
- Use a smaller bottle to feed your baby.
- Ensure correct measurements for formula powder when you’re making your baby’s bottle.
- Ask your pediatrician about the best formula for your baby.
- Avoid adding cereal to thicken the baby formula.
- Interact with your baby by playing, reading, or a massage instead of long feedings.
- Avoid giving your baby a bottle to self-soothe or at bedtime.
- Avoid fruit juice and other sugary drinks.
- Avoid giving your baby processed foods like boxed, sugary cereals and snacks.
- Avoid giving your child too much milk.
- Choose snack and meal options with plenty of whole grains, fruit and vegetables.
- Encourage healthy snacking by only allowing your child to have snacks while sitting at the table and at set times.
- Plan out meals and snacks so you know your child has had plenty of healthy food if they ask for another snack or dessert.
- Encourage daily movement and allow your baby time to actively explore their world.
Babies come in all shapes and sizes. “Baby fat” is most often healthy and normal for your little one. Most babies are not overweight, even if they look a little plump. If you think your baby’s weight is a concern, check with your pediatrician.
Some factors like genetics, formula feeding, and your home environment may lead to baby weight gain. There are plenty of ways you can help your child have a balanced weight that will lead to good health in their childhood and even adult years.