If you are a breastfeeding mother, you may have the unpleasant experience of having people around you, even doctors, telling you that your baby is not gaining weight as quickly as he should. You may also be advised by doctors to supplement with formula milk, or introduce solids early, just to boost the weight gain. This is quite a common complaint among breastfeeding mothers.
Doctors assess babies’ weight gain based on a growth chart. The very same one you see in your children’s health booklet. The chart is derived from statistical data collected based on the growth of thousands of babies. Many mothers sweat over which percentile level their children’s growth hit. The truth of the matter is that the current chart is based largely on formula fed babies. Formula fed babies tend to put on weight very quickly and they tend to be bigger. In comparison, breastfed babies appear to be underweight. The experts now realise that to target weight gain based on this chart may have led to the overfeeding of babies and the rampant obesity in children these days.
Studies have shown that babies who gain weight very quickly in the beginning – in other words, the formula fed babies – show signs of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and higher cholesterol levels in later life. Hence, it is better that babies grow slowly and steadily. The weight gain pattern of breastfed babies is, in fact, a better reflection of how babies should grow.
After all these years, finally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revised the growth chart to reflect what the breastfeeding world has been saying this while – there is nothing wrong with our babies, there is something wrong with your chart!
The new growth chart is based on a study of more than 8,000 breastfed babies from 6 countries around the world. It recognises breastfeeding as the biological norm, and better reflect WHO’s philosophy and advocacy with regard to breastfeeding. WHO recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their lives. “Exclusively” means no formula milk, and no solids.
The introduction of this new growth chart has a few implications:
1. Breastfeeding mothers will no longer be pressured to supplement with formula milk to meet weight gain target.
2. Breastfeeding mothers will not longer need to feel anxious or guilty over the ‘insufficient’ weight gain of their babies.
3. The recommendation by many medical professionals to introduce solids at 4 months will no longer be valid. This is especially so when early introduction of solids is made due to ‘insufficient weight gain’.
4. Formula fed babies will be re-assessed based on the new chart. This is a good thing because hopefully, there will be some control over their excessive weight gain, which will mean healthier babies and healthier children, and in the future, healthier adults. Even formula-feeding mothers must welcome this change!
Three cheers for this very welcome but long belated change! I do not know how soon the doctors here in Singapore will adopt the new growth chart. I hope they will do so quickly. In the mean time, if your doctors are still grilling you over the old chart, you can refer to the new chart here (and perhaps print the chart out for your doctor).
Read More about this change at : http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2147863,00.html