True story: A friend of a friend brought her four-month old, exclusively breast-fed infant in for a check-up with a local pediatrician in Pau. After weighing the baby, the mom (I will call her Kylie) was told scoldingly by the doctor, “You must stop feeding your baby on demand! She is like one of those obese American babies. From now on, feed her on a schedule. Every four hours, do not feed her in between.” (Meanwhile, the mom is Australian, oops, different continent.)
So, this mom was asking me my opinion. What should she do? Should she listen to the doctor? Is her baby overweight? Should she stop feeding her baby on demand?
MY OPINION? PLEASE I begged the mom, let me go to the next baby check-up appointment and speak with the doctor. Because this advice from a reputable pediatrician in Pau was just plain wrong.
Don’t listen to the doctor I told Kylie. Listen to your instincts. Keep feeding on demand. Don’t put your baby on a strict feeding schedule. Keep breastfeeding and why not, change doctors? (This is one of the few pediatricians in Pau that speak English, which is why the Australian friend took her baby there.) I don’t agree with feeding young babies on a schedule and I didn’t appreciate the comment on the American obese babies.
But, I am American and all my babies gained a lot of weight in the first few months of breastfeeding. They were all chubby, big legs, fluffy cheeks. To see them now is quite different. They all eventually thinned out and are now lean and healthy. No, no comments from the pediatricians that my babes were gaining too much weight, but I was charting them myself on the growth/weight charts. They were off the norm. Not crazy off, but off. My oldest gained four pounds in the first month of her life. More than double the average.
What would I do if my doctor had told me back then that my baby was overweight? If it was my first child? Panic. Second child? Concerned. Third child? OK, I can handle this. Fourth child? I know what I am doing now.
If your doctor thinks your baby is overweight and wants to do something about it: LISTEN to their advice. But trust your instincts. Here are some ideas to help:
1. If your doctor wants to put your baby on a feeding schedule (every 3-4 hours). Get a second opinion. These baby-training exercises can lead to delayed growth and irritable babies. Dr. Sears says, “Infants who are the product of “baby training” (parenting programs in which babies are fed on a schedule and forced to sleep through the night using variations of the “cry-it-out method) often show delayed growth.”
2. If your baby has colic and uses sucking on a bottle of milk or breastfeeding as a way to calm down, help your baby find other ways to sooth themselves.
3. Remember that babies shouldn’t be on a diet.
4. Ask the pediatrician which growth chart they are using to weigh your baby. Since a few years ago (after all my babies were not babies anymore) pediatricians in the states and worldwide should be using new growth/weight charts from the WHO World Health Organization. These growth charts distinguish between growth and weight between breastfeed babies and toddlers and those who are formula fed. Be sure that your doctor is using these new WHO charts. They have the most up-to-date information on accurate weights, especially for breastfed infants. Here is an article that explains in more detail.
5. Don’t panic. Often your baby will “thin-out” around a year old, when they become more mobile and especially when they are walking.
So, readers. Has your doctor ever told you that your baby is fat? Obese? Overweight? And what did you do about it? Shout out your comments below.