Care of the baby: Weight and weighing the baby
The baby’s weight is perhaps the best index the mother has of his condition. The average weights of babies of given ages are now pretty well-established, and a weight noticeably lower than the average indicates a lack of development due either to deficient diet, or to illness, while an excess of fat may point to improper feeding. If the baby’s weight either remains stationary for any considerable time, or begins to fall off, it is always a sign that something is wrong and the mother should seek the help of a good doctor, without delay.
The standard weight schedule
The average girl weighs 7 pounds at birth, while boys average half a pound heavier.
During the first four days, the baby may lose from one or two ounces to a pound, while waiting for the mother’s milk to be established, but as soon as he begins to nurse regularly he should quickly regain this loss. During the first month he should gain about three quarters of an ounce each day; then up to the sixth month, from four to eight ounces a week, and from the sixth to the twelfth month two to four ounces a week.
At three months, the average baby weighs from twelve to fourteen pounds; at six months, fifteen to sixteen pounds; at nine months, seventeen to eighteen pounds; and at one year, twenty to twenty-two pounds. The baby thus usually doubles his weight at five or six months, and at the end of his first year weighs three times as much as at birth. Most babies do not gain quite steadily, week by week.
During short periods, owing to excessive heat, when the food is reduced, a baby may show no gain, and may even fall off a little. This condition should be temporary and he ought to begin to gain as soon as the disturbance subsides. Bottle-fed infants do not gain as rapidly during the first months as do breast-fed babies, but after the ninth month, they are apt to gain more steadily because they do not lose weight as breast-fed babies usually do at the time of weaning.
Signs of a healthy baby
A very fat baby is not to be desired. Although mothers are prone to believe that a fat baby is a healthy one, this is not necessarily true. An exclusive diet of certain of the proprietary in fant foods, consisting largely of sugar or of starch, is very apt to produce excessive fat, and give a false impression of abounding health, since bones and muscles may thus be deprived of their proper nourishment. Overfat babies are very uncomfortable in the summer from prickly heat and other ills.
A healthy baby has a well-rounded body, without wads and cushions of fat, or pendulous cheeks and pudgy legs. He has springy muscles, and is alert, active and full of life and motion.
How to weigh baby
In order that the mother may be informed as to the baby’s progress, he should be weighed at regular intervals throughout at least the first year. For the first week or longer, he should be weighed every day; during the first six months, once a week; and later once in two weeks.
Breast-fed babies may be weighed just before and just after a nursing to determine how much milk they are getting, and to find out whether or not they need supplementary feeding. They should be weighed in exactly the same clothing both times, and to determine the daily gain, at the same hour each day.
The best scales are ordinary platform balance scales such as are used in grocery stores. A special basket or pan which fits on the platform, and which will hold the baby comfortably is desirable. Spring scales are less accurate but are cheaper, and are better than no scales at all. Most country house holds have enough general use for a good scale, so that such a purchase will not be an extravagance. Many city mothers have the advantage of being able to go to an infant welfare station where the baby may be weighed as often as desirable. In these cases, it is easy to keep a careful record of the baby’s growth.