After initial struggles with breastfeeding, we gradually shifted from formula to breastmilk. Now at 9 months our baby is nursing well, supplementing with 4 ounces of formula, along with some solid food every day. While we are happy about this, we are concerned that she has stopped gaining weight. Should we be giving more formula?
Having overcome struggles and established breastfeeding with considerable effort, you are very much in tune with your baby and would know if she appeared weak or not herself. If you are in doubt, ask yourself:
– is she nursing easily and comfortably?
– do her nursing sessions end with satisfaction – does she fall asleep (she is full); latch off and start moving or babbling (no longer hungry, she moves on to other activities)?
– is she active? alert? curious? responding?
– is she healthy, not falling ill too often?
If you answered yes, relax. Now I must thank my neighbour Ruchi in Mumbai. Years ago when I mentioned to her that random strangers would approach me in the trains and ask, “why is your child so thin??” she reminded me that being happy and healthy was a truer indicator than a number on the scale. In fact, speaking of the scale, my daughter’s weight gain, after rising weekly since birth, abruptly halted at 8 kg, at the age of 8 months. And she remained at 8 kg for the next 5 months. By then her walking and talking were getting interesting and we no longer weighed weekly, or even monthly. A number of other parents at the breastfeeding support group meetings shared similar experiences of weight plateauing after 6 months of age – partly due to increased mobility using up the calories and partly because, in their words, “genes take over.”
In short, present the food, make mealtimes joyful, and trust her to eat what she wants. See How Children Learn to Eat.
All well and good, you say, but how can I feed my baby more calories? Let me caution you that at some stage it is a zero sum game. I remember one day noticing that my daughter had two bowls of పప్పన్నం (lentil-rice) and thought, hmm … good vehicle to add some oil to her diet. The next day when I did, she ate only one bowl. Sure, variety in the diet is always a plus, but you can’t fool mother nature. Breastmilk is already rich in good fats – more than cow’s milk. With the new concerns about nut-allergy, most parents wait till age 2 or 3 to introduce them. So for younger ones, vegetarian sources of quick fat would be avocados and vegetable oils. Hummous is an easy way to get raw olive oil (and raw garlic ) into the diet.