Sunday, August 12, 2012

The WHO Growth Chart for Breastfed Babies and My Breastfeeding Journey

"Mommy, your baby is not gaining enough weight.  We need to give him vitamins and formula milk supplement.  Your breastmilk is not enough for him."

"Mommy, we need to put some Cerelac already in your child's formula-milk because he's quite slow in gaining weight.  He's a very active baby and it seems that your breastmilk is not enough to provide him with the milk that he needs to sustain and support his growth."

Are you a breastfeeding mom?  Have you heard these lines from your child's pediatrician?  I have.  And it broke my heart when I heard those words when I was a first-time mom breastfeeding my eldest son.  I got worried and my confidence fell.  I listened to my child's pediatrician even though my lactation or breastfeeding consultant was telling me otherwise.  So I chose to mix feed my eldest son when his pediatrician recommended it to me.

Then, I gave birth to my second son almost 9 months ago.  I heard similar feedback.  My children's pediatrician said,"Your baby's weght is lower than what is indicated here in the growth chart but it's alright.  Breastfed babies tend to be lighter than formula fed babies.  What is important is that your baby is gaining weight and growing in many ways steadily and is not getting sick."

I'm thankful that our new pediatrician now is much more supportive of my efforts to breastfeed my second baby.  Of course, I sometimes get worried when my baby's weight shows that he is at the lower curve or level but deep in my heart I have resolved that this time around I will trust my instincts as a mom.  I think it helped that it was not my first time to breastfeed so the comments from my son's pediatrician that his wieght is relatively lower than that of other babies doesn't faze me much anymore.

My second child in one of his photoshoots.

So amid some thoughts that maybe my son is not growing enough or getting enough milk, I chose to push through with my plan to breastfeed him exclusively for six months.  Then, one day, my husband searched for the WHO growth chart for breastfed babies in the internet and he plotted our second baby's weight against it.  He found out that he is within the 90-95% level and that his weight gain in the past 6-7 months is very good.  That piece of news was very good news to me as a breastfeeding mom!  It was a great boost to my confidence and the more that I became determined to breastfeed my second child exclusively now that we have slowly introduced solids to him.

It's really very important that we, breastfeeding moms, surround ourselves with people (experts included) who have the same beliefs about breastfeeding.  It's very difficult to be taking on this journey/adventure alone with no one to give us a tap on the back from time to time.  Of course, the most important person who should be part of your team is your spouse.  Then, it would be good if your ob-gynecologist and pediatrician are part of that team as well.  What I found helpful in my years of breastfeeding (my eldest and my second baby) is surrounding myself with other breastfeeding moms especially those who had gone before me and have succeeded in this adventure.  Their stories and encouragement are very helpful and valuable.  So, if you find yourself a bit low in confidence one day, choose to call or bond with a friend who is also breastfeeding or who has been successful in it.  You may also search for mommy blogs that share about their breastfeeeding challenges and their successes.  You may also get a breastfeeding coach/consultant like what I did especially during the first few days or weeks that you are breastfeeding your baby so that you can get the much needed expert advice and support you need in this crucial stage.  I was blessed to have known my breastfeeding consultant/coach, Zeny Feliciano, who was recommended to me by my birth coach Chiqui Brosas-Hanh.

And my advice to moms who hear their pediatricians tell them to mix feed or to quit breastfeeding altogether because their milk is not enough for their baby's growth, I suggest that you check out your baby's weight and height using the WHO growth chart which was developed using a sample of infants/babies who exclusively breastfed from birth to 4 months at least , breastfed partially until 24 months, and who were not introduced to solids earlier than 6 months.  Even the American Academy of Pediatrics stated in their policy statement last february 2012 that infant growth should be monitored using this chart to avoid labeling infants as underweight or not thriving because of looking at the wrong growth charts.  Sometimes, moms and dads are not aware of this and so use the wrong growth chart since it is commonly used by many.  Had I discovered this growth charts when I was a first time mom, my breastfeeding story with my eldest son would have been different.  But I'm still glad that I did not quit breastfeeding him and simply chose to suppplement with formula milk.  I still achieved my goal to breastfeed him until he was 2 years old.

I'm thankful that we discovered these growth charts now so that we would be more equipped as we take on this adventure anew with our second child.

Now, more than ever, I choose to rely more on my intimate knowledge of my baby aside from these growth charts.  I monitor his milestones and his health since it was also said that these charts should only serve as guides and not hard and fast rules that if your baby deviate from them, it means that there is a problem.  Well, if the deviation is big or substantial, it's worth investigating.  What I'm saying is that babies develop at different ways and some are leaner or heavier than others because of many factors aside from breastfeeding.  There are babies who are very lean but are not sickly and are hitting their developmental milestones just right or even earlier.  That was the case with my first born son.  He's on the lean side, a bit taller than what is expected for his age and advanced when it comes to hitting his developmental milestones.  So, now that I know better, I'm not as worried as before when it comes to his weight and health for I know that he's healthy and he seldom gets sick.

If you want to read more about the weight gains of breastfed babies, you may read this article from Dr. Sears' website.

So, there mommies and daddies, keep your focus on your breastfeeding goals for your child!  Trust that you are giving the best for your child as you nourish him/her with the best milk in the world -- his/her mom's breastmilk!

At a free breastfeeding class of Zeny where I shared my success story. 
With me are my husband and eldest son, Yanthy, Zeny and other parents.

Happy Breastfeeding Month!

1 comment: