Should my low-weight baby eat more?

Q: My baby is in the 10th percentile for weight. Should she be eating more?

A: More than likely, your baby's position on the growth chart has nothing to do with being overfed or underfed, and as long as your pediatrician is happy with your baby's growth, there's no need to up her feedings. Small babies should be fed the same amount of breast milk or formula as larger ones and watched to make sure they're gaining weight consistently. On the flip side, a big baby who is growing steadily should not be put on a diet.

Remember that growth charts do not represent any ideal and bigger is not necessarily better. These rankings act only as a guide to help your pediatrician track your child's progress over time. In fact, doctors expect half the healthy children they see to fall above the 50th percentile and the other half to fall below it. What's most important is that your child gets on a steady percentile line and stays there. Problems arise for example, when a baby starts out on the 75th percentile and then steadily drops to the 25th. But if your baby holds steady at the 10th percentile, then all is probably well. --Cammie McGovern

Originally published in the November 2001 issue of Parents magazine.  Updated 2009.


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