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Is My Newborn Eating Enough?

Warning signs that a newborn (breast- or bottle-fed) may not be eating enough include: He breastfeeds for less than ten minutes at a feeding, he wets fewer than four diapers a day, his skin remains wrinkled beyond the first week, or he doesn't develop a rounded face by three weeks. Babies who vomit most or all of their food or have very loose stools eight or more times a day may have allergies or digestive problems. Remember, however, that even if your baby doesn't exhibit these warning signs, you don't have to live with anxiety. Don't make my mistake; schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to have your baby weighed anytime you are concerned.

As your baby grows, a general rule is that his weight will double at about 4½ to 5 months, although smaller babies may double earlier. But this doesn't mean your baby has to be topping the growth charts to be healthy. "Every mom wants her baby to be at the 98th percentile for height and weight  -- and that concerns me," says William J. Klish, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine at Texas Children's Hospital, in Houston, noting that America is suffering from an epidemic of obesity. "It's not what percentile they're growing at, as long as they continue to grow at that percentile."

Percentiles for height and weight should be fairly close, notes Dr. Neifert. A child with a big gap -- say 98th percentile for height and 25th for weight or vice versa -- may have eating problems. Keep in mind that exclusively breastfed babies may not conform to pediatric growth charts since the charts are based on a sampling that included few infants who were breastfed for more than a couple of months. Breastfed babies often grow quickly in the first three months and then become lower in weight than their bottle-fed peers.

So the bottom line is, if you are worried about your child's eating habits to the point where you are tearful, angry, frustrated, and at your wit's end... you are perfectly normal. In fact, it's a sign of good parenting that you care so much about your child's nutrition. If the anxiety is getting to you, however, there's no need to sit alone and worry. Call your pediatrician. Don't let your appetite-anxiety deprive you of one of the great joys of parenthood -- sharing meals with your child. This may be hard to believe during the pea-flinging years, but dinner really can grow into a treasured time together.

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