Breastfeeding and neonatal weight loss in healthy term infants

J Hum Lact. 2013 Feb;29(1):45-53. doi: 10.1177/0890334412444005. Epub 2012 May 3.


Background: Neonatal weight loss is universally recognized, yet poorly understood. Limited professional consensus exists on the definition of lower limit of safe weight loss.

Objective: Our aim was to assess the extent of neonatal weight loss and its association with selected clinical variables in a population of healthy term infants cared for using a specific protocol on weight loss.

Methods: We retrospectively considered 1003 infants consecutively admitted to the regular nursery of the Institute for Maternal and Child Health "Burlo Garofolo" (Trieste, Italy). We studied the relationship of selected variables with neonatal weight loss recorded during the hospital stay. We also analyzed all readmissions in the first month of life as a result of weight loss and its complications.

Results: We observed a mean absolute weight loss of 228 g ± 83g, and a mean percent weight loss of 6.7% ± 2.2%. Weight loss ≥ 10% and > 12% were 6% and 0.3%, respectively. In multivariate logistic regression, cesarean section, hot season, any formula feeding, and jaundice not requiring phototherapy were independently associated with neonatal weight loss ≥ 8%. Conversely, low gestational age status was associated with lower weight loss. Readmission within the first month of life because of dehydration occurred in 0.3% of infants.

Conclusions: Breastfeeding, compared to formula feeding, may not be a risk factor for greater early neonatal weight loss, at least in contexts in which weight is routinely monitored, breastfeeding is repeatedly assessed and appropriately supported, and careful supplementation is prescribed to limit and promptly treat excess weight loss and its related complications.

MeSH terms

  • Apgar Score
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seasons
  • Weight Loss*