Baby and bottle-feeding will be studied in a future article, but whether baby is fed naturally or artificially, it is most important to weigh him regularly. The child's weight is the very best indication as to whether he is healthy, obtaining sufficient nourishment, and digesting it thoroughly. It may be that when nursed by the mother he does not thrive as he should if the quality of the milk is poor. When that happens the question of supplementing the milk with cows' milk or artificial food has to be considered. The point is, that if a child is not increasing in weight daily there is something wrong that must be put right.
The average weight of a new born infant is generally said to be 7 pounds for a girl, and 71/2 pounds for a boy. The weight varies con-siderabty, however, even with normal children, and it does not follow that the child weighing 10 pounds at birth will be healthier than the one weighing 6 1/2 pounds at birth twelve months hence. A great deal will depend upon the type of food the child gets. The child who is fed on mother's milk of good quality will increase in weight rapidly compared with one brought up on starchy food, improperly diluted cows' milk and paps. Nothing can equal good breast milk, but a child brought up on the bottle with suitable food will easily outstrip one fed on natural milk which is not sufficiently nourishing.
The young mother must always have materials for weighing baby, and nowadays infant weighing-machines are sold by almost all the big instrument-makers, with a basket attached. Where this expense is not desired, the kitchen scales can often be utilised if baby's basket is put on top for him to lie on.
There is an old-fashioned superstition that weighing baby is unlucky and exposes him to chill. If, however, the scales are placed near the nursery fire and baby is weighed wearing some of his under-garments there is not the slightest risk of his catching cold, the whole operation taking about one minute. A small pillow should be placed in the basket to support the head, and the child should be wrapped in his flannels or in a shawl. The weight of the basket, pillow, and under-garments worn by the child must be subtracted after from the gross weight.
The best plan is to arrange to weigh the baby every night after his bath or sponge, and to mark down the weight in a book, or on a chart, so that it can be compared at any moment. A few days' sickness or diarrhoea, or a week's unsuitable food, will make a great difference to the weight records, and whenever these are not-satisfactory for two or three days together the doctor should be consulted.
During the first few days the baby may lose weight, but by the end of the first week he ought to be the same weight that he was at birth. From this time on to four months there should be a steady gain of about six ounces per week. As a rule the weight is doubled at five months, and at the end of a year the baby should normally weigh three times what he did at birth.
The appended table will give an idea of the average increase of weight of a child properly fed:
Average increase per week about these periods.
7 lb. 8 oz.
7 lb. 14 oz.
20 1/2 inches
8 lb. 10 oz.
12 lb. 8 oz.
15 lb. 8 oz.
18 lb. 8 oz.
26 1/2 inches
21 lb.10 oz.
The baby at the end of the first week should weigh what he did at birth or a little more, so that he does not begin to put on his average six ounces per week until the second week begins.
These weights and heights will vary even with the healthy child, but if a child is not gaining steadily about the average number of ounces per week appropriate to its age the matter should be investigated. The healthy child thus gains during the first six months between four and eight ounces per week.
Of course, if the new-born baby only weighs 6 1/2 pounds it is not likely that he will make it up to the normal amount in the next three months, but if properly fed and managed he should be a very good specimen at one year old. The following rules will help the young mother to keep her baby's weight satisfactory:
1. Feed at the stated intervals and quantities which will be given in detail in the Child's Food Chart.
3. Avoid chills, which increase the liability to diarrhoea, when the child's weight curve immediately becomes unsatisfactory.
4. Study the type of food suited to the particular child, and do not change it because somebody else's baby is growing more quickly on another food.
5. Keep the child quiet and give him plenty of sleep. The sleepless child does not develop as he should.