The average full-term baby weighs between seven and seven and a half pounds when born. A few babies weigh as much as fifteen pounds and in very rare instances even as much as twenty pounds. Twins, triplets, etc., and premature births may weigh as little as two and three pounds.
A seven pound baby is too large and is due to wrong eating and over eating. Thc large size and weight of infants, at birth, is one of the most prominent causes of difficulty and pain in delivery. But with our mania for fat babies, we find that the fatter the new-born child is the happier and prouder the parents and physician are. At birth the offspring of the lower animals are little more than skin and bones, but if our babies are not abnormally large, from fat-bloat, we are not satisfied.
The weight of the full term child, at birth, should not exceed six pounds, while five pounds would be better. This can be secured by regulating the mother's diet before and during pregnancy and keeping her weight down.
Medical works say that a child should double its weight in the first five months after birth and treble its weight in from one year to fifteen months. A baby that weighs seven pounds at birth should weigh fourteen pounds at the age of five months and twenty-one pounds at one year. Such a baby will measure approximately twenty-nine inches. With an increase of less than fifty pet cent in length, if a child's weight is increased two hundred per cent, it means a fat baby. But a fat baby is our present ideal. If you can picture to yourself a baby weighing fifteen pounds at birth, weighing thirty pounds at five months and forty-five pounds at a year, or a twenty pound baby weighing forty pounds at five months and sixty pounds at one year, you can quickly see the absurdity of this scheme.
Just as there are tall and slender adults and short and thick ones, so, there are babies that are naturally long and slender and others that are short and thick. No baby should be fat and no baby should be skinny, however. We might compare infants, as well as adults, to grey hounds and bull dogs, or to race horses and draught horses. There are all types of babies as of adults.
It is undoubtedly true that, irrespective of their ages, the best index to the nutrition of a child is the relation of weight to height. Yet not even this is wholly reliable, for a baby may be normal in weight and not be normally nourished. There are other and more important signs of malnutrition than that of being underweight.
Fat babies, as pointed out elsewhere, are not healthy babies, and while the scales may indicate that the baby is thriving, this may be deceptive. Many infants whose weight would be considered normal have soft, flabby flesh and are often anemic and in very poor condition. This is very frequently the case in babies fed on condensed milk. The parent should know that a firm, solid and elastic condition of the flesh, noticeable particularly in the legs and buttocks, is a more important evidence of satisfactory nutrition than that of weight. Gains in weight should represent healthy growth of the bones, muscles and other organs of the body and not merely the rolling on of fat.
The growth of the child should also be considered of great importance. Too often an increase in weight means little more shall the rolling on of fat. The fat baby, as a general rule, to which there are a few exceptions, does not grow in length or in frame as rapidly and satisfactorily as the lean one. It is nothing unusual to see a fat baby with a serious condition of rickets.
Many mothers worry unduly about the weight of their babies. Theoretically, a normal baby should gain weight every day, but actually babies almost never do this. The weekly gains are almost never uniform, Weekly gains in bottle-fed babies are hardly ever he same.
There are a number of things that may interfere with the gains of the child, aside from inadequate or insufficient food. Impaired digestion, from over eating, over excitement, too much handling, over heating, chilling, etc., will check the growth of the child. A cold or slight indisposition prevents the child from gaining, not alone because the child eats less under such conditions, but because the derangement interfere with growth and development.
A failure to gain for one or two weeks does not always mean that there is anything wrong with the baby. It may only mean that the mother's milk supply has been temporarily reduced. It may mean that the heat of summer has reduced the baby's appetite.
The normal breast-fed baby is said to gain from six to eight ounces a week for the first five months of its life. It loses weight for the first two weeks after which it begins to gain. During the last seven months of its first year the baby is supposed to gain an average of from four to six ounces a week. These are the average gains made by over-fed babies and represent considerable fat. Let me emphasize again, that a normal gain in weight should represent growth of bone, muscle and organs and not merely the rolling on of excess fat. Smaller gains than those above, if steady and the child is otherwise healthy, are not to be considered abnormal.