Signs & Symptoms of Poor Weight Gain in Newborns

Average newborns weigh between 6 and 9 pounds, according to the American Pregnancy Association 1. After an initial weight loss of up to 10 percent of birth weight for breastfed babies (generally less for formula-fed babies), newborns should begin an upward trend with weight fairly quickly after birth. If your newborn is not gaining adequately, look for signs and symptoms of poor weight gain.

Alertness and Disposition

A baby who is not gaining weight properly can become sleepy and uninterested in his surroundings, according to the Kids Health website 2. Your baby might refuse to maintain eye contact with you, become excessively fussy and irritable, and not seem satisfied for long after a feeding. If the poor weight gain continues, you might notice your baby failing to meet average developmental milestones such as sitting, crawling and walking.


The number of diapers your baby soils can be an excellent indication of whether a baby is getting adequate nutrition. By 1 week of age, your baby should be producing between five and seven wet diapers every day and a minimum of three to four soiled diapers. However, although formula-fed babies might produce fewer soiled diapers.


Babies should be gaining a minimum of one-half ounce each day by 4 or 5 days of age, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine website 3. Generally, a baby should have regained weight to reach the birth weight by two to three weeks after birth. In addition, a physician might consider a baby’s weight gain to be poor if the baby does not gain at least 1 pound each month for the first four months of life.

Plotting Weight Gain

Physicians record and plot an infant’s weight and height on a growth curve. The World Health Organization curve is the recommended curve for infants, according to Boston Children’s Hospital. An important clue about poor weight gain will be the child’s growth as plotted on the curve. By checking the data, the physician can discern a pattern of growth to see whether the child is following the same percentile. For example, even if a child is only in the 10th percentile, as long as the child remains consistently in this percentile, the growth might be acceptable because of the pattern. Conversely, if a child was in the 75th percentile but then suddenly drops to the 25th percentile, this indicates growth issues that need exploring.