You and your baby may have to put in some extra work to earn those chubby thighs and squishy cheeks. Here are some easy, newborn care tips to keep your baby’s weight gain on track. If you ever have concerns about your infant’s weight don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician. 

Keep Baby Warm!

Fun fact: Newborns don’t shiver to maintain their body temperature like adults do. Instead they use a special type of fat found on their chest, shoulders, and back, called brown fat, to produce heat (Davidson et al., 2016). This heat production burns calories pretty quickly, which is not ideal when you want your baby to gain weight. 

There are some misconceptions that a baby needs to “learn” to regulate their temperature, or “adapt” to ambient temps, but thermoregulation is a developmental process. This is not something the baby’s body needs to “learn”. 

Skin to skin contact is a great way to regulate your baby’s temperature. When this isn’t possible infants typically do well with the amount of clothing you are wearing yourself plus one additional layer. During bath time, make sure the water is warm enough. With the really little ones you can put a warm washcloth over their belly to keep their core warm while washing the rest of their body. 

You will know your baby is too hot if they are sweating (often behind the neck), flushed, unusually fussy, or not sleeping well. A baby that is too hot and sweaty can become dehydrated, so be sure to tune in!

Wake a Sleeping Baby

Newborn care tip: Did you know that newborns need to eat every 1.5-3 hours with the exception of one 4 hour stretch per 24 hours? Sometimes this means you will need to wake your sleeping baby for feeds. You can try changing their diaper, unswaddling them, and tickling their feet to get them ready for a feed. Your pediatrician will let you know when your baby is ready to go longer periods of time. 

Chin Support

Research has shown that jaw support can increase an infant’s intake of milk or formula (Hwang et al., 2010). This is as easy as taking whichever finger is closest to the baby’s mouth and applying very light upward pressure to the chin (as if you’re closing the baby’s jaw) while the infant is latched. For some infants this will allow them to get a better latch, stimulate sucking, and extend endurance.

Newborn Care Tip: Getting a Good Latch

 A good latch helps to ensure the infant can remove milk efficiently. This looks like both top and bottom lips completely flanged out with the nipple and areola in the infant’s mouth, or the entire nipple of the bottle for a standard nipple. If your baby latches on a bottle with a lip curled under, spinning the nipple clockwise then counterclockwise slightly might be enough to flange the lip. Otherwise, feel free to use a finger to position their lips or have them re-latch entirely. If breastfeeding, you can also maneuver the latch with a finger or pop them off and re-latch. If your infant is persistently struggling to latch properly there may be something more going on and you should contact your pediatrician or Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny’s lactation consultant.  

Proper Nipple Size

Bottle nipples come with different flows. Ultra premie is the slowest flow, then sizes 1-4, and Y cut is the fastest flow. A nipple that is too slow will cause your baby to work extra hard and take longer to drink the full volume. This can cause them to tire or become frustrated. A nipple with a flow that is too high will cause your baby to gulp, cough, drizzle out of the corners of the mouth, and may even lead to aspiration. It is important to watch closely when testing out a new nipple size. You would also want to let other caretakers know you have recently sized up. Dr. Brown’s has a great guide on choosing a nipple size and deciding when to level up.

Weight gain is extremely important for a baby’s growth and development. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it’s your job to help baby be most successful of their calorie intake. Try these newborn care tips to encourage proper weight gain. Contact Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny for a lactation consult to help support both you and baby!

About The Author

Fiona MacWhinnie, RNFiona is a registered nurse who recently graduated from Northeastern University. She primarily focuses on newborn and postpartum care, and loves working as a newborn care expert with BBNN. Before her time as a nurse, she studied newborn genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital. In addition, Fiona participated in the Harvard Neonatal Student Research program. Fiona strives to develop meaningful relationships with every family she cares for. She loves watching children and families thrive with the proper care and support.

Davidson, M. R., London, M. L., & Ladewig, P. W. (2016). Olds’ maternal-newborn nursing & women’s health across the lifespan (Tenth edition). Pearson.
Hwang, Y.-S., Lin, C.-H., Coster, W. J., Bigsby, R., & Vergara, E. (2010). Effectiveness of Cheek and Jaw Support to Improve Feeding Performance of Preterm Infants. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(6), 886–894. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2010.09031