Learning good feeding habits from birth can keep your newborn growing at a healthy rate.

Signs & Symptoms of Poor Weight Gain in Newborns

by Marissa Meyer

Adequate weight gain is essential for newborns, and most infants should double their birth weight by the time they are 4 months old, according to KidsHealth. Although healthy newborns tend to lose some weight in the days immediately following birth, most regain it by the time they're two weeks old, and continue to gain about an ounce per day during the first month. Poor nutrition during the early stages of life can have permanent physical and mental consequences. Slow weight gain in newborns may also signal an underlying medical condition. Consult your medical provider if you're concerned with your infant's rate of growth.


Although newborns haven't yet developed the ability to communicate with their expressions, you might notice excessive irritability in a malnourished child. The baby may also refuse the breast or bottle, and appear constantly sleepy and listless. As an affected infant grows, she may fail to meet developmental milestones such as holding her head up or rolling to her side.

Wet and Dirty Diapers

Not needing to change your newborn's diaper often may be a sign that she isn't receiving adequate nutrition, and therefore won't gain sufficient weight. During the first several days of life, expect one wet and dirty diaper per day old, such as one of each on day one, two of each on day two, and three of each on day three. After your baby is four days old, expect five to six wet diapers and three to four dirty diapers per day. Contact your child's health care provider if she doesn't seem to be producing waste at the typical rate.


Many newborns who suffer stalled weight gain also suffer from jaundice. Characterized by yellowed skin and eyes, jaundice occurs when a chemical called billirubin isn't efficiently flushed through the blood. Slow weight gain can cause jaundice, and the onset of jaundice can stall weight gain. If your newborn shows symptoms of jaundice, including yellow skin or eyes, dry mouth, a sunken soft spot on the head, fever, or low temperature, consult her medical provider. A simple blood test can measure billirubin levels in the blood. Weight gain often returns to normal once jaundice is treated with photo-therapy lights.

Medical Monitoring

Since adequate weight gain is vital to normal development in the newborn stages, your child's pediatrician will monitor her weight carefully. Babies can experience different rates of growth due to gestational age at birth, feeding method and medical conditions. During regular weight checks during the first 1-3 months of life, your child's pediatrician will plot her weight on a growth chart, making sure her rate of growth is healthy for her age and background.

About the Author

Marissa Meyer has been writing professionally since 2004, with work published on websites such as Decoded Science and MomSquawk. She has also worked in the travel, beauty, home design and childcare fields. Meyer received dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in communication and political science from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images