No, not inconceivable. (Though go to the top of the class for recognising the Princess Bride quote. Bonus point if you know which character says it 😉 )
In this case, the word is Average. It gets bandied about lots. In discussion of children’s school achievement. Talking about pay scales. It is so often abused in the news. And this week, I’ve allowed health professionals to beat me with it as though it were a stick.
Average weight gain for a breastfed baby is 30g (or 1 oz – which isn’t the same even though she used them interchangeably) proclaimed the doctor on Tuesday night. So we need to weigh him on Thursday and see that he’s putting weight on, 60 g. Put aside for the moment that their scales weren’t that accurate and let’s think about what this means.
This means that they are expecting the average weight gain to occur every day for two days. Even though the baby they are looking at isn’t average to start off with – he’s small. Even though average does not imply in any way, shape or form, daily. Instead what this means is that if you measure a sample of babies over a period of time, add the weight gains up, divide by the number of babies and the length of time, that’s where the 30g comes from. (I assume. There are other ways you could get to it I suppose, but that seems like a sensible approach to me. Actually I went searching. Kellymom has a different set of measurements that seem much more appropriate and reached in a very sensible way)
What it doesn’t mean is that all babies will achieve this every day. In fact, it’s pretty much guaranteed that very few of them will. Kind of like if you look for an average height 12 year old in a class of them, you won’t necessarily find any child of that height. (My own 12 year old is the height of an average 14 year old. Intriguing, eh? And she was a slightly small baby.) So what was I thinking when I agreed with the doctor yesterday that there should be a weight gain of around 200 grams by next Friday?
I was thinking that a highly trained professional ought to know what he was talking about. I was thinking that he is supposed to be there to first do no harm. Not that he was ticking boxes, causing stress (which works against breastfeeding and indeed good parenting), and had absolutely no good reason to suggest that 200g was a reasonable weight gain for this child, this week.
Now, it’s entirely possible that he could gain that weight. He’s done more than that before. But it’s also entirely possible that while being healthy and well fed he won’t achieve the bizarre target of the average. And at that point, if all is well, if he’s alert, happy, growing, and still filling nappies with gay abandon (which trust me, he’s doing at the moment) I hope you will all remind me to tell any nosey parker unsupportive health professional to take a running jump.