Worrisome rise in underweight babies

Here is the full article, but I’ll pull some quotes (all emphases mine).

A recent study released by UNICEF ranked the U.S. … 29th in regard to the percentage of babies with low birth weights.

According to Kids Count, the latest available federal data, from 2005, showed that 8.2 percent of U.S. babies were born at low birth weight, a level not seen since 1968.

And this is with fully-entrenched welfare and other government benefits and programs designed to prevent this! Something is failing here. Incidentally, that was the year my husband and his twin brother were born, weighing in at 5 something and 6 something pounds. Their two younger brothers each weighed in the 9 pound range!

Beavers said part of the overall increase in low-birthweight babies was due to a rise in multiple births as more older women use fertility treatments to conceive. But she said the birth-weight problem also has been worsening for single-baby deliveries.

It would be good to know how much of the increase is due to multiple births, and how much is due to single births! Let’s compare apples and apples, here. After all, if a woman gets pregnant with quadruplets due to fertility treatment, and these babies are born at 25 weeks weighing less than 1 pound apiece, that is quite a bit different from a baby at 36 weeks weighing 4 pounds. As I stated above, my mother-in-law was obviously able to produce normal-weight babies, but having the twins some 6 weeks early complicates matters!

The rate of low-weight births is sharply higher for blacks (13.6 percent) than for whites (7.3 percent) or Hispanics (6.9 percent). One important factor, Beavers said, is the mother’s overall health at the time of pregnancy and her access to good prenatal care.

Did you know that most doctors, including obstetricians, only get one class in nutrition during med school? Dr. Amy seemed quite proud of that, and said that she learned all she needed to know about nutrition during that one course, because nutrition has only a small effect on health. Um, yeah.

There is another opinion — Dr. Tom Brewer’s opinion, who formulated The Brewer Diet. (On the original “Blue Ribbon Baby” website, [Updated to add: since taken down — I don’t know why — here’s an alternative website], much of the information is in regards to preeclampsia and its various related conditions. I have read many stories of women who followed the diet to a ‘T’ and still ended up with symptoms of preeclampsia, so I don’t consider it to be 100% effective. However, I’ve read many more stories of women who had symptoms of preeclampsia, which went away when they started the Brewer Diet, or simply increased the amount of protein in their diets. I have read a study which suggested that adding too much protein in your diet is linked to babies that were small for their age, so there can be “too much of a good thing.” While I can’t find a link to the study that mentioned it [and I think only the abstract was free], if my memory serves me right, the amount of protein in the study was either 125 or 150 gm per day, while the Brewer Diet is about 100 gm of protein per day.) In general, though, proponents of the Brewer Diet tend to brag about the excellent birthweights of their babies. Here is one such mother. She had a planned home VBAC of twins…. which ended up being triplets! Not only did she not give birth at the average gestational age for triplets (about 32 weeks +/- 1 week, depending on who you ask), nor for twins (about 36-37 weeks). but she actually gave birth a few days after her due date! The triplets ranged in birthweights from 6 lb. 7 oz. to 7 lb. even. Wow. The mom and midwife attributed it to her excellent diet, which was the Brewer Diet.

Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director of the March of Dimes, said the increase in underweight newborns is closely linked to a rise in premature births.

He agreed with Beavers that better socio-economic conditions for pregnant mothers would help. But Fleischman also said the U.S. medical profession should be more rigorous in encouraging women to continue their pregnancies as close to term as feasible, and reduce the number of early, induced deliveries, often caesarian, that frequently produce underweight infants.

No comment!


13 Responses

  1. Hi Kathy,

    Thank you for your excellent insights, and for bringing attention to the tragedy of underweight babies and the tragedy of undereducation of doctors on the subject of nutrition.

    I would like to add however, that I believe that the study which you refer to, in which allegedly too much protein produced smaller babies, was a study in which the mothers were given their higher levels of protein in the form of protein powders and drinks, rather than in the form of regular food. It seems to me that what that study actually shows us is that it is very important to get our nutrition from real food rather than relying too heavily on supplements. And it also seems to me that it also shows us that we cannot trust mainstream medical researchers to understand the conclusions of Brewer/Ferguson/Burke/et al accurately enough to accurately research those conclusions and come to any kind of credible results. It is unfortunate that some anti-Brewer forces who would claim to be invested in accurate research continue to quote this misguided study (and I’m NOT implying that you would be one of those people).

    More information about the fallacies of that “too-high-protein-makes-smaller-babies” study was given in this article published in Midwifery Today…


    In this article, written by Brewer and Hodin in 1977, your readers can find many details about earlier studies which I find to be much more credible.


    Here is more information on underweight babies from the Brewer point of view…


    Keep up the good work!

    Warm regards,
    Joy Jones,RN

    Thank you so much for those links!! I have searched and searched for what I had read about it, but it had been a few years ago, I think, so was just going on memory. I was also under the assumption that they tested protein powders, instead of real food, but couldn’t remember and couldn’t find it. That’s one of the things that I think about a lot of studies that supposedly prove or disprove one thing or another — the quality of the food or other ingredients, and the amount of it. I’ve read several anti-Brewer things that have said that this study or that study “proved” that the Brewer Diet failed, but in looking at it, it just measured the amount of protein — in powder form — rather than actually looking at women who followed the diet vs those who ate normally. Thanks again!

  2. Hi Kathy,
    I would also like to comment on the issue of women “following the Brewer Diet to a T and still getting pre-eclampsia”. It is my opinion that those women were 1) taught the diet incorrectly, and/or 2) were not followed closely enough by their care-givers, with the care-givers helping them to boost the diet according to their unique needs, and/or 3) were using herbal diuretics for their vitamin content, not realizing that their diuretic effects could be hazardous, and/or 4) what looked like pre-eclampsia was actually something else, since mainstream medical obstetrics care-givers are notorious for not doing a complete differential diagnosis when it comes to PE-like symptoms.

    More can be found on the Brewer perspective in this debate on these pages…

    Best wishes,

    Yes, I agree that there may have been those problems with the people who claimed the diet didn’t work for them. The stories I read were concentrated on one thread that I stumbled upon while looking at the Brewer Diet, and the website or just that one thread seemed to have several women intent upon demonizing the Brewer Diet. Since I couldn’t question them about how well they followed it (and they claimed to have done precisely what they were told), I decided to take them at their word, and have that as a possibility. I certainly wouldn’t want to have someone have classic symptoms of pre-eclampsia and refuse to seek medical care and end up either herself or her baby being hurt or dying, simply because she refused to believe that she could have pre-e, since she had followed a particular diet. As you point out, there may be other reasons for these symptoms, even if the woman believes she has done just what she was supposed to do. – Kathy

  3. So sorry to have double-posted. I wasn’t sure that the first one was going to post. Please feel free to delete the first one, since the second one includes additional information.

  4. You’re very welcome, Kathy!

    I can really relate to your frustration in regards to not being able to interview those women individually. At the same time, I think perhaps our best gift to them is to leave them alone, because they are responding out of intense pain and grief from the complications and loss that they’ve experienced, and out of feeling blamed for their situation. So I would like to encourage all of your readers to take care to not say anything to any mother that they know who may be in a similar situation…anything that might come across sounding like, “If you’d only eaten better, this would not have happened.” It seems to me that at least some of these mothers who thought that they were following the Brewer Diet, with some going to a lot of effort to do so, were simply misinformed about what-all the Brewer Diet includes, and about how the diet often needs to be adjusted in unique ways for each individual mother.

    I can also relate to your concern that none of your readers leave their symptoms go untreated. My suggestion to anyone experiencing symptoms that they think might indicate pre-eclampsia would be to find a care-giver who accurately understands the Brewer Diet and how to adjust it to deal with pre-eclampsia. For example, a rising hematocrit can be one of the earliest symptoms, and there are specific ways that one can respond to that…


    Joy πŸ™‚

  5. And my PE-prevention suggestions to care-givers, doulas and teachers are in the 14th section of this page (depending on how many new sections I end up adding over time)…


    Joy πŸ™‚

  6. Great post – enjoyed the bit about the twin turned triplet homebirth VBAC! Woot!

    I had a RE tell me the other day that a 8lb1oz baby was “large”, well, “larger than average.” I think he could tell that his comment didn’t do much for me. I’m so sure that 8lb1oz is a BIG baby for an amazon like me! With this kind of thinking, it’s no surprise that so many babies are born early.

    πŸ˜‰ Kimberly at http://labortrials.wordpress.com

    Well, considering that the “average” is 7 & 1/2 lb, then 8 lb 1 oz *is* larger than average. By 9 whole ounces. Whoop-de-doo. πŸ™‚ Gotta love it. Sigh… This *so* ties in to this previous post of mine — doctors inducing if *they* thought the baby was going to be “too big” (by however they defined it). As if the maternal pelvis is made of reinforced concrete, instead of bones with ligaments that join it all together. So instead of babies growing the length of time that they need in order to be mature, they are being forced to be born too early, and are artificially lowering the “average” birthweight still lower. Hmm — that sounds like a good idea for another post….

  7. I have been assisting with home births for about 30 yrs, and in the 500-700 births that that has involved, it’s been more common for me to see babies over 8 lbs than it has been babies under 8 lbs (at least that is my off-the-top-of-my-head impression)!! πŸ™‚ Whenever I see a baby born under 8 lbs I have to wonder if we failed that mother somehow in how we helped her with her nutrition. πŸ™‚ We didn’t start to consider them to be a little on the larger side until they were over 9 1/2 lbs. We had a couple that were over 10 pounds and were born at home with no problem, either to the mother or the baby or the labor. In fact, one home birth practice in our area had a 15 lb baby born at home with no problems (and I believe they said no tearing, but I’m not sure), about 15-20 yrs ago!! So I definitely agree that mainstream medicine has really messed up on what they consider to be a “normal” weight for a term baby. πŸ™‚

  8. […] healthily on the inside until they’re ready to be born, then that is significant. There was a recent article I blogged about, which talked about “the worrisome rise in underweight babies,” and […]

  9. Just FYI, the address of my website is changing (“The Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet”). During this transition time, the website will continue to be available through both the new and old addresses for awhile. The new address is as follows…


    Best wishes,

    • Thank you! I just noticed the other day that “Blue Ribbon Baby” was no longer up, but hadn’t heard anything about it going down, or when/if it would come back up. Glad to have the alternative, and will update my links here and in the sidebar as well. πŸ™‚

  10. Thank YOU too! πŸ™‚

    Sorry! I now realize that I must have sent you messages about this change of address issue and bad links more than once. Oops.


    • N/P! Better to tell me twice and make sure I know it. πŸ™‚ If you hadn’t commented on this, I wouldn’t have remembered that I had linked to it here and would’ve had a broken link. And I had been curious about when/if the BRB website was just experiencing minor technical glitches, or was going 404 on us, and you were able to tell me more than I knew.

  11. Well, I did not mean to imply that I know any more than that. I actually know nothing at all. I do not know whether they are experiencing technical glitches or going 404. All I know is that it seems like a long time since they were down, and that I tried to contact her with an old email address that I had, and through what looked like her Facebook page, and I got no response. So it could be that the email address has just been replaced, and that I had the wrong Facebook page. I simply don’t know. But I also hate for all of these spaces to be dead where Brewer info links need to be. So therein was the conundrum, and I decided to start contacting people.

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