URI Nursing professor‘s breastfeeding study earns national award

A University of Rhode Island College of Nursing professor’s groundbreaking study about newborn weight loss after birth has earned her a “best research” award from a leading neonatal publication.

University of Rhode Island Assistant Professor Diane DiTomasso has been selected to receive the Journal of Human Lactation’s 2019 Best Research Article with A Practice Focus award for her article, “Neonatal Weight Matters: An Examination of Weight Changes in Full-Term Breastfeeding Newborns During the First 2 Weeks of Life.” The nurse researcher will be officially presented with the award on July 25 at the International Lactation Consultant Association’s annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

“I was very excited and surprised when I got word my article was chosen for an award,” DiTomasso said. “I was also pleased because I think it is important to disseminate these findings to a wider audience. The objective of the study was to figure out how much weight loss is normal in the first two weeks of infancy.”

Health care professionals have generally agreed that infants should not lose more than 7 percent of weight after birth. Often, when weight loss is greater than 7 percent, formula is given to breastfed infants to help them gain weight. However, during her years as a lactation consultant, DiTomasso has noticed it is common for babies to lose more than 7 percent and then gain weight adequately. Many people, she noted, are unaware that it is normal for newborns to lose weight at all.

“Oftentimes, when a woman hears that her baby is losing too much weight, she may get scared and start using formula,” DiTomasso said. “Of course, that decision is ultimately up to the parents to make. But we want parents to be aware that a drop in birth weight is to be expected and there are many health benefits of breast feeding.”

DiTomasso’s study found that the average breastfed baby loses 8 percent of birth weight and that it was common for newborns to lose up to 10 percent of their body weight after birth. More importantly, the study found that most babies who did lose more than seven percent in the first two weeks still gained weight at a similar pace afterward, compared to babies that lost less than 7 percent in the first two weeks.

DiTomasso hopes that her findings will influence the decisions of future mothers and that they will continue to exclusively breastfeed after the traditional 7 percent cutoff. She notes that supplementing with formula can interfere with the breastfeeding routine and cause the baby to lose out on the benefits of breastfeeding.

DiTomasso acknowledged the mothers who participated in her study.

“I want to thank the moms who participated in the study and weighed their babies every day,” said DiTomasso. “They were all local mothers from South County Hospital.”