Measuring Newborns’ Weight Loss With Electronic Health Records to Give Babies a Healthy Start

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A study at UCSF is using electronic health records to guide weight loss management for newborns and to help make decisions about whether supplemental feeding or other interventions might be warranted. Photo by Alain McLaughlinWeight loss is normal for healthy newborns in the first few days, especially for those exclusively breastfed, until mothers begin to produce copious amounts of milk about two to five days after giving birth. While this dip in weight is normal, it can be stressful for parents and family members and can also have health consequences, because weight loss that is more pronounced than normal can lead to hyperbilirubinemia and dehydration.

Taken together, these problems are frequent barriers to a healthy first month of life and cause the majority of neonatal readmissions.

A new study at UC San Francisco called Healthy Start is using the electronic health record (EHR) to guide management of newborn weight loss from the very first day after birth to prevent health problems for infants.

The Healthy Start study aims to deliver decision support to health care providers caring for newborns that helps them reassure parents about normal newborn weight loss patterns, and decide whether their weight loss is more than expected.

“We hope the study will improve decision-making about whether supplemental feeding or other interventions might be warranted,” said Valerie Flaherman, MD, MPH, an associate professor of Pediatrics at UCSF and the lead author of the study.

A Better Way to Access Information

The Newborn Weight Tool (NEWT) is a web-based application that provides clinicians with hour-by-hour newborn weight loss nomograms to assist in early identification of those on a trajectory for adverse outcomes.

NEWT was developed by Ian Paul, MD, M.Sc. at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital; Flaherman, lead investigator of Healthy Start; and Michael Kuzniewicz, MD, MPH, a neonatologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.

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