Weight gain in low birth weight infants is a serious concern for both parents and healthcare providers. Low birth weight (LBW) babies, who typically weigh less than 5.5 pounds (2500 g or 2.5 kg) at birth, are at increased risk of health complications and developmental challenges. Although their growth spurt may be slow, there are several effective ways to help them gain healthy weight and support overall development.
How to increase the weight of a low birth weight baby?
In India, about 20 percent of newborns are born with low birth weight (LBW). The calorie requirement for an LBW newborn may be higher than that of an appropriate gestational age (AGA) baby (a healthy weight baby) due to their specific needs for growth and development. Several strategies can be followed to address this concern, including special dietary modifications and specific care practices.
Here are 10 tips to help low birth weight babies gain weight:
1. Exclusive Breastfeeding
This is the gold standard for feeding infants, including infants with LBW. Breast milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies that can aid in healthy weight gain in babies. Breast milk provides all the essential nutrients required for the growth and development of the baby, and therefore mothers should be encouraged and supported to breastfeed for as long as possible.
2. Fortification of breast milk
Fortifiers provide an optimal complement to breastfeeding by adding extra calories, protein and essential nutrients. Contrary to popular belief, the generic term human milk fortifier is a misnomer because it is made from bovine milk and does not contain any components of human milk.
3. Frequent Feeding
Increase the frequency of meals. LBW babies may not be able to eat large amounts of food at one go because of their small stomach capacity. Feeding them in smaller amounts but more often can help them gain weight.
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4. Skin-to-skin contact
Encourage frequent skin-to-skin contact between the infant and the parent or caregiver. This practice, also known as kangaroo care, has been shown to prevent weight gain and improve overall health. It helps to promote lactation for mother and child and provides emotional and physical warmth to the child, which helps in weight gain.
5. Calorie Supplementation
Calories are essential for growth, and for babies who are unable to gain enough weight through breastfeeding alone, doctors may also recommend products that boost the child’s caloric intake,
6. Turn off monitoring
Regular checkups to assess weight gain, growth and development can help monitor progress. If there is a persistent decrease in any of these, medical advice should be sought.
7. Hydrolyzed Protein-Based Formula
Hydrolyzed protein-based formulas are often recommended by pediatricians for infants who have difficulty digesting bovine milk proteins. Although they are also based on cow’s milk, they go through further processing to ensure easy digestibility and hence can help in weight gain.
8. Consult a Dietician
Sometimes, there may be some underlying problems of the mother or the baby which may make it difficult for the baby to feed. In such cases, working with a qualified lactation consultant or feeding therapist may be beneficial.
9. Avoid Infection
LBW babies are more prone to infection, which can cause obstruction weight gain, Maintaining a clean and disinfected environment, practicing good hygiene, and limiting exposure to sick individuals are important precautions.
10. Aim for gradual weight gain
Although rapid weight gain may seem like the goal, slow and steady weight gain is healthier for LBW babies. Setting realistic goals in consultation with healthcare providers ensures that the child’s development is consistent and appropriate.
Low birth weight (LBW) infants require special care and careful dietary monitoring. From breastfeeding to using breast milk fortifiers, each of the suggestions above has the potential to promote healthy weight gain in a different way. It’s important to note that each baby’s healthy weight gain will depend on a number of factors, including the baby’s general health, gestational age, and individual nutritional needs. In order to decide the best course of action for your child, it is necessary to consult with health care experts. Therefore, always consult a qualified healthcare provider for diagnosis, treatment and any medical concerns you may have.