Increasing the weight of low birth weight babies is a critical concern for parents and healthcare providers alike. Low birth weight (LBW) infants, typically weighing less than 5.5 pounds (2500 grams or 2.5 kg) at birth, face increased health complications and developmental challenges. While their growth trajectory may be slower, there are several effective methods to support their healthy weight gain and overall development.
How to increase weight of a low birth weight baby?
In India, nearly 20 percent of newborns are born with low birth weight (LBW). The calorie requirement for a LBW newborn may be higher than that of an appropriate gestational age (AGA) baby (a baby with healthy weight), due to their specific needs for catch-up growth and development. Many strategies can be followed to address this concern, including special dietary modifications and specific caregiving practices.
Here are 10 tips to boost weight gain in low birth-weight babies:
1. Exclusive breastfeeding
This is the gold standard for feeding infants, including those with LBW. Breast milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies that can support healthy weight gain in infants. Breast milk provides all the essential nutrients required for the baby’s growth and development, and thus mothers should be encouraged and supported to breastfeed as long as possible.
2. Fortification of breast milk
Fortifiers offer an optimal supplement to breastfeeding by adding extra calories, proteins, and essential nutrients. Contrary to perception, the generic term human milk fortifier is a misnomer since it is made from bovine milk and contains no component of human milk.
Also, read: Breastfeeding your premature baby: The dos and don’ts
3. Frequent feeding
Increase the frequency of feedings. LBW infants may not be able to feed a large amount at once due to their smaller stomach capacity. Feeding them in smaller amounts but more frequently can help them gain weight.
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4. Skin-to-skin contact
Encourage frequent skin-to-skin contact between the baby and the parent or caregiver. This practice, also known as kangaroo care, has been shown to improve weight gain and overall health. It helps in promoting breastfeeding for mother and baby and provides both emotional and physical warmth to the baby, thereby assisting in weight gain.
5. Calorie supplementation
Calories are essential for growth, and for babies who are unable to gain adequate weight through exclusive breastfeeding, doctors may also recommend products that boost the baby’s calorie intake.
6. Close monitoring
Regular check-ups to assess weight gain, growth, and development can help monitor progress. If there is a consistent lack in any of these, medical advice should be sought.
7. Hydrolyzed protein-based formulas
Hydrolyzed protein-based formulas are often recommended by pediatricians for infants who have difficulty digesting bovine milk protein. Although they too are bovine milk-based, they undergo further processing to ensure easier digestibility and can therefore help with weight gain.
8. Get advice from a feeding specialist
Sometimes, the infant may have difficulties feeding due to certain underlying issues with the mother or baby. In such cases, working with a qualified lactation consultant or feeding therapist can be beneficial.
9. Avoid infections
LBW babies are more susceptible to infections, which can hinder weight gain. Maintaining a clean and sterile environment, practicing good hygiene, and limiting exposure to sick individuals are important precautions.
10. Gradual weight gain goals
While rapid weight gain might seem like the goal, gradual and steady weight gain is healthier for LBW infants. Setting realistic goals in consultation with healthcare providers ensures that the baby’s growth is consistent and appropriate.
Infants with low birth weight (LBW) require specialized care and careful dietary monitoring. Every one of the aforementioned tips, from breastfeeding to using fortifiers derived from mother’s milk and beyond, has the ability to promote healthy weight gain in a different way. It’s important to keep in mind that each infant’s route to healthy weight gain will depend on a number of elements, including the baby’s general health, gestational age, and individual nutritional requirements. To decide on the best course of action for your child, consulting with healthcare specialists is essential. Hence, always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for diagnosis, treatment, and any medical concerns you may have.