Low birth weight baby: 10 tips for gaining weight

The increased weight of low birth weight babies is a major concern for both parents and health care providers. Low birth weight (LBW) infants, typically weighing less than 5.5 pounds (2,500 grams or 2.5 kg) at birth, face increased health complications and developmental challenges. Although their growth trajectory may be slower, there are several effective methods to support their healthy weight gain and overall development.

How to increase the weight of a low birth weight baby?

In India, nearly 20 percent of newborn babies are born with low birth weight. The caloric needs of a low birth weight newborn may be higher than those of a baby of appropriate gestational age (a baby at a 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 care practices.

Here are 10 tips to increase weight gain in low birth weight babies:

1. Exclusive breastfeeding

It is the gold standard for feeding infants, including those with low birth weight. Breast milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies that can promote healthy weight gain in infants. Breast milk provides all the essential nutrients necessary for the growth and development of the baby. Mothers should therefore be encouraged and supported to breastfeed for as long as possible.

Focus on breastfeeding your newborn baby. Image courtesy: Adobe

2. Fortification of breast milk

Fortifiers provide an optimal complement to breastfeeding by adding extra calories, protein and essential nutrients. Contrary to perception, the generic term “breast milk fortifier” is a misnomer since it is made from bovine milk and contains no breast milk components.

Also read: Breastfeeding your premature baby: the do’s and don’ts

3. Frequent Feeding

Increase the frequency of feedings. Low birth weight infants may not be able to feed a large amount at a time due to their smaller gastric capacity. Feeding them in small 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 baby and parent or guardian. This practice, also known as kangaroo care, has been shown to improve weight gain and overall health. It helps promote breastfeeding for both mother and baby and brings emotional and physical warmth to the baby, thus contributing to weight gain.

skin to skin contact
Kangaroo Mother Care is a formula that saves lives! Image provided by: Shutterstock

5. Calorie supplementation

Calories are essential for growth, and for babies who fail to gain enough weight from exclusive breastfeeding, doctors may also recommend products that increase the baby’s calorie intake.

6. Close Monitoring

Regular check-ups to assess weight gain, growth, and development can help track progress. In the event of a persistent lack of any of these elements, medical advice should be sought.

7. Hydrolyzed Protein Formulas

Hydrolyzed protein formulas are often recommended by pediatricians for infants who have difficulty digesting bovine milk protein. Although they are also made from cow’s milk, they undergo further processing to ensure easier digestion and therefore may contribute to weight gain.

8. Seek advice from a food specialist

Sometimes the infant may have difficulty feeding due to some underlying issues with the mother or the baby. In such cases, working with a qualified lactation consultant or nutrition therapist can be beneficial.

breastfeeding tips
Protect your child with breast milk! Image provided by: Shutterstock

9. Avoid infections

Low birth weight babies are more susceptible to infections, which can interfere with weight gain. Maintaining a clean and sterile environment, practicing good hygiene and limiting exposure to sick people are important precautions.

10. Progressive Weight Gain Goals

Although rapid weight gain may seem like the goal, gradual and steady weight gain is healthier for low birth weight infants. Setting realistic goals in consultation with healthcare providers ensures that baby’s growth is consistent and appropriate.

Infants with low birth weight (LBW) require specialized care and careful dietary monitoring. Each of the tips mentioned above, from breastfeeding to using breast milk-derived fortifiers and beyond, has the ability to support healthy weight gain in a different way. It’s important to keep in mind that each infant’s journey to healthy weight gain will depend on a number of things, including their overall health, gestational age, and individual nutritional needs. To decide on the best course of action for your child, it is essential to consult health specialists. Therefore, always consult a qualified physician for diagnosis, treatment, and any medical issues you may have.

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