Right after low birth weight infants are born, their body weight becomes an important indicator for determining their overall health.
Low birth weight is a major health concern behind increased Infant Mortality Rates. While preterm babies and small gestational age are the known causes, the chances of survival can still be increased with appropriate feeding and nutrition.
How? Read this blog to know!
What Causes Low Birth Weight In Infants?
Infants with low birth weight are usually at a disadvantage over others. As mentioned above, low birth weight can be a result of:
- Preterm birth
- Small gestational age (If your baby is smaller than the babies at that gestational age, they indicate small gestational age)
While these are the main causes for the baby to have low weight at birth, here are some reasons that might lead to the same:
- Smoking/drinking alcohol during pregnancy
- Serious health conditions
- Infections during pregnancy
- Not putting on enough pregnancy weight
- Placenta issues
- Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
Is LBW A Cause Of Concern?
Having low weight at birth is significantly related to neonatal deaths.
Infants born with low weight at birth might experience some serious health issues. They are at a greater risk for growth and developmental delays.
In addition, due to low immunity, they are more prone to catching infections and other infant diseases.
Is Your Baby A ‘Low Birth Weight’ Infant?
According to the birth weight chart recognized by WHO, if your baby’s weight at birth is below 2500 grams, they will be categorized as LBW babies.
An infant born with low weight can either be preterm or not. However, according to the research statistics, most LBW infants are either premature or small for their gestational age.
Some babies do not match the average newborn weight standards even after being born at an appropriate term.
How Do Feeding & Nutrition Improve The Chances Of Survival In LBW Infants?
For an LBW infant, feeding and nutrition are directly associated with their immediate survival, along with constant improvements in their weight and development.
By adopting the right feeding techniques, you can observe improved health conditions in your baby.
LBW Infants: Optimal Nutrition
Research suggests that LBW infants, both premature and babies small for gestational age have shown improved growth after being fed with breast milk.
When compared to other replacement feeds for LBW babies, breast milk has been found to have unmatched nutritional qualities for your baby’s growth and development. Your healthcare professional is likely to recommend feeding breastmilk to your baby whenever possible.
Donor Human Milk
At times, when the mother’s own milk is not available, the WHO recommends using Donor milk for fulfilling the nutritional requirements of LBW infants.
Donor milk is usually available in human milk banks. Consult your healthcare professional if you feel you are not producing enough breast milk for your baby.
In addition to breastmilk or donor milk, low-birth infants require additional supplements. As compared to normal birthweight babies, LBW infants are more prone to experience a deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals.
This can be caused due to their:
- Low absorption capacity
- Reduced vitamin intake
- High requirement for nutrition
These supplements are available either as single vitamin preparations or single mineral preparations.
Here’s the list of important vitamins and minerals that your healthcare professional will consider adding to your baby’s supplements:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Folic Acid
In addition to these, your baby’s doctor might also suggest supplements known as ‘fortifiers‘. These are available in the form of additives and can be easily mixed with your breast milk/human milk.
How Are These Nutritional Supplements Added To The Diet Of LBW Infants?
Your healthcare professional is likely to recommend the administration of these supplements by mixing them with breast milk.
This milk, mixed with the essential vitamins and minerals, will be given to your baby with the help of feeding tubes.
Are There Any Substitutes For Breast Milk For LBW Infants?
Yes, there are multiple substitutes to breastmilk which can be considered for an LBW infant. However, these substitutes vary in their nutritional compositions.
As compared to the mother’s own milk, such substitutes don’t contain anti-infective or immunity-building substances responsible for stimulating your baby’s overall growth and health.
The most common form of replacement with your breastmilk is Preterm infant formula. As the name suggests, this formula composition is particularly designed for premature babies. Compared to breastmilk, preterm formula milk usually contains more protein, zinc, sodium and other important minerals needed for your baby.
However, if you are not feeding infant formula to your baby, your healthcare professional is likely to recommend the supplementation of your breastmilk if needed.
Other than the formula feeding, here are some other breast milk substitutes available for LBW neonates:
- Pasteurized animal milk
- Soy-based formulas
- High-protein formulas
- Powdered formulas
- Liquid infant formulas
Your newborn’s weight would be determined within the first few hours of their birth. If your baby is diagnosed as a ‘Low birth infant’, your healthcare provider will call for their immediate care.
Treatment for such babies depends on multiple factors, including their gestational age and overall health. In addition to putting the baby in the NICU(Neonatal intensive care unit), your doctor would recommend putting your babies on special feedings.
In such conditions, all you should do is cooperate with the doctors and let your baby regain their weight in a healthy way.