Increasing the weight of low birth weight babies is a crucial concern for both parents and caregivers. Low birth weight (LBW) babies, who typically weigh less than 2,500 grams or 2.5 kg at birth, face increasing health complications and developmental problems. 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, almost 20 percent of newborns are born with low birth weight (LBW). Calorie needs for an LBW newborn may be higher than those of an appropriate gestational age (AGA) baby (a healthy weight baby), due to their specific needs for catch-up growth and development. Many strategies can be followed to address this problem, including special dietary modifications and specific care 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 needed for the baby’s growth and development, and therefore mothers should be encouraged and supported to breastfeed for as long as possible.
2. Enrichment of breast milk
Enhancers provide an optimal supplement to breastfeeding by adding extra calories, proteins and essential nutrients. Contrary to popular belief, the generic term breast milk fortifier is a misnomer because it is made from bovine milk and does not contain any component of breast milk.
Also read: Breastfeeding your premature baby: the do’s and don’ts
3. Feed regularly
Increase the frequency of feedings. LBW infants may not be able to feed a large amount at one time due to their smaller 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 regular skin-to-skin contact between the baby and the parent or caregiver. This practice, also called kangaroo care, has been shown to improve weight gain and overall health. It helps promote breastfeeding for mother and baby and provides both emotional and physical warmth to the baby, thus promoting weight gain.
5. Calorie supplementation
Calories are essential for growth, and for babies who cannot gain sufficient weight through exclusive breastfeeding, doctors may also recommend products that boost the baby’s calorie intake.
6. Close supervision
Regular check-ups to assess weight gain, growth and development can help monitor progress. If there is a persistent deficiency of any of these substances, medical advice should be sought.
7. Formulas based on hydrolyzed proteins
Formulas based on hydrolyzed proteins are often recommended by pediatricians for infants who have difficulty digesting bovine milk proteins. Even though these are bovine milk based, they undergo further processing to ensure better digestibility and can therefore help with weight gain.
8. Ask a feed specialist for advice
Sometimes the child may have difficulty eating due to certain underlying problems with the mother or baby. In such cases, it may be helpful to work with a qualified lactation consultant or nutritional therapist.
9. Avoid infections
LBW babies are more prone 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
Although rapid weight gain may 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.
Low birth weight (LBW) babies require specialized care and careful nutritional monitoring. Each of the above tips, from breastfeeding to using boosters derived from breast milk and more, has the ability to promote healthy weight gain in a different way. It is important to keep in mind that each child’s route to healthy weight gain depends on a number of elements, including the baby’s overall health, gestational age and individual nutritional needs. To decide the best course of action for your child, consultation with health care specialists is essential. Therefore, always consult a qualified healthcare provider for diagnosis, treatment and any medical problems you may have.