Nutritional Management of Low Birth Weight Infants - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India

Nutritional Management of Low Birth Weight Infants

Elina Dawoodani profile Authored by Elina Dawoodani on 30 Sep 2014 - 14:35.

According to World Health Organisation, at birth an infant who weighs less than 2500 g is classified as having low birth weight; an infant weighing less than 1500 g has a very low birth weight and an infant weighing less than 1000 g has an extremely low birth weight. 

What are the possible health issues of such infants?

A baby of low birth weight  has not had a chance to develop fully in uterus and hence is physiologically different from the term infant. Such infants are at a high risk for poor nutrition status because of poor nutrients stores, psychological immaturity, illness and nutrient demands required for growth. They have depleted nutrient reserves because their body burns more nutrients to generate energy for basic functioning. Lack of nutrition can turn the body to vital body protein tissue for energy.

Unique concerns of low birth weight infants:

  • These infants have higher organ to muscle mass ratio
  • They have greater oxygen consumption during growth
  • They have higher energy cost
  • They have higher fat deposition
  • They are prone to hyperglycemia (excess of glucose/sugar in the blood stream)

The causes could be hereditary or premature born or due to some medical condition however, they can be managed with regular prenatal care during the entire period of pregnancy i.e. from conception till delivery. For more details on the causes and management of low weight babies please click on the links above.

Here are a few guidelines that should be kept in mind while nursing a low birth weight baby:

  • Maintaining skin to skin contact with the baby as much as possible (kangaroo feeding concept).
  • When the baby is not breast-fed, prefer cup over bottles to prevent ‘nipple confusion’.
  • Remember, mother’s milk is best for the baby. The composition of milk of mothers of such babies differs from that of others, making it ideal for the infant. A study also suggests that low birth weight infants who are fed on their own mother’s milk grow more rapidly as compared to those fed on other human milk or banked milk.
  • For such infants, the WHO guidelines say that they should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months.
  • Ask your doctor if your baby needs supplements. Many low birth weight babies are supplemented with Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Phosphorus.
  • Use a breast pump for nursing the baby in the NICU.
  • Use milk fortifiers to balance nutrient deficiencies.

Compare the weight of the infant with the growth reference chart for preterm infants:

Nutritional considerations:

  • At the age of 6 months the baby can be weaned gradually to start on solids. Their digestive tract being weaker than normal weight babies the weaning should be very gradual.
  • They can be prone to constipation; hence giving them plenty of fluids is advised.
  • Their protein requirements are more than that of full term normal weight babies.  Due to unmineralized bones of LWB, they require more intake of proteins and minerals.
  • Calcium and iron rich foods are recommended.
  • Studies also suggest that when weaning is done, breastfeeding should be continued in order to prevent celiac disease and other intolerances.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for infants between 6 months to 1 year:

For ideal body weight: 8.4 kg, the energy requirement: 80 kcal/kg/day; protein requirement: 1.6g/kg and calcium requirement: 500 mg.

Appropriate weaning can not only ensure optimum growth of the baby but prepare the body to fight against various potential diseases.



*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.