The optimum weight of a baby at the time of birth is 2.5 kg for a girl, and slightly more for a boy. If the weight of the baby is lower than this, then special care needs to be taken, especially in feeding. Feeding low birth weight babies require extra efforts for mothers and caretakers. Some of the most important tips are given below:
Causes of LBW infants
- Small size of the baby because both the parents are short, this is a natural process.
- Twins are often low in weight because of inadequate room and nutrition inside the mother’s womb.
- Due to medical reasons such as premature birth, problem with placenta of the mother, chronic diseases from which the mother is suffering like lung or kidney disease, stress and malnutrition of the mother.
Management and development of pre term or LBW baby is a challenge. The main aim of the care giver would be to maintain a reasonable rate of growth.
Energy requirements and Nutritional values
Nutritional elements have to be provided according to the weight of the baby in kilograms. For example, the energy requirement is 130 Kcal/Kg per day. The Carbohydrates needed are about 8 grams, Protein 3 grams/Kg/day and Fat 5-6 grams/Kg/day. Once the weight stabilizes then supplements like vitamin A, B, K and Folic acid can be added. After 4 to 5 weeks, B6 and Iron at about 2 mg/kg/day can be given. Fluid maintenance is a must. Armed with this theoretical knowledge a way has to be found to help the baby imbibe this.
Low birth weight babies feeding problems
Following are basic problems found very low birth babies especially pre mature newborns.
- It is possible that the digestive system is not fully developed and the stomach is small in size so the child will have reduced capacity to store milk inside the body, needing frequent feedings in a short time.
- It may be possible that the child does not get sufficient quantity of feed and consequently inadequate calories to provide energy.
- In addition to this, the child may not have energy to suck the milk and falls asleep fast.
- One of the causes could be that the child is not able to inhale sufficient quantity of oxygen along with the feed.
- To compound the problem, the enzymes needed to digest the sugar and fat in milk may not be produced in sufficient quantities.
Methods of feeding for LBW newborn
The best remedy for low weight babies at birth to become normal is breastfeeding. This is the best way to nurture the child. If the child is not able to feed at the breast due to any reason, he can be fed with the help of a cup and a spoon. If this method fails, then doctors suggest nasogastric feeding, with the help of a tube through the nose has to be resorted to. If the child still appears lethargic and there is no appreciable gain in weight then intravenous method of introducing nutrition is the only one option left.
Options for feeding milk
Breast milk is best as along with the required proteins, vitamins and minerals, it has antibodies which will strengthen the immune system of the already weak baby. About 200 ml/kg/day would be an appropriate quantity. Formula milk can be given but the hygiene factor and proper dilution should be kept in mind. Cow milk can be used but it too needs to be diluted and a little sugar added to bring it close to human milk. Breastmilk from a bank can be used but such stored milk is low in calories and protein.