A child’s normal weight is somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 kg. If the weight is slightly more than 3.5 kg it is also considered to be normal. If your baby weighs less than 2.5 kg, he or she is said to have a low birth weight. This is something that can happen to premature babies. If your baby was born prematurely, her situation differs from that of babies born between 37 and 42 weeks.
What are the causes of infants having low birth weight?
There are numerous reasons why a baby may be born with low birth weight. It could be hereditary, or due to the baby being born prematurely, due to a medical condition, a problem with the placenta, or high blood pressure, which may have slowed down your baby’s development. Other problems such as breathing difficulties, also known as respiratory distress syndrome, a higher risk of infection, low blood sugar and feeding problems, and difficulty in staying warm are responsible for the child’s low birth weight.
Other causes of infant low birth weight are multiple pregnancies, abuse of drugs and alcohol, nutritional deficiencies, or birth imperfections.
How to differentiate between prematurity and low birth weight
Those children who are born before the 37th week of pregnancy are considered premature. These babies’ growth and development may not have been completed, and they usually have a low birth weight. Low birth weight or small for gestational age babies are full-term children born after the 37th week of pregnancy but weighing less than 2500 gms. Premature birth is the major contributor for low birth weight newborn babies. At birth, baby weight is an important factor to consider in the treatment of low baby weight and baby growth.
Few tips to enhance baby birth weight are as follows–
Breastfeed your child
Breast milk is the most nutritious food for a premature baby. This not only provides the ideal balance of essential nutrients, but also contributes to the growth of immunity, the maturity of your baby’s gut, and the enhancement of strength. Feed your baby at a fixed time rather than being dependent only on hunger cues given by them. It is possible that you will need to feed your baby every 2-3 hours.
Make a note of your own meals
Because breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for your baby, you must eat well in order to produce nutritious breast milk. Consume sufficient proteins as well as healthy fats. It is essential to get enough calcium and iron. Barley, fennel, fenugreek seeds, leafy vegetables, whole grains like oats, and papaya are some foods that can help you increase the quality and quantity of your breastmilk. Avoid anti-lactogenic foods such as peppermint, smoking, and also alcohol.
Massage your child
Lipid absorption takes place through the skin; thus, regular oil massages can help your child gain weight steadily. They also improve metabolism, your baby’s behaviour, and mental development. Apply a small amount of oil to your hands and rub them together to warm them and the oil before massaging it into your baby’s skin.
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo mother care, between the baby and you and your partner are abundant. It strengthens the bond between the child and the parents, keeps the baby warm, regulates heartbeats and breathing rate, promotes good sleep, and makes breastfeeding easier. In many cases, skin-to-skin contact between the infant and the mother causes the baby to move towards the mother’s nipples and effectively latch on for a feed.
However, if your baby was born at low birth weight, he can meet all of his developmental levels and grow into a healthy baby with proper medical care. But, if your baby does not gain weight after trying the tips mentioned, you should consult with your baby’s paediatrician. The best way to track your baby’s weight gain is to weigh him or her on a regular basis. If your child isn’t gaining weight as quickly as you prefer, the doctor may recommend supplements and a different feeding schedule.
(The writer is Consultant Neonatologist & Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospitals, Banashankari, Bangalore.)
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