Every mother dreams of giving birth to a healthy baby, whatever the odds. But what if you deliver a baby with low birth weight? It is true that the nourishment and the safety of the child may bother you even if it is not your first delivery. Endless doubts arise in your mind. Don’t worry. You are not the first mother going through this situation.
Managing and caring for a newborn is a mixture of excitement, fatigue, and anxiety. But when it comes to low birth weight babies, the anxiety out rules all other feelings. But the good news is that the mother inside you eventually figures things out and will find the pace of life. This article will help you to find answers to most of the questions or doubts that worry you.
The normal birth weight of the baby (full term) is between 2.5 Kg to 3.5 Kg. A little more than 3.5 Kg is also considered as normal.
When the birth weight of a baby is less than 2.5 kg (5 pounds, or 8 ounces), the baby is called a low birth weight baby or LBW baby, regardless of when during the pregnancy the baby is born. A study conducted in India shows out of 10 full-term babies, 2 babies are born with LBW. A low birth baby will look smaller than other babies who have normal birth weight.
The baby may look thin, and the head may appear to be larger than the rest of the body. Babies who weigh 1,500-2,499 gm can be managed safely after discharge from the hospital with special care and support. Babies who are born with a birth weight of fewer than 1500 gms need special hospital care facilities with advanced life support
If the baby’s weight is less than 2.5 Kg but more than 2 kg, then it generally doesn’t need special neonatal care at the hospital and can go home when the mother is ready. But, if the baby is below 2 kg, it needs specialized neonatal care at the hospital and will be allowed to go home only after two weeks to one month, when the baby is strong enough to go home.
However, this might be different for each hospital and the neonatal experts may even take into consideration the early arrival of the baby if so be the case. In both cases, though, special care should be given to the babies till they retrieve their immunity.
Low birth weight children are at an expanded danger of passing on from hypothermia, different types of infections, breathing issues, and immaturity of their fundamental organs. Therefore, they might be not able to adjust to living outside the uterus. These are the key reasons why they require special consideration.
You should make sure the baby is been subjected to all the growth and development checkups, which can help your child’s doctor to detect any issues in its early stage itself.
The below factors pose a risk of a baby being born with low birth weight:
A baby gains most of the weight during the last stages of pregnancy, so babies who are born before completing 37 weeks of gestation, that is, being born prematurely is the main cause of low birth weight. This so happens because the baby does not get sufficient time to put on layers of fat in the womb itself.
Another cause of low birth weight is intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)– which can be due to problems with the placenta, the mother’s physical condition, or the baby’s health. A baby can be born at full term, even with IUGR, but he will be physically weak. Babies who are born prematurely and have IUGR are both very small and physically weak.
Babies born out of teen pregnancies have a high risk of being premature and having a low birth weight.
A multiple pregnancies can also cause the babies to be of low birth weights as babies may have to struggle to get adequate nutrition, and are likely to be born early.
Women who develop pregnancy complications, or do not receive proper prenatal care or pregnancy nutrition are at a high risk of giving birth to premature babies. Additionally, exposure to drugs, smoking, alcohol, etc. can also make a woman’s baby have a low birth weight.
To know about the factors that influence the ideal weight of a baby, click here.
The impact of low birth weight relies on the cause. If the low birth weight is due to preterm birth, there will be issues. The issues can vary with the full-term baby having low birth weight or if the low birth weight is due to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).
Again, it varies from one baby to another. Whatever may be the cause, one thing is certain – a baby with LBW possesses an increased possibility of complications. Most of the low birth weight babies possess:
As they have very little body fat, almost every low birth weight baby shows the difficulty to maintain body temperature. This is so because they lay still and do not move much to generate heat.
Sudden infant death syndrome (sudden and unexpected death of the baby before the first birthday. 90% occurs by the age of six months) is more common among babies with low birth weight.
The oxygen level of the low birth weight baby is found to be very low. This is because their body surface area – body weight ratio is high and consequently the oxygen consumption of the body also elevates.
This is the breathing problem caused due to immature lungs.
It is a significant gastrointestinal problem of which the consequence is the death of the baby’s intestinal tissues. Around 10% of babies with low birth weight are found to possess this issue. To know more on Necrotizing Enterocolitis click here.
As their immunity is much lower than a normal weighed newborn, babies with low birth weight are more prone to infections.
As their lung capacity is lower, babies with low birth weight always find it difficult to suck the breast milk and therefore, find trouble in gaining weight.
Babies born prematurely between 32-37 weeks are premature babies and they may likely have a low birth weight. Babies born before 32 weeks are highly premature and need extra special care at the NICU of specialized hospitals. Further, babies born at 37-42 weeks, but having weight less than 2500 gms are low birth weight babies, and may just need a few days at the NICU.
Thus, a premature baby can always be a baby with low birth weight. But LBW babies are not always preterm babies.
As we already discussed, due to poor suck-swallow coordination, weak suck reflex, and many other factors, the baby finds it very hard or totally unable to feed the breast. Breastfeeding a baby with low birth weight is a challenge, especially if the baby is born preterm. LBW babies who can breastfeed ought to be put to the bosom at the earliest opportunity after birth when they are clinically steady, and ought to be solely breastfed until six months of age.
Low birth weight babies have awesome trouble in keeping up their body temperature. They effectively lose warmth, and hypothermia is life-debilitating in their sensitive condition. The heat loss from the baby’s body can be restricted by:
Kangaroo mother care is a method of care practiced on babies who are usually born preterm. It is called after the way that kangaroo care for their young, has been appearing to be a great method for watching over preterm and low birth weight babies.
It includes holding an infant in skin-to-skin contact, close to 24 hours a day, throughout day and night, inclined and upright on the chest of the mother, or another capable individual of the family (preferably father) if the mother can’t do it constantly due to some health issues.
Kangaroo Care is known to have its own merits:
At the point when the mother and child are OK with the procedure, KMC ought to proceed for whatever length of time that the mother thinks she can do, or until the baby completes the term (40 weeks), if the baby is preterm or the infant’s weight achieves 2,500 gm.
Yet, in the event that the baby’s temperature is steady and if there are no respiratory issues, the child can be weaned from KMC before 40 weeks. What’s more, when the infant has had enough and ‘done’ of being in KMC, it begins to speak with the mother in its own particular manners. They start wriggling, moving restlessly, and tries to throw the limbs out of the wrapping.
In the event that keeping an eye on the baby’s weight gain is significant in normal birth weighed baby, watching the weight gain of the baby born with low weight is of high priority. More frequent breastfeeding is the only way to attain adequate weight. If the breast milk is too low, in spite of trying out a different method to increase the breast milk, you can go for formula feeding according to the doctor’s instruction.
Before giving birth to your little one you might always consider yourself an able woman. But after the little one enters your world, your ‘can do’ perspective can disappear like a vanishing act of a magician. It is not that you don’t have cherished moments with your little one, but, nothing to wonder if you are equally anxious and overwhelmed by the little life that is solely dependent on you.
No, please don’t babies have a very sensitive digestive system that needs time to develop enough to digest solids. Rushing this stage will only hurt them instead of helping them.
Ghee is a good option to increase your baby’s weight. However, do not start this until they are 7 months old. Check with your doctor regarding how much you can give your baby.
Yes, in some cases they might. If your baby is full-term but less than 2 kgs, then doctors will advise extra care. The baby will be under observation until doctors feel it is safe to let them go home.
No, this will not be necessary. If your doctor suggests this, do find out why and get your doubts cleared. In most cases, breast milk and extra care is enough to nurture an underweight baby.
Read Also: Top 12 Causes Of Low Birth Weight In Babies