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Feeding a low birth weight baby

Feeding a low birth weight baby

Key Messages

  • Breast milk is especially adapted to the nutritional needs of low birth weight infants.
  • The best milk for a low birth weight infant, including babies born early, is the breast milk from the baby’s own mother.
  • The cross cradle and underarm positions are good positions for feeding a low birth weight baby.
  • Breastfeed frequently to get baby use to the breast and to keep the milk flowing.
  • Long slow feeds are fine. It is important to keep the baby at the breast.
  • If the baby sleeps for long periods of time, you may need to unwrap the baby or take off some of his or her clothes to help waken him or her for the feed.
  • Breastfeed the baby before he or she starts to cry.
  • Earlier signs of hunger include a COMBINATION of the following: being alert and restless, opening mouth and turning head, putting tongue in and out, sucking on hand or fist.

Notes for community worker:

  • Direct breastfeeding of a very small baby may not be possible for several weeks. Mothers should be taught and encouraged to express breast milk and feed the breast milk to the infant using a cup.
  • Kangaroo mother care provides skin-to-skin contact, warmth and closeness to the mother’s breast.
  • Kangaroo mother care encourages early and exclusive breastfeeding, either by direct feeding or using expressed breast milk given by cup.
  • Different caregivers can also share in the care of the baby using the same Kangaroo method position.