Low Birth Weight

Publications, Videos and News

A baby’s growth and development are impacted by nutritional consumption during pregnancy and after birth.14, 15 Babies who do not receive the optimal nutritional requirements at pregnancy tend to be “small for gestational age”.1 After birth, babies who are born weighing less than 2 500 grams are considered as babies with low birth weight and need to have their nutritional needs met in order to correctly develop and grow. 2 Premature babies, born before 37 weeks, also need to have their nutritional requirements met, since they do not attain nutrition from a full pregnancy period. 3,4
Premature babies tend to be low birth weight babies and are commonly referred to as preterm low birth weight babies or infants.13

Babies who are small for gestational age, low in birth weight, or premature are an important public health concern, especially in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.6,7,8  These babies need to have their nutritional needs met in order to correctly grow,  develop, and to build an immune system, which is crucial for their survival and long-term health.9,10 Meeting the nutritional requirements for these babies could help prevent complications including  developmental delays, neurodevelopmental issues, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.3,13

Nutritional support for preterm and low birth weight babies may include specialised formulas, fortified breast milk, as well as additional vitamins and minerals to meet their increased nutritional needs. Babies who are usually very small or sick usually get their nutrition and fluids through a vein (IV). 3 In order for typical cases of low birth weight and premature babies to meet their nutritional requirements, they could be given:

  • Breastmilk, and if needed, a supplement called human milk fortifier. This supplement offers additional protein, calories, iron, calcium, and vitamins.3
  • Babies fed formula may need to take supplements of certain nutrients including calcium, protein, folic acid, and vitamin A, C, and D.3

In addition to the need for preterm babies and low birth weight babies to meet their nutritional requirements for correct growth and development, these babies tend to require energy through nutrition for thermoregulation.5,11 Incubators or special warmers can, however, be used to help babies maintain their body temperature, reducing the dependency on their own energy to stay warm.3


A common problem regarding preterm babies is the fact that they are not yet mature enough to coordinate functions such as sucking, breathing, and swallowing.3,12 Illnesses can also interfere with a newborn's ability to orally feed. These illnesses include breathing problems, low oxygen levels, circulation problems, or blood infections.3

This section covers different nutritional approaches to prevent or manage these public health concerns, promote nutritional intake, and highlights the importance of good nutrition for the health of infants and its long-term benefits. Nutritional trends and practices are continuously evolving, and we strive to stay up to date to benefit healthcare practitioners in their daily practice.

Browse through the scientific resources supplied by the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa for use in your daily practice and/or studies.

Preterm Feeding
1 topic
Highlights of the 2022 ESPGHAN guidlines on preterm infant feeding

Read Professor Mihatsch’s presentation on Highlights of the 2022 ESPGHAN guidelines on preterm infant feeding, presented…

NICU is complex
2 topics
Human Breast Milk for preterm infants

Human Breast Milk for preterm infants

17 min watch
World Prematurity Day
2 topics
Small actions: BIG IMPACT

Small actions: BIG IMPACT
Immediate skin to skin care for every baby everywhere

11 min watch
Preterm infants
1 topic
New ESPGHAN guidelines for enteral nutrition: Practical aspects

Preterm infants have a high risk of malnutrition, poor growth and poor health outcomes. Updated, recommendations for…

23 min watch
Using nutrition to reduce the effects that toddlers face when born pre-term
6 topics
Using nutrition to reduce the effects that toddlers face when born pre-term

Developing countries are responsible for 85% of pre-term births. Pre-term infants are at risk of developmental and…

6 min read
3 topics
Josephine M. Murekezi is dedicated to improving the health of pregnant women in Rwanda

Josephine M. Murekezi first obtained a qualification in midwifery in 1985, after which she obtained an advanced Degree…

3 min read
born too early
1 topic
Strategies in Neonatal Care to Promote Optimized Growth & Development: Focus on Low Birth Weight

An estimated 15 million babies are born too early every year, and the number is rising. Early and adequate nutritional…

19 min read Nicholas D. Embleton, Ferdinand Haschke, Lars Bode
3 topics
Promoting breastfeeding for healthy brain development

During the first 1 000 days of life, brain development is rapid, with a number of processes taking place in a time…

8 min read
Preterm Babies
8 topics
Caring for Preterm and Low-Birth-Weight Infants in Resource Restricted Environments

World Prematurity Day (17 November 2021) compels the healthcare community to consider the effect of premature birth, and…

9 min read