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.

Feeding the fetus
3 topics
Feeding the fetus

In the womb, babies get all they need from their mother’s body. What happens when there’s a problem with the mother’s…

Pregnant mommy
1 topic
Supporting mother & child during pregnancy with functional nutrition

Functional nutrition (FN) is considered a type of functional medicine where healthy, natural foods are used to improve…

5 min read
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World Prematurity Month
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Early feeding in the NICU
2 topics
Early feeding in the NICU

Registered dietitian, Inge Retief, discusses neuro development influences that are associated with inadequate…

Inge Retief
1 topic
Celebrate World Prematurity Day Nov 17 2020
2 min read
Everything about HMOs
3 topics
Everything about HMO's

Around the 1930’s, scientists discovered that the type of lactose found in human breastmilk contains a carbohydrate…

20 min read
4 topics
NNIA Launches The First 1 000 Days Nurses And Midwives Academy In Zimbabwe
1 min read
1 topic
Meeting the iron needs of young children

Maintaining adequate iron levels can be difficult due to iron’s poor bioavailability. Read more to learn about the…

2 topics
Influencing flavour perception and preference in infants for long-term health

Practicing a healthy diet while pregnant can influence the eating patterns of the infant later on in life. Find out more…