Tips to Help Your Premature Baby Gain Weight

How to Help Your Premature Baby Gain Weight

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
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A premature baby, also called a preemie, needs to overcome several obstacles to become healthy. As the mother or the caregiver, you need to be extra careful and ensure that your baby is getting optimum nourishment. There are many ways to increase the weight of a premature baby. However, before you decide on a weight-gain plan for your baby, let’s look at what a premature baby is and how much such a baby weighs.

Video: How to Help Your Premature Baby Gain Weight?

Who is a Premature Baby?

A baby born before 37 weeks of gestation is considered a premature baby.

How Much Weight Do Premature Babies Generally Gain?

Three kg is the approximate birth weight for full-term babies. The premature baby weight gain per day depends on when the baby was born. The earlier the delivery is, the lesser the baby will weigh. Premature babies usually have a birth weight of less than 2.3 kg.

Extremely low birth weight in babies can pose a serious risk to their survival. Owing to medical advancements, more than 90% of preemies weighing 800 gm or more can survive. These days, around 60% of premature babies weighing more than 500 gm survive.

All newborns follow a pattern as far as weight gain is concerned. They usually lose some weight during the initial few days. This weight loss could be due to a variety of factors. Babies who have just been delivered might have retained some fluids if the doctor administered a hormone drip to the mother to speed up labour. In such a case, the baby looks chubby after birth, but will eventually end up losing weight. If your baby loses more than 10% of his weight, then it might be a matter of concern, and you should consult the doctor. The doctor will look at various factors like feeding and excretion to understand why this is happening.

There is no weight loss after the fifth day of birth. Ideally, babies take 14 days to return to their birth weight. Some might take more time. It is after this that babies start gaining weight. They gain around 112-200 grams every week, and this continues until they turn four months old. The weight gain in the case of premature babies is usually lesser. Tiny infants gain as low as five grams each day, while this goes up to 20 grams each day for large preemies.

How to Calculate the Age of a Premature Baby

To find out if your premature baby weight is normal, you need to find the age of your premature baby. The real age will be different from his date of delivery since he was born prematurely.

Subtract the number of weeks he is premature from the present week. This means, if your baby is nine weeks old and he arrived two weeks earlier, then you will need to check whether he is reaching the milestones meant for a seven-week-old, rather than a baby who is nine-weeks-old.

Premature Baby Weight Chart

Gestational Age (weeks) Average Weight (grams) Average Weight (ounces) Average Length (centimetres) Average Length (inches) Average Head Circumference (centimetres) Average Head Circumference (inches)
23 584 20.6 29.9 11.8 20.9 8.2
24 651 23.0 31.1 12.2 21.8 8.6
25 737 26.0 32.3 12.7 22.7 8.9
26 827 29.2 33.6 13.2 23.6 9.3
27 936 33.0 35 13.8 24.5 9.6
28 1061 37.4 36.5 14.4 25.5 10.0
29 1204 42.5 38 15.0 26.5 10.4
30 1373 48.4 39.5 15.6 27.5 10.8
31 1546 54.5 41 16.1 28.4 11.2
32 1731 61.1 42.3 16.7 29.3 11.5
33 1956 69.0 43.7 17.2 30.2 11.9
34 2187 77.1 45 17.7 31.1 12.2
35 2413 85.1 46.2 18.2 31.9 12.6
36 2664 94.0 47.4 18.7 32.7 12.9
37 2937 103.6 48.5 19.1 33.3 13.1
38 3173 111.9 49.5 19.5 33.7 13.3
39 3338 117.7 50.2 19.8 34 13.4
40 3454 121.8 50.8 20.0 34.3 13.5
41 3530 124.5 51.3 20.2 34.5 13.6

Please note: The measurements given here are averages, and healthy babies may be larger or smaller.

When Do Premature Babies Begin to Gain Weight?

The weight gain of preemies depends on many factors. One of the most important one among them is when the baby was born. They start gaining weight a few days of their birth.

Nourishing Your Premature Baby

Breastfeeding is one of the most important things that you need to do to promote healthy weight gain in your baby. Mother’s milk is the best way to build a premature baby’s strength and health. It will also help prevent all kinds of infections.

Colostrum is the first milk that your breasts produce, and this is where your baby’s feeding should be started. Colostrum is full of nutrients and it offers all the nourishment that your baby needs at this time.

Preemies need to be fed following a schedule, and not on demand. Keep track of when you are feeding your baby and try and feed him at regular intervals. This will help him baby get vital nutrients at the right time. Talk to your doctor about how often you need to feed your baby. Your doctor might ask you to feed your baby every two to three hours, and you need to do that even at the cost of your baby’s sleep.

As your baby turns four to five months old, the doctor will tell you when and how you can include solid foods.

How to Feed Your Preemie in the Initial Weeks

A neonatal paediatrician will analyse your baby’s condition and then decide on the best way to feed him during the initial weeks. Some of the ways in which preemies are fed are:

  • Feeding With IV (Intravenous Lines)

The nutrients and fluids are sent via an IV line, which goes into the preemie’s leg, arm or head. This is the preferred method if the baby is very premature, has breathing problems as the lungs are not fully developed, and the digestive system is premature.

  • Oral and Nasal Feeding

Nasal feeding or gavage feeding involves sending the mother’s milk or formula directly to the baby’s stomach via a tube through the nose or mouth. This is suggested for babies who have a weak heart or lungs and coordination problems.

  • Umbilical Catheter

This is a painless way to feed your baby, where the doctor places a tube inside your baby’s umbilical cord. Chances of infection are high, and so this is recommended only in the most critical cases.

  • Feeding Through Breast and Bottle

When the baby can suck and swallow, the medical team will help you attempt breastfeeding.

  • Central Line Feeding

An IV line is inserted in a vein of your baby, and this line delivers the required nutrients to your baby.

Baby Tending Tips to Help Your Infant Thrive

  • Skin to skin contact is important, as this helps babies gain weight, keeps them warm, regulates their heartbeat and breathing rate, ensures proper sleep, and increases the chances of breastfeeding.
  • Massaging can also help your baby gain weight.
  • Make sure you do not miss even a single doctor’s appointment, as checking your baby’s weight on a regular basis is critical.
  • Cuddle your baby, give him attention, and keep him happy.

Premature babies are fragile and require to be taken care of in a controlled environment. The good news is that the chances of survival is high and weight gain further increases the chances. The above tips will help you in ensuring weight gain for your preemie.

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