Being born low birth weight is often associated with prematurity. If your infant was born full term with no complications, but weighed less than 5.5 pounds, the term low birth weight may be used, but special care considerations and programs will not apply, in most cases. If your infant was born very premature and weighed less than 3.3 pounds, there are special programs designed to track weight, health and development progress.
The First Few Days With Your Low Birth Weight Infant
Those first few days with a low birth weight infant are often the hardest. Your idea of how your infant would look has been replaced with this tiny human being that is five pounds or more lighter than you expected. That wrinkly skin and bony structure looks almost surreal, but your baby is very real.
Many low birth weight infants, especially those who are premature, very low birth weight or extremely low birth weight are kept in the hospital longer than full-term, normal weight infants. Special programs are often available that track the growth and development of your infant. Some of these programs are associated with medical studies and others are just part of hospital program available to help support the needs of parents with low birth weight infants.
Why Are Special Programs Needed?
Special programs are available because some low birth weight infants require special medical care and more frequent medical attention than infants born a normal weight and full gestation. That additional care may include screening for respiratory problems and priority flu vaccinations. Doctors often schedule check-ups more frequently to measure growth and question parents about development milestones. Development may be delayed in low birth weight infants who were born premature – but not necessarily in infants born full-term.
Special programs are also needed to track progress of low birth weight infants for future medical study. Parents may be asked to participant in a long-term study, if one is currently available at the hospital or in the surrounding area. Studies typically collect medical information on low birth weight infants and track developmental and behavioral progress for several years.
Low birth weight infants require special care, in some cases and no special care in others. Most often, special care needs are reserved for low birth weight infants with complications at birth, birth defects or infants born premature. Each case is different and programs vary based on the location of birth. In some cases, low birth weight infants are just as healthy as normal weight infants and require no special care.