Nutritional management of the low birth weight/preterm infant in community settings: a perspective from the developing world

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Globally, about 20 million infants are born with low birth weight (LBW; <2500 g). Of all LBW infants, approximately 95% are born in developing countries. The greatest incidence of LBW occurs in South-Central Asia; the second greatest is in Africa. The two main reasons for LBW are preterm birth (<37 weeks) and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), which are risk factors for increased morbidity and mortality in newborn infants. Maternal nutrition status is one of the most important risk factors for LBW/IUGR. Providing balanced protein energy and multiple micronutrient supplements to pregnant women will reduce incidence of IUGR. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy will reduce the incidence of pre-eclampsia and preterm birth in developing countries. Exclusive breastfeeding is protective for a mother and her infant and has been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality in infancy. Kangaroo mother care for preterm infants will reduce severe morbidity and mortality as well. Community-based intervention packages are among the most effective methods of reducing morbidity and mortality in mothers and children. Future research should focus on improving triage of preterm and IUGR infants. Exclusive breastfeeding should be promoted, and appropriate alternative food supplements should be provided when breastfeeding is not possible.


The Journal of Pediatrics