Standard formula for low-birth-weight infants following hospital discharge
Every year, more than 20 million infants are born weighing less than 2500 g – over 96% of them in developing countries. These low-birth-weight infants are at increased risk of early growth retardation, infectious disease, developmental delay and death during infancy and childhood.
Low birth weight can be a consequence of preterm birth, or due to small size for gestational age, or both. In addition, a small proportion of low-birth-weight infants are born at term and are not small for gestational age.
Interventions to improve the feeding of low-birth-weight infants are likely to improve the immediate and longer-term health and well-being of the individual infant and have a significant impact on neonatal and infant mortality levels in the population.
WHO recommends that low-birth-weight infants should be fed mother's own milk. If these infants cannot be fed mother's own milk, they should be fed donor human milk (in settings where safe and affordable milk banking facilities are available or can be set up) or standard infant formula.
Low-birth-weight infants are often small for their age when they are discharged from hospital. It has been suggested that feeding these infants with a nutrient-enriched formula rather than standard term formula might facilitate "catch-up" growth and improve development; however there is no consistent evidence to suggest that this is the case. Furthermore, the cost of nutrient-enriched infant formula is high and its availability in resource-limited settings is low.
Low-birth-weight infants, including those with very low birth weight, who cannot be fed mother's own milk or donor human milk should be fed standard infant formula.
Low-birth-weight infants, including those with very low birth weight, who cannot be fed mother's own milk or donor human milk should be fed standard infant formula from the time of discharge until six months of age.
These recommendations are relevant for resource-limited settings.
These are two of several WHO recommendations on feeding of low-birth-weight infants. The full set of recommendations can be found in 'Full set of recommendations' and in the guideline, under ‘WHO documents’ below.
Systematic reviews used to develop the guidelines
Related Cochrane reviews
- Nutrient-enriched formula versus standard term formula for preterm infants following hospital discharge