e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

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 neonatal morbidity and mortality.

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.

WHO recommendations

Low-birth-weight infants 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.

This recommendation is relevant for resource-limited settings.

The full set of recommendations for feeding of low birth-weight infants can be found in the guideline, Guidelines on optimal feeding of low birth-weight infants in low- and middle-income countries , under ‘WHO documents’ below.

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines


Systematic reviews used to develop guidelines
Related Cochrane reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

23 October 2014 12:40 CEST

Category 1 intervention

Guidelines have been recently approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee


There is not yet any implementation information related to this intervention in GINA

Essential Nutrition Actions

This intervention is supported by Essential Nutrition Actions targeting the first 1000 days of life.