My Low Birth Weight Babies
“They are so small!” I heard those words a lot during the first couple of months of my twin sons’ lives. I was nearing my 39th week of pregnancy when my boys made their entrance into the world. While they weren’t premature babies (preterm labor occurs before the 37th week), at 5 pounds and 2 ounces each, they were definitely on the small side. Here’s what I learned about having low birth weight babies.
My boys weren’t alone. One out of 12 babies born in the U.S. has low birth weight, which means they weigh less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces at birth. Low birth weight is common with multiples, because there’s less room in the womb for them to grow. With a singleton baby, fetal growth may be affected by a maternal health problem like high blood pressure or simply by mom’s small stature.
Low birth weight doesn’t necessarily mean high-risk. Lots of low birth weight babies (like my own) are born at full-term and are healthy. My sons didn’t spend any time in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In fact, they went home with me just a few days after their birth. Premature babies, on the other hand, almost always need to spend time in the NICU. Their lungs might not be fully developed, so doctors must make sure preemies can breathe and regulate their body temperatures on their own.
You may need more clothing. My new babies’ low body fat did make it harder for them to regulate their body temperatures. Since they were born during the winter, I had to make sure they were bundled up well when we ventured out. However, aside from the fact that my little ones needed to wear preemie-size diapers and clothing for a month or so, there really wasn’t anything premature about them.
Put safety first. Some low birth weight babies have problems eating and gaining weight. I worked with a lactation consultant to ensure my boys were champion nursers by the time we left the hospital. Six months later, their chicken legs were replaced with cuddly rolls. Smaller babies also have a harder time fighting off infections, so I made sure everyone washed their hands before holding them, and we steered clear of places like malls or restaurants where they could be exposed to cold and flu viruses. Of course, it’s important to take sensible health precautions with all infants, no matter their size.
What my babies lacked in size, they made up for in personality. Now you’d never know that my two boisterous boys were born on the smaller side!